The Usonian Inn: A Mid-Century Marvel in Spring Green, Wisconsin

by Jon Valalik (photo by SJ Strand)

Nothing screams “July!” like a dose of pure, unabashed Americana. Today, CIRCA brings you the story behind one of our favorite properties up for sale — Wisconsin’s Usonian Inn, a classic piece of roadside nostalgia with a direct connection to Frank Lloyd Wright in the rural haven of Spring Green. As much as we love traditional B&B’s (and trust me, we do!) there’s something wonderfully appealing about being the proprietor of a retro motel. Read the story, fall head-over-heels in love, then head on over to the full listing to place your offer! The sellers are willing to consider all reasonable offers.


The Usonian Inn

The building designs of world-renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, are among the most recognizable designs in the world, and when the Wisconsin born-architect wasn’t busy creating his own buildings, he was training others in the Prairie and Usonian building philosophies. One such building with a Frank Lloyd Wright pedigree is the Usonian Inn.

The motel was originally called “The Rest Haven Motel.”

Wright student JC Caraway designed the Inn in 1948, and when construction was completed in 1952 it went by the name “The Rest Haven Motel.” At the time of its construction, it was the only lodging establishment on the 120-mile stretch of Highway-14 between La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. After ownership changed hands and a renovation occurred in 1992, under the supervision of another of Wright’s students, James Pfefferkorn, the name was changed to The Usonian Inn, underscoring the building’s heritage as one of the Usonian Style. Quoting Wikipedia, “Usonia was a word used by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to refer to his vision for the landscape of the United States… Wright proposed the use of the adjective Usonian in place of American to describe the particular New World character of the American landscape as distinct and free of previous architectural conventions.”

The motel was originally called “The Rest Haven Motel.”

Funnily enough (for all you aluminum siding fans out there!), at the time of the hotel’s construction Reynolds Aluminum Co. was seeking volunteers to test out their new siding for a chance to be featured in Life Magazine. Though the Rest Haven Motel didn’t end up being selected for the article, the owner did use make use of the new product.

Proprietors Carolina and Theo Dursina renovated the hotel in 2007 withan eye for sustainability & preservation.

When current owners, Carolina and Theo Dursina, bought the property in January of 2007, they wanted to bring it up-to-date with modern and energy-efficient amenities, all while preserving its architectural character; a feasible, but daunting dream.

The Usonian Inn today.

The Dursinas knew that the expectations of customers had changed dramatically in the lodging industry since the building was constructed 55 years prior. Following Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian philosophy of providing for contemporary needs rather than imitating grand designs on a small scale, the Dursinas began working to update the Usonian Inn. In keeping with their sustainable principles, they installed double-glazed windows to increase heating and cooling efficiency, and low flow showerheads and toilets to reduce water usage. In the process of replacing the roof to better its insulation, a restoration of the eaves and soffits was also completed.

The Usonian Inn is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Carolina and Theo Dursina put forth an enormous effort in order to bring The Usonian Inn up-to-date, all while highlighting it’s historic significance. They purchased the property without any prior experience in hospitality or preservation (and you can too!), yet their hard work and love for the building and its history guaranteed their success in both fields. They’ve succeeded in putting the Inn back on the map, and among the praise and accolades earned for all their hard work are places on both the Wisconsin State and National Registers of Historic Preservation.

The Usonian Inn today.

Earlier this year, the Dursinas decided to put the Usonian Inn back up for sale. It’s been a sweet ride, and they look forward to passing the beloved Inn onto another couple who will pour as much love into it as they have. For information regarding its sale, visit the listing on CIRCA or contact Toni Spott at 414-788-4255.
Jon grew up in South Carolina and studied Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston. His time in Charleston sowed a deep appreciation for both classical and vernacular styles and the importance of their conservation. He is currently working in Charlotte, North Carolina and hopes to break into the field of architectural preservation soon.

Join The Discussion

One thought on “The Usonian Inn: A Mid-Century Marvel in Spring Green, Wisconsin”

  • Carolina Dursina

    Thanking the author and all staff @Circa for a wonderful piece! We love the building and the business but it’s time for us to move on; what a wonderful time we have spent here!!!

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