CEDAR FALLS - Long before downtown Cedar Falls became the cultural, dining and arts mecca it is today, it was a center for those seeking their fortunes on the Iowa prairie.
And those people looking for opportunities in farming, milling or just traveling through all needed a place to stay.
Now Cyndi Sweet has chronicled the tales of hotels from Cedar Falls' first century.
Sweet, director of the Iowa Museum Association and a volunteer archivist with the Cedar Falls Historical Society, found a treasure trove of information about old hotels in archives and old newspapers.
She uncovered a tale about a young couple who had been staying at a downtown hotel, but the father eventually killed their infant and dumped the body in the river.
Another story talks about the temperance movement in Cedar Falls.
"Then there was the brothel, which pretended to be a hotel, but it was not," Sweet said.
She put a great deal of research into Island No. 10, a brothel operated in Cedar City. The proprietor had first set up shop in Cedar Rapids, but was run out of town. Eventually the same happened in Cedar City, but supporters kept him out of jail and in business for nearly two decades. At one point, the mayor himself bailed him out of jail.
Those stories fill her new book, "19th Century Cedar Falls Hotels: Mischief, Murder, and Immorality."
Sweet didn't set out to write a book about hotels. She was working on another project, one that also will result in a book about Cedar Falls lawyers to be published yet this summer.
While conducting other research, Sweet was continually led back to hotels.
"It seemed like every time we would work on a project a hotel would pop up," Sweet said.
She put together some information on hotels and made a sample brochure. Local history buffs Rosemary Beach and Julie Bailey looked it over and encouraged Sweet to flesh it out, make it longer and a little easier to understand.
The final product ended up at 165 pages.
"I tried not to do any social commentary. I didn't try to explain what was going on in the world and how the events fit in. I just told what happened at the time," Sweet said. "It's a quick read, it's a fun read, it's an informative read. It's not deep or meaningful."
The book sells for $14.95 and is available at the Cedar Falls Historical Society. Proceeds support the historical society.