8Great: Historic Buildings Turned Incredible Hotels
by Stefanie Michaels
In cities and towns across the USA, there’s been a migration back into cities from the suburbs, a rebirth of downtowns, and a keen perspective on saving a city’s historic buildings– bank buildings, former private mansions, Beaux Arts apartment buildings, to name a few landmarks turned remarkable accommodation options.
Spaces so large, what do you do with them?
Visionary hoteliers and hospitality corporations have stepped in and have literally spent their fortunes rehabbing these beautiful and iconic spaces, saving them from the wrecking ball.
Thanks to them, we, the public get to experience each property as a destination unto itself.
1. Lotte New York Palace and Towers
Henry Villard, a railroad financier, decided in 1882 to develop six private brownstone townhouses surrounding a courtyard on Madison Avenue–the houses to be designed in the neo-Italian Renaissance tradition, after the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. The now former Villard Mansion(s) right in the middle of mid-town Manhattan between 50th and 51st street, has been dubbed “The Palace”, for its unparalleled splendor. An adjacent 55-story skyscraper was incorporated into the original mansions over time, and through the decades had exchanged several hands. In 2015, when the property was acquired by LOTTE Hotels & Resorts, a $140 million redesign transformed the property took place. Now, a first class hotel, with to-die-for rooms and suites and public spaces–The Towers–a hotel-within-a-hotel, expansive lobbies, several bars and event spaces, and the famed Villard Restaurant. Perfectly located across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and just steps from Rockefeller Center, it’s become a beacon of refuge inside bustling New York City.
2. Capital Hotel
The “Grand Dame” of downtown Little Rock life for more than 100 years, the “Old State House” often served as an unofficial political headquarters, and one of the country’s most historically significant hotels. The Capital’s history started in 1870, with President U.S. Grant staying as a guest. The hotel opened with indoor plumbing and heating and introduced the country’s first “magnetic annunciator” to call room service. Currently boasting 94 rooms, 15 Capital Great Rooms (semi-suites) and four suites, its within walking distance from the Clinton Library, The Arts Center, The Museum of Discovery, the Rivermarket, and many historic buildings and the Riverfront. Make sure to ask why the elevator holds a special place in the hotel’s history. Hint: Horse.
3. XV Beacon Hotel
XV Beacon Hotel sit in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood. Its turn-of-the-century landmark Beaux Arts building was the vision of architect William Gibbons Preston and built in 1903, albeit the foundation dates well before the American Revolution. In 1905, first tenants were the developers of the nation’s first subway and the Rapid Transit Commission, followed by the Boston School Committee, finally turning 63-romms boutique hotel in 1999 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Sexy modern furnishings melds with its history– a grand staircase of marble, mahogany paneling and original caged-glass elevator.
4. Hotel Ella
Hotel Ella, is the former historic Goodall Wooten House, Austin’s original landmark estate designed in Greek revival-style. The land was purchased in 1878 by Thomas Dudley Wooten, one of the founders of the University of Texas. Wooten’s son, Goodall, moved into the home on the property in 1900 with his new wife, Miss Ella Newsome. In 2013, an extensive renovation took place, creating a 47 guest room boutique hotel. A new wing was added around the cabana-lined pool. A Parlor Bar and wrap-around veranda overlooking the front lawn, was updated. Historical tidbit: Goodall Wooten once owned one of the nation’s finest firearms collections, which now sits three blocks away at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
5. ACE Hotel DTLA
The Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles was built as the United Artists Building, and sits in the Broadway Theater Historic District. It was the tallest building in the city for one year after its completion in 1927, and was the tallest privately owned structure in Los Angeles until 1956. Its style is Spanish Gothic, patterned after Segovia Cathedral in Segovia, Spain. This place oozes chic and old Hollywood glamour. The 13-story highrise hotel has been renovated into a luxury boutique featuring 182 rooms, a pool, a restaurant and three bars, as well as the restored United Artists Theater.
6. Magnolia Hotel
What was once the Aquila Court Building (c. 1923), an Omaha state landmark structure, designed to mimic the Bargello–a palace in Florence, Italy. Its originators, George and Aquila Cook, can still be seen on the front of the boutique hotel’s building today. A gym, restaurants, event spaces, and gathering spots, not to mention 2-story suites, transitioned this locale from historical building into Omaha’s most prestigious accommodations. Within walking distance of the arts and entertainment district, the historic Old Market, Orpheum Theatre, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha Children’s Museum, Holland Performing Arts Center, Joslyn Art Museum and CenturyLink Center.
$$ Magnolia Hotel 1615 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102 Phone: (402) 341-2500
7. Hermitage Hotel
The Hermitage Hotel, was a building originally commissioned by 250 Nashville residents, in 1908. The Beaux-Arts style building, Nashville’s “third skyscraper”, sat two blocks from the state capitol, and Nashville’s tony residential neighborhood. In 1910, as neighborhood turned commercial downtown, a hotel opened with every possible modernity of its time– including a telephone and circulating ice water in guest rooms. The lobby itself was, (and still is) the main convergent point of the hotel– an enormous social area peppered with stunning ornamental plaster, a painted glass ceiling, grand staircase and walls built of golden-hued Sienna Marble. It served as base camp for both pro and anti-suffrage forces in 1920, (Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote). Today, modern amenities include 122 elegant rooms, gym, boutique shop, signature bar, and Capital Grille Restaurant.
$$$$$ Hermitage Hotel 231 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219 Phone: (615) 244-3121
The ICON Hotel’s landmark building was the former Union National Bank building. Constructed in 1911, the bank was in business from 1912-1924. Other businesses renamed the building several times as they came in– the Continental Building, Pan American Bank Building, and the Natural Gas Building. It wasn’t until 1973, that the building underwent a $1 million restoration. In 2014, a $35 million complete restoration and then conversion into the ICON hotel, the pride and joy of Houston’s downtown. The 12-story hotel features 135 guest rooms and nine individually designed signature suites. Amenities include a spa, a 24-hour fitness center and complimentary car service to any downtown destination.
Photo credits: Hotels/Tourism
Stefanie Michaels, aka ‘Adventure Girl’, spends more than 180 days a year on the road seeking out great spots for adventures, dining, shopping, hotels and more. Dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” by Vanity Fair Magazine for being one of Twitter’s first icon’s to reach over 1 million followers, her fans continue to grow across all of her digital media platforms. Follow her @adventuregirl as she shares photos, updates and more.