If these walls could talk…
“If these walls could talk,” is never more true than when uttered in reference to hotels. Of course, if they could speak, we probably wouldn’t want to know all the spicy details of a traveler’s stay. But there are some properties whose stories begin long before they ever housed guests. These hotels once housed everyone from bankers to newspaper men and even prisoners, before being transformed into luxury properties across the globe. Here are 10 properties that went from historic spaces to four and five-star accommodations:
Hotel de Rome – Berlin
Formerly the Renaissance-style Dresdner Bank, designed by architect Ludwig Heim between 1887 and 1889, the hotel (picture on top) operated as the bank’s headquarters until 1945. Briefly used as a cinema during the Communist era, the original three floors were added to the structure in 1923 with an additional three levels and rooftop terrace completing the building. Destroyed when the Wall fell in 1989, traces of the bank’s past can be found throughout the property, from the mosaic ballroom floor to the bank vault found in the Spa.
Hudson Hotel – New York
This New York Luxury property was originally constructed as the American Women’s Association Clubhouse in 1928. Opening its doors as a hotel in 1941 as the Henry Hudson, the space was home to Dutch troops during WWII, the United Nations Security Council in 1946 and converted to headquarters for Channel 13 and Sesame Street in 1985. In 1997, the property underwent a major re-imagination and was re-opened in 2000 as the Hudson Hotel. With 892 rooms, the property boasts a contemporary look and feel with cozy guestrooms and offers a prime location right off of Columbus Circle nearby Central Park.
The Press Hotel – Portland (Maine)
Once a bustling newspaper building built in 1923, the seven-story structure of the Portland Press Herald was opened as a 110-room boutique hotel in 2015. The entire warehouse district has been revitalized, and The Press Hotel takes its inspiration from the 1920s writer’s offices that used to sit inside the building. Guestrooms include vintage-styled journalist’s desks, local artwork and playful newsroom references. The hotel also boasts dock-to-table and farm-to-fork menus at UNION.
The Scotsman – Edinburgh
Another former newspaper company originally built in 1905, the five-star Scotsman was turned into a hotel in 2001. Dominating the Edinburgh skyline, the vantage point affords visitors sweeping views of the surrounding city. The attention to preserving detail is found in everything from architectural touches to superior service; it is still home to an Italian marble staircase, oak paneling, marble pillars and ornate ceilings.
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria – Sorrento
Perhaps the most primeval of the list, this property is built on the ruins of Emperor Augustus’ Palace. Welcoming guests since 1834, the Grand Hotel Excelsior has had the same ownership family for 180 years, a true testament to Italian hospitality and steadfastness. The 92 rooms have their own original period furniture, and the five-star hotel brings welcome comforts and sharp service to guests. For a relaxing afternoon, visitors are invited to luxuriate in Boutique Spa La Serra, set in lush Mediterranean vegetation or take a dip in the white marble swimming pool and sip on a cocktail from L’Orangerie poolside bar and restaurant.
Magnolia Hotel – Denver
Located in downtown Denver, the former First National Bank building was built in 1911. Changing hands to different bank institutions, the structure sat dormant for a decade before being purchased by Stout Street Hospitality. It was then renovated to become Holtze Executive Palace in 1995 as a property geared toward long-term business travelers. In 1999 Stout Street Hospitality purchased Magnolia Oil Corporation headquarters in Dallas, Texas as their next hospitality project. Holtze was so fond of the name, he rebranded all of his properties under the same title. Recently undergoing an extensive renovation, the Magnolia hotel’s contemporary rooms with historic large windows bask in natural light in the 13-story building.
The Liberty Hotel – Boston
The Liberty Hotel now sits on what once was the iconic Charles Street Prison built in 1851. A central atrium and catwalks still remain today, touches of the prison wrought-ironwork in the restaurant a reminder of yesteryear. The opening of the Liberty Hotel in 2007 ushered in a new luxury 298-room property to the Boston area balancing preservation and modern amenities. Whether “doing time” in the city as a leisure or business traveler, the undeniable character of this historic hotel is sure to stay with you.
The Society Hotel – Portland (Oregon)
Erected in 1881 by the Portland Seamen’s Friend Society as a safe place/boarding house for sailors, the Mariner’s Building was transformed in 2013. After an extensive renovation between four friends (none of whom had any hotel experience), the Society Hotel now offers a wide array of accommodations, bridging the gap between hostel and hotel. Whether taking in the fresh sea air on the rooftop deck or sipping a latte in the hotel café, this unique property has something for everyone.
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch – Saratoga
Set in the wide open spaces of Wyoming under expansive blue skies, Brush Creek Ranch sits on the site of the original purchase by the Sterrett brothers in 1884. Hauling logs from the nearby Medicine Bow National Forest, the brothers homesteaded the area. Paying homage to the settlers and early Western pioneers, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch acquired the A Cross/Sanger Ranch to double in size to over 30.000 acres with 32 km of private waters. Purchased in 2008 by Bruce White, the Chairman and CEO of White Lodging, the hotelier began reclaiming and reconstructing camps found throughout the property. The newly-assembled cabins and main lodge are now centralized and modernized without losing the western charm. An all-inclusive ranch, many of the activities and dining pay homage to the western roots of the area.
Son Brull – Mallorca
This 12th-century-monastery-turned-boutique-hotel is an absolute must while on vacation in Mallorca. From swimming in the infinity pool overlooking the surrounding rolling hills and vineyard, to imbibing in the house gin, Son Brull is charming and luxurious all at once. Touches of the reverent and historic can be found throughout the property, from the olive press at the bar to the original arched stone terraces and natural stone courtyard.