Most travelers are drawn to and book hotels for the wealth of amenities they offer – from spas and swimming pools to complimentary breakfast to award-winning restaurants. However, it is the revered history of the properties themselves that often goes overlooked. While standing the test of time, historic hotels have become deeply woven into the fabric of the cities they grace, many becoming focal points of artistic and literary life. Select hotels have undergone renovations that have brought them back to their original splendor while respecting the original details that vacationers, business travelers and renowned celebrities alike marveled at when the hotels first opened their doors. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate their period furniture, timeless sophistication and close proximity to landmark attractions. Before you make your next booking, read on and take a trip down memory lane.
Algonquin Hotel: Named one of “America’s Ten Great Historic Hotels” in the premiere issue of Historic Traveler Magazine, The Algonquin opened its doors at 44th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 1902, just minutes from New York City’s world-famous Theater District. Despite undergoing renovations in 1998 and 2004, it has all but lost its original splendor. Timeless elegance will surround you as soon as you step into the Algonquin’s restored lobby, which boasts oak panels and Edwardian furniture in jewel tones. Designated a New York City landmark in 1987 and a literary landmark in 1996, the hotel’s Round Table Room is named for the celebrated group of writers, critics and actors – among them were Robert Benchley and Alexander Woollcott – who gathered at the hotel daily to dine, share ideas and play cards. You’ll also step back in time to a more glamorous era while in the Oak Room, which offers dinners and performances seasonally Tuesday through Thursday each week. With its white tablecloths, dark paneled walls and gleaming piano, the room was a launching pad for such renowned celebrities as Andrea Marcovicci and Harry Connick Jr.
Westin St. Francis: Perhaps best known for the historic Magneta Grandfather Clock that adorns its lobby, this Union Square hotel is suffused with early 20th century charm. Opened in 1904, the hotel was gutted in the fire that took place following an earthquake that rocked San Francisco on April 18, 1906. Reconstruction was completed in 1907 and the hotel in turn reopened that same year. Throughout the years, the hotel has played host to such acclaimed figures as Douglas MacArthur, Ernest Hemingway and several U.S. presidents. The Westin St. Francis’ rooms exude turn-of-the-century sophistication with ornate woodworking, high ceilings with shimmering chandeliers, and windows opening out onto the city by the bay. Moreover, the property is widely considered the center of the city’s literary, social and artistic life.
The Lenox Hotel: A prestigious member of Historic Hotels of America and Small Luxury Hotels of the World, The Lenox Hotel in Boston’s historic Back Bay is a prime example of a property that fuses old-world charm with modern technology. The Lenox was the tallest building in Boston at the time of its opening in 1900. Over the years, the hotel has become a popular refuge of big names in business, entertainment, sports and the arts, from noted opera singer Enrico Caruso and actress Judy Garland to former Boston Celtics basketball coach Red Auerbach. The Lenox has notched 12 consecutive AAA Four Diamond Awards since 1998 and boasts an opulent ballroom, fine restaurants and sumptuous accommodations, each bedecked with mahogany furniture, high ceilings with brass chandeliers and Italian marble bathrooms.
Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers: Yet another Back Bay hotel steeped in Boston’s venerable history is the lovely Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers. A member of Historic Hotels of America, the property has drawn a host of U.S. presidents and celebrities since its inception in 1927. It is located only 200 yards from the nation’s first public parks, Boston Common and Public Garden, the latter of which served as the inspiration for the hotel’s logo. It was also the first hotel to feature many of the standard conveniences we find in hotel rooms today, such as guestroom radios and telephones. Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers is conveniently located near Newbury Street shopping, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and Boston’s theater and financial districts.
Le Pavillon Hotel New Orleans: A proud recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award since 1996, this elegant hotel in the heart of downtown New Orleans is a member of both the Leading Hotels of the World and Historic Hotels of America. Upon opening its doors in 1907, the hotel boasted the first hydraulic elevators ever to be installed in New Orleans, as well as the first basement ever built in the historic city. The hotel came under new ownership in 1970, a year that saw the addition of crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, marble railings from the Paris Grand Hotel, Italian columns and statues, and antiques from all over the world to complement the hotel’s quaint, old-world charm.
There’s no question that there’s more to these hotels than meets the eye. So, next time you book a hotel room, do some research on the properties listed above or others you have your sights set on. You’re likely to dig up some interesting stuff!