Sleep Where History Was Made: 6 Hotels Transforming Iconic BuildingsBy Jennifer Billock
Don’t just read about history — be a part of it. These six hotels took up residence in historic buildings, remodeling the interiors to honor past occupants while making current guests extra comfortable. If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a former newsroom, jail, train station or more, here’s your chance.
Cotton House Hotel, Barcelona
From “the fabric of our lives” to a posh hotel, Cotton House Hotel, Autograph Collection‘s original iteration was legitimately a house of cotton. A Catalan family in the textile industry built the property in the 1800s, and it eventually became the headquarters of the Association of Cotton House Manufacturers.
The group wanted to bring in offices for a large number of cotton companies. Now the property is a five-star hotel that pays homage to that past with some original building features, like wood-panel and parquet embellished walls and a spectacular spiral staircase hung from the top floor’s metal frame.
In a delicious nod to the property’s history, staff at check in serve guests a bite-size cotton candy spun around foie gras on a stick.
Metropolitan at the 9; Cleveland, Ohio
Metropolitan at the 9, Autograph Collection‘s former life as a bank plays a heavy hand in how the hotel is styled today. A cocktail lounge is tucked neatly into the century-old vaults beneath the lobby, with the metal bars and thick security doors still intact.
Above the lobby, the Ledger Bar has artistic features of antique safe deposit boxes. In Adega, the onsite restaurant, elements of antique banking are woven in, like chandeliers with frames reminiscent of security grating. And the former layout is still preserved in the lobby’s Tiffany glass rotunda.
The Dixon, Tower Bridge; London
Named after its architect, John Dixon Butler, and dating back to 1905, The Dixon, Tower Bridge, Autograph Collection brings to life the property’s former use as the Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court.
The original building housed courtrooms, jail cells and a police station — all of which still remain in some form. The chandelier above the lobby’s staircase has 60 glass handcuffs worked in. A lobby table is a cast copy of prisoner graffiti. The elevators feature artwork made with old cell keys.
The Courtroom Bar is (obviously) the former courtroom, and the hotel restaurant, Provisioners, has two refurbished holding cells worked into its design where guests might enjoy their morning coffee or an evening cocktail.
But arguably the most fun design element is mugshots of prisoners that stayed there, all in black and white but embellished with hints of color, like bright flowers.
The Press Hotel; Portland, Maine
The Press Hotel, Autograph Collection is aptly the former home of Maine’s largest newspaper, the Portland Press Herald. The paper moved in when the building was built in 1923 and continued operations there until 2010. Now that it’s a hotel, the original building’s charm remains.
Vintage letters still say “Press Herald” on the front of the building, a still-working newsprint scale is in the fitness center, and the newspaper’s “City Room” is now the Inkwell Bar.
Every guest room is inspired by writers’ offices from the 1920s, complete with journalist desks and newsroom design references. Vintage newsprint makes an appearance, too, in wallpaper lining the halls.
As an additional homage to the building’s past, guests can use active typewriters in the lobby to share their own stories and experiences during their stay.
Union Station Hotel Nashville
When Union Station opened in 1900 as Nashville’s main train station, it was an architectural stunner. It looked (and still does) almost like a Gothic castle, complete with a clock tower and turrets.
Today, the building harbors Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection and has maintained the station’s grand lobby and the luminous, 100-year-old prism stained glass lining the ceiling — plus the original doors, fireplaces and floors; bas-relief panels of a chariot and a train; and 20 angel of commerce figurines. Guests can go on a history tour of the property three times a week.
Hotel Saint Louis
Louis Sullivan isn’t just a famous architect; he is also considered the father of the modern skyscraper. Sullivan’s designs include the Union Trust Building, now home to Hotel Saint Louis, Autograph Collection. Sullivan designed the property in 1893, opening it as the St. Louis Union Trust Company.
Now the hotel (which opened in 2018) is on the city’s landmark list and pays homage to its designer through details like a restored two-story lobby with the original stained-glass ceiling, gilded elevators and artistic representations of architectural motifs throughout the rooms.
To learn more about the stories behind these hotels with celebrated pasts, as well as other uniquely storied independent hotels, visit Autograph Collection.