Highlighting Hotels with History
Highlighting Hotels with History-With so many new hotels popping up each year, we wanted to start the new year off by highlighting hotels with unique stories: Former button factories, government buildings, a landmark Marcel Breuer building that was almost torn down by IKEA next door – below we share the uncommon stories behind these hotels across the country and beyond.
Highlighting Hotels with History-Walker Hotel Tribeca – New York, NY
Formerly a button and ribbon factory in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, Walker Hotel Tribeca is now an eclectic boutique hotel featuring modern design, industrial detailing, and, of course, several nods to its history. Built in 1899, its past life as a factory can still be seen in the original details that remain, such as the iron window shutters and Renaissance-revival structure of the exterior, which is representative of the time. The first two floors of the building, now the lobby and some guest rooms, have historically been used as storefronts, while the upper floors operated as offices. Most of the previous tenants were related to the industries that thrived in Tribeca, including a variety of textile companies. Button-makers, manufacturers of typewriter ribbons, cutlery and wire, and dime-store chain S.H. Kress & Co. have all called this space their home.
This history remains a part of Walker Tribeca in small ways. The conference rooms, aptly named “Button” and “Ribbon,” honor the manufacturing companies that formerly occupied the office spaces upstairs, and the hotel maintained the original structure of the building’s spaces, windows, and facades while giving the beautiful building a modern refresh. Now boasting 171 rooms, guests who stay at Walker Tribeca can experience modern luxuries and amenities while appreciating the history of the neighborhood and the building itself.
Highlighting Hotels with History-Shinola Hotel – Detroit, MI
Located in some of downtown Detroit’s most iconic buildings from the early 1900s, the Shinola Hotel looks to the city and its past to inspire the property’s present. From the early 20th century, Detroit was buzzing as the automotive industry put the city on the map. Having opened its doors in 2019, the reimagined Shinola Hotel space marries two restored buildings—the old T.B. Rayl & Co. sporting goods and hardware store and a former Singer sewing-machine store—with three brand-new buildings modeled after downtown Detroit’s historic architecture.
The T.B. Rayl Company store, known for selling hardware and sporting goods, is the primary structure that the Shinola Hotel now lives in. Built in 1915 by Wirt Rowland, this building’s red-tiled facade is one of the city’s most well-known. Next door, the limestone-clad neoclassical Singer Building, home of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and built by the country’s oldest continuously operating architectural engineering group, SmithGroup, also drew attention. The property has been home to a number of retailers including Liggett’s Drug Store, Lloyd’s Furs, Sally Frocks, and the Meyer Jewelry Company – the Meyer Treasure Chest of Jewels.
The property’s namesake Shinola and development company Bedrock, themselves both Detroit-based companies, aim to create a space for locals and visitors to celebrate Detroit’s past, present and future by highlighting the property and city’s history, giving people the opportunity to explore the present, and helping the city build its future. The property does this by paying homage to the past, with the luxury amenities named Rayls in honor of the former tenant. Adjacent to the hotel is Parker’s Alley, where guests can shop for specially curated items from a mix of global brands in addition to homegrown businesses. The alley’s name is an homage to Thomas Parker, a free black man who became one of the first black landowners in the city of Detroit who obtained the lot for $1 in a land drawing after Detroit’s Great Fire of 1805. The Shinola Hotel property actually encompasses lot 70 in section 7 of the Plan of Detroit, the very piece of land that belonged to Parker back then.
Highlighting Hotels with History-Hotel Marcel – New Haven, CT
An icon of Brutalist architecture in New Haven, Connecticut, the building that launched as Hotel Marcel in May 2022 has a storied past: Completed in 1970 by Bauhaus designer and architect Marcel Breuer, its original purpose was to house the headquarters of the Armstrong Rubber Company, one of America’s premier tire production companies. It sat empty for decades, with a large portion of the structure demolished at one point to make way for an IKEA parking lot. Drivers along Interstate 95 can catch glimpses of the concrete behemoth floating — the building serving as an on-point demonstration of Breuer’s approach to separation of function: a two-story void separating the base of the building from the office block above.
Listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, the Pirelli Building, as it became known, has survived several plans to demolish it, first to build a mall, then a plan to replace it with additional parking for the IKEA store being built nearby. Part of this plan was successful, as the low-rise portion of the building was demolished in 2003 for parking, but the majority was still standing. From 2003 to 2018 the building was almost entirely vacant, besides the occasional use as an art gallery and the “City-Wide Open Studios.”
The iconic building now has a new life as the country’s first net zero energy hotel, pursuing both LEED Platinum and Passive House certifications. Purchased in 2020 by architect and developer Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP of Becker + Becker, the hotel features 165 guest rooms and suites, a full-service new American restaurant and bar, a lounge, and 7,000 square feet of meeting and event space with penthouse courtyard and galleries. The entire property was sustainably designed by innovative Brooklyn-based interiors and branding firm Dutch East Design. The hotel is all-electric, generating 100% of its own electricity and energy for heat and hot water with a rooftop solar array and solar parking canopies.
Maison de la Luz – New Orleans, LA
Maison de la Luz from Atelier Ace is a luxury guesthouse designed in collaboration with EskewDumezRipple and interior design firm Studio Shamshiri. The Italianate-style building has an important history within the city of New Orleans, having served as the City Hall annex for almost 50 years from the time it was built in 1908 until 1957.
To transform the 55,464-square-foot building into a sophisticated, exclusive guest house, the design team worked in tandem with the hotel, giving the building new life while respecting its historical significance to the city of New Orleans. Located in the warehouse district near Lafayette Square, the building was originally designed by Allison Owen of Diboll and Owen Architects in the Italianate style, typical of turn-of-the-century buildings in New Orleans.
Dawn Ranch – Sonoma County, CA
Nestled on the banks of the Russian River in Sonoma County, historic Dawn Ranch has played host to vacationers from San Francisco and around the globe for over a century since the property opened in 1905. From its beginnings as a dining hall with tented cabins to taking the title of the first gay destination resort in California’s wine country, to its closure after 2019’s devastating flood, Dawn Ranch’s towering redwoods have borne witness to it all. Originally functioning as an orchard, the property was purchased by Theodosia Button Murphy in 1905. She then built The Lodge, a dining hall with tent cabins throughout the orchards, to create a space for San Francisco’s elite to enjoy summers surrounded by nature on the Russian River for anywhere from six weeks to a few months.
After more than 70 years with the Murphy family, the resort was sold to Peter Pender in 1978 and transformed into Fife’s Resort, one of the first gay destination resorts in Sonoma County. The property became known as Dawn Ranch in 2005 and was a renowned destination for weddings, retreats, and large-scale family and social gatherings. Having most recently operated solely as a wedding venue until it closed in 2019, the property announces its reopening for the summer as a full-service luxury resort in 2022 under the operation of Bridgeton Holdings [Walker Hotel Tribeca, Walker Hotel Greenwich Village, Marram Montauk].
Today, the resort’s minimalist simplicity allows nature to do the talking and creates an opportunity to experience the old-school magic of the Golden State. Surrounded by rare dawn redwood trees from which it gets its name, the 15-acre property is a virtual nature preserve with 53 chic cedar-topped individual cabins with access to wide open meadows, wooded nature trails, and lush gardens that supply the on-site restaurant, Agriculture Public House. Cabins provide an intimate getaway for two with configurations ranging from intimate Petite Cabins to vintage Green Meadow Chalets perched above a beautiful meadow bordering the vibrant foliage of Fife’s Creek. Two Bungalows are also available offering full custom kitchens, two full baths, and two queen bedrooms. All rooms feature natural cork or wood flooring, river rock showers, and Le Labo bath amenities in their signature Santal 33 fragrance.
Marram Montauk – Montauk, NY
While Marram gave new life to the beautiful spot on Montauk’s beautiful beaches, the property is no stranger to hosting. Prior to being transformed into the current barefoot luxury resort that resides at the end of the world, the location was home to the 1960’s Atlantic Terrace Motel, the bones of which have become part of the present-day resort. Marram evokes Montauk and the Atlantic Motel’s history as a favorite for surfers with its laidback energy, and offering of nature-focused activities, including surfing, aiming to reconnect guests with nature and themselves. The resort’s surf shack offers lessons with the world-class surfers of Engstrom Surf, a family-run surf school helmed by the Engstrom siblings located on the terrace surf break, one of the best spots for surfing in the area. Named after the wild grass that grows on the sand dunes surrounding the property, Marram’s design takes cues from Montauk’s natural beauty, evoking the gray morning mist and expansive dunes with its light and muted color palette, as nature is an important part of our history, as well as our present.
Highlighting Hotels with History-Kixby Hotel – New York, NY
The building now occupied by Kixby Hotel has lived through many stages of New York City’s vibrant history, playing host to visitors since it was first built and operated as a hotel in 1903. Originally the Collingswood Hotel, 45 W 35th Street has a history of sophistication, elegance, and just a touch of scandal. The hotel was home to several notable occupants including James E. Hewitt and Mrs. William H. Moseley and was frequented by some of the most wealthy visitors to the city, such as Joseph E. Schwab and Charles M. Schwab, and even President Woodrow Wilson following his win in the 1912 election.
The hotel was owned by several different people throughout its history, including Eliza Guggenheimer, and went through several restorations and renovations in 1924, 1949, 1961, and 1994, growing and changing with its Herald Square neighborhood throughout the century. Its final iteration established itself in 2019 as the Kixby, which pays homage to its early 20th-century roots through the gilded age aesthetic and an experience that makes current guests feel like one of the famous (or infamous) guests of the past.
The modern-day iteration of Kixby seamlessly blends past and present with compelling design, vintage influence, and local art. The hotel boasts 195 guest rooms and suites, an urban cocktail lounge Lot 15, a guest-only rooftop, The Lookup, and an onsite outpost of the famous burger and shake restaurant, Black Tap. The suites embody the relaxed sophistication of the New York City lifestyle, with interiors that echo its unique heritage and present-day New York touches. It’s an artfully inspired stay in Midtown filled with effortless luxuries and ease that will make you wonder how you ever stayed anywhere else. The property will be celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2023, making it one of the longest-standing hotels in New York City.
Highlighting Hotels with History-StolenTime by Rendezvous – St. Lucia
The Barnard family has owned this property since the 1950s, having lived in St. Lucia since the early 1800s and dabbled in everything from teaching to exporting coal to sugar and coconuts. One of the biggest coal businesses on the island, the family also began to invest in plantations, growing sugar, coconuts, and bananas, and eventually, Denis Barnard even founded a rum distillery. Denis and his wife purchased the property that now flourishes as StolenTime as a getaway home for themselves. An outgoing and eccentric personality, Denis would frequently invite tourists to come by his house for meals, which they mistook for a business rather than a private home due to the exceptional service. As tourism began to grow in the 1960s, Denis turned this misconception into the property’s truth, building additional cottages to welcome visitors as a hotel. Rendezvous became a thriving resort, playing host to Led Zeppelin, 10cc, the crew of the Royal Yacht Britannia, and more. Denis’s son Craig saw the popular resort as an opportunity and decided to stick to the family business, attending L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland to study the hotel business and transforming the property into one of the Caribbean’s most renowned resorts