Hotels Remaking History
Historic buildings often make declined have gained new life as tectural and interior elements
Ten renovation and ideal hotels, whether or not they downtowns strive to recover. to reclaim the site’s history and
retrofit projects make over began life as one. Converted indus- Often it is necessary to reduce provide a sense of place—for both
trial structures, office buildings— the room count in older buildings locals and out-of-town guests.
structures to meet the and even a water tower—have to ensure that rooms are large
been repurposed as hotels. In enough to meet contemporary Ron nyRen is a freelance architecture, urban
needs of the contemporary other cases, historic hotels that fell standards. Modern design touches design, and real estate writer based in the San
Francisco Bay Area.
hospitality industry and into disrepair when central cities interweave with restored archi-
tap the place-specific
power of older buildings.
2. The Boundary
On Boundary Street in the Shoreditch area of east London, London joint venture Prescott &
Conran Ltd. created a hotel and dining venue out of a vacant, deteriorated industrial ware-
house built in 1893. Design firm Conran & Partners, also of London, removed the mansard
and added two floors containing duplex bedrooms with double-height living spaces.
The design retains the building’s brickwork, large sash windows, and light wells. The
new floors are clad in green copper with a timber sunshade. Opened last year, the build-
ing includes a restaurant, a roof garden with bar and grill, a café, and a food store. Each
of the 17 guest bedrooms reflects the style of a different designer or design movement,
including Bauhaus, Charles Eames, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and the Shakers.
Sustainable design features include natural ventilation and materials obtained from
local suppliers. A new groundwater cooling system, which relies on an artesian aquifer
under the restaurant, operates the air conditioning, refrigeration systems, ice machines,
and other equipment.
3. Citizen Hotel
With the help of a subsidy from the city of Sacramento and historic tax credits, local devel-
oper Rubicon Partners and local design firm Vitae Architecture recast the 14-story, 1920s-
era California Western States Life Insurance office building as a 198-room hotel. Creating
the Citizen Hotel involved gutting and rebuilding most of the interior, restoring the art deco
exterior and marble-paneled elevator lobby, and seismically retrofitting the structure.
The operator, San Francisco–based boutique hotelier Joie de Vivre Hospitality, held town
hall–style meetings with residents and local organizations to help brainstorm a personality
for the hotel that would be in tune with the city, emphasizing an urban, historic, traditional
look with graphic touches that refer to the city’s role as the political center of the state.
Opened in 2008, the Citizen Hotel is located across a park from City Hall. It includes a
climate-controlled, tented terrace deck, plus conference and meeting space; the Grange
restaurant occupies a metal-and-glass extension designed by San Francisco–based
Michael Guthrie & Company.
4. Gladstone Hotel
The Gladstone Hotel is billed as Toronto’s oldest continuously operat-
ing hotel, dating back to 1889, but by the end of the 20th century, long-
deferred maintenance resulted in water damage and general dilapidation.
In 2002, the family of local architect Eberhard Zeidler purchased the build-
ing and began extensive renovations, completed in 2005.
Zeidler Partnership Architects restored the Richardsonian Romanesque struc-
ture’s stone ornamentation, brickwork, wood siding, and arched windows, as
well as the original hand-operated elevator. Plumbing and wiring were updated
and new wood floors installed. Each of the 37 guest rooms and suites was
designed by a different local artist or team of artists, chosen by the Zeidlers
through a juried submission process. The hotel also has a café, a bar, meeting
and conference rooms, a ballroom, and short-term rental artists’ studios.
5. Hilton President Kansas City Hotel
KanSaS CiTy, miSSoUri
In its heyday, Kansas City’s President Hotel played
host to entertainers such as the Marx Brothers and
Frank Sinatra in its Drum Room lounge. Built in the
1920s, it is listed in the National Register of Historic
Places. But for 25 years after its closure in the 1980s,
the only residents were pigeons. Developer Ron Jury
of Overland Park, Kansas, and local firm Gastinger
Walker Harden Architects have resuscitated the struc-
ture, which reopened as the Hilton President Kansas
City Hotel in 2006.
The design revamped the 453 small guest rooms
into 213 larger rooms and suites; restored the Drum
Room and other meeting and community spaces;
and reconstructed ceilings, terrazzo floors, and col-
umns. It is the first completed project in Kansas
City’s redevelopment of the South Loop, which also
includes the Power & Light entertainment district.
6. Hotel Felix
For years, Chicago’s Hotel Wacker served as a
single-room-occupancy property. Oxford OBG
Investment Partners of Chicago purchased the
building in 2007 and, with hospitality design firm
Gettys and architecture firm Cubellis, both of Chi-
cago, restored the 12-story hotel’s historic 1926
exterior and reconstructed the interior to meet
modern standards. Opened last year as the Hotel
Felix, the building incorporates contemporary
sculpture, prints, and photographs in the two-
story lobby and other public spaces.
Green design strategies include recycled-con-
tent carpet, use of rapidly renewable resources
such as bamboo and cork flooring, high-efficiency
mechanical systems, and heat/motion sensors
that put thermostats into efficiency mode when
guests leave their rooms. The hotel is designed
to achieve a Silver rating under the U.S. Green
Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Envi-
ronmental Design rating system.
7. Joule Hotel
The Dallas National Bank Building, built in the Gothic revival
style in 1927, had much of its ornamentation stripped during
remodeling over the years. In 2008, the 20-story building
reopened as the 129-room boutique Joule Hotel. Adam D.
Tihany, with New York City–based Tihany Design, and local
architect of record Architexas re-created the facade using the
original architectural drawings.
Tihany’s interior design includes commissioned photographs
of Dallas displayed throughout the building, as well as a large,
rotating gear in the lobby as a reference to the city’s role in the
oil and gas industry. Named after a unit of energy, the hotel
includes an adjacent new ten-story tower, the rooftop terrace
of which supports a cantilevered swimming pool that extends
over the street below. Juno Development was the developer for
owner Tim Headington, president of Headington Oil Company;
both companies are located in Dallas. The project drew on tax-
increment financing from the city as well as historic tax credits.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide of White Plains, New
York, is the operator.
10. Westin Book Cadillac Hotel
Detroit’s decay took a toll on what was once
the world’s tallest hotel. Developed in 1924 in
the center of downtown by three local brothers
named Book, the Italian Renaissance revival
structure closed in the 1980s. Water penetration
damaged what vandals and scavengers had left
behind. Then Cleveland-based Ferchill Group
partnered with the city to return the building to
its former glory, using a combination of private
financing, city and state loans, and brownfield
Kaczmar Architects, also of Cleveland, led the
efforts, which involved demolishing crumbling
floors and creating 455 hotel rooms, 67 condo-
minium units, and three restaurants in a structure
that once had had 1,136 rooms. Completed in
2008, the project also included restoring historic
terra-cotta, brick, and plaster; installing historically
appropriate windows; and restoring two ballrooms
and building an addition to house a third. Star-
wood Hotels and Resorts is the hotel operator. UL
kaczmar arcHitects incorporated
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