If you’re among the many travelers intrigued by America’s heritage, there’s nothing more fitting than staying at a grand old hotel that has retained its original architectural integrity, historic elegance and ambience of days gone by.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving places that evoke the nation’s past, has identified more than 200 unique hostelries around the country that represent a variety of locales, architectural styles and eras of history. All of them have regional or national significance, are at least 50 years old and offer quality full-service accommodations. Some are remarkably affordable while others, depending on location, are for splurges only. All have refurbished guest rooms and bathrooms and updated amenities, such as business centers, swimming pools, spas, meeting space, fitness centers and more. Reservations may be made via Historic Hotels of America (800-678-8946, www.historichotels.org) or directly with each hotel.
WYNDHAM HOTEL GALVEZ AND SPA
Built in 1911 in bold Spanish mission style, the most popular hotel architecture in the Southwest at the time, Hotel Galvez overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.
In its heyday as “Queen of the Gulf,” it was a hot spot for celebrities and the affluent throughout the Jazz Age and the Big Band era. Designed as an oasis in a scrubby semitropical landscape, the massive U-shaped hotel features an arcade of oversized windows on the ground floor, a spacious indoor promenade and red tile roofs.
Now, after a much-needed multimillion-dollar renovation, this hotel offers 226 rooms and seven grand suites with marble baths.
Information: Wyndham Hotel Galvez and Spa, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, 877-999-3223 or 409-765-7721, www.wyndham.com.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Now designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior, the Grand Hotel opened its doors to guests in 1887 as a summer getaway for the Midwest’s elite, who arrived on Mackinac Island by lake steamer from Chicago, Detroit and other cities on the shores of Lake Michigan. Constructed in American Victorian style, it has the world’s longest veranda—a 660-foot porch that stretches the full length of the property—a 220-foot serpentine swimming pool and one of Michigan’s oldest golf courses.
No cars are allowed on the island, and visitors must walk from the dock to the hotel or be transported via horse-drawn-carriage taxi. Guests must “dress” for dinner (jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women), and each of the hotel’s 385 rooms includes a unique mix of period-style furniture.
Information: Grand Hotel, 906-847-3331, www.grandhotel.com.
MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE
New Paltz, New York
Another National Historic Landmark, this 265-room mountaintop lodge is located on 2,200 acres at the top of a ridge overlooking a large glacial lake in the Shawangunk Mountains. Built in 1869 as a small guesthouse by the Smiley brothers, twins who wanted to provide city dwellers with a rustic haven for rest and relaxation, it is still owned by the family.
Over the years, it was gradually expanded into a huge, rambling seven-story lodge constructed in a number of American architectural styles—including Edwardian, Victorian and Arts and Crafts—with fanciful turrets and towers, as well as guest rooms with fireplaces, balconies and period-style furnishings. Situated on the edge of the lake, the grounds offer 85 miles of hiking trails, a 112-year-old golf course, a Victorian maze, an 18,000-square-foot ice skating pavilion, tennis courts, modern spa and horseback riding.
Information: Mohonk Mountain House, 845-255-1000 or 800-772-6646, www.mohonk.com.
HOTEL DEL CORONADO
The sprawling Hotel del Coronado, on 28 acres on Coronado Island off the coast of California and connected by a bridge with San Diego, was intended to be “the talk of the Western world” when it opened in 1888. It was the largest electrically-lit building outside of New York City at the time.
The resort hotel’s most outstanding feature is an oversized soaring red-roofed turret that holds the Crown Room, a unique ballroom with a panoramic ocean view, an exterior walkway and two tiers of windowed dormers. The setting for many Hollywood movies, most notably Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, the Hotel del Coronado has hosted 11 US presidents and other notables, such as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin and England’s former Prince of Wales, Edward. Its 757 guest rooms, cottages and villas underwent a $150 million renovation in 2007.
Information: Hotel del Coronado, 619-435-6611, www.hoteldel.com.
The white stone cornices, ornamental brickwork, ornate woodwork, coffered ceilings, crystal chandeliers, heavy velvet drapes and carved columns of the Strater Hotel in Durango are hallmarks of grand American Victorian architecture at the end of the 19th century. The hotel, built in 1887 to cater to guests made rich by the area’s gold and silver mines or the “railroad men” who came to the mountain town to profit from its new-found prosperity, is a four-story brick building with 93 rooms.
Each of the rooms is unique and filled with authentic 19th-century furniture, and American antiques are displayed in showcases throughout the public areas. Owned by the same family for three generations, the hotel has one of the world’s largest collections of Victorian walnut furniture, used in guestrooms as well as in the public spaces. Modernized through the years, the Strater remains a hotel with an oldtime feel that looks very much as it did in its heyday.
Information: Strater Hotel, 800-247-4431, www.strater.com.