While these historic American hotels might not be as old as their counterparts across either of the big ponds, their rich and storied histories have ensured their success — for centuries! Thanks to the country’s melting pot roots, you can find Spanish influences from Florida to the Southwest and England’s Georgian styling with its Federal offshoot that came around the time of independence in New England. Then there’s Victorian, Italianate, and Greek and Gothic Revival stylings with their respective presence across the country.
Organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America program value the integrity of these important buildings. Two hundred and eighty-five hotels currently qualify for the program based on their efforts to faithfully maintain “historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance.” Hotels must be at least 50 years old to qualify and been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark as well as harbor historic significance.
No matter what corner of the USA you’re visiting, these incredible historic American hotels will have you seeing ghosts of the past within their stone walls and old wood floors.
Hilton Palmer House
Three incarnations of the Palmer House have been at the intersection of State and Monroe streets in Chicago. The hotel originally opened on September 26th, 1871 but burned down a mere 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire. Its second incarnation was seven stories, which over-sized rooms, and ultra-luxe decor and was branded as the “World’s Only Fire-Proof Hotel” as it was mainly constructed of iron and brick and appealed to hysterics who feared another massive fire.
The third installment was a rebuilt during the 1920s bringing up its guest room total to 1,639. Bertha Palmer, the wife of the original hotel owner and a friend the artist Claude Monet, outfitted Palmer House with the largest collection of impressionist art outside of France.
Hotel Del Coronado
San Diego, California
The Hotel Del Coronado opened to international acclaim in 1881 as the largest hotel in the world. Over the years, it has played host to presidents from all over the world, royalty and many celebrities. When you stay at the Del Coronado, it’s impossible to not feel haunted by the wild Prohibition Era parties that took place on these grounds. The hotel is a beautiful example of a Victorian beach resort, a rare architectural gem difficult to find in modern America.
The hotel has enjoyed a rich relationship with Hollywood, punctuated by its use as the backdrop for the 1959 Marilyn Monroe movie “Some Like It Hot” as well as the coveted privacy of its oceanfront cottages and villas. The red and white building is unmistakable from miles across San Diego Bay.
The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables effectively ushered in a new era of South Florida history when it was built. It quickly became one of the most important resorts in the US, catering to fashionable guests like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ginger Rogers and Bing Crosby as well as Al Capone. The Hotel was added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1996. Today it still reigns supreme with an 18-hole championship golf course, the largest pool in the continental US and the sweeping architecture that makes it stand apart from other Miami counterparts.
Everything from the hand-painted ceiling beams, the terrazzo and tile floors to the balconies with balustrades screams of an era of classic American Opulence. If you’ve got a taste for Italy, eat at the Fontana Restaurant in the lush Biltmore courtyard. Most menu items are local and organic when possible and offer a well-rounded bite of Italy.
White Castle, Louisiana
This grand old Southern Belle of a house called Nottoway Plantation was built in 1859 and remains the largest Antebellum plantation house in the south. Upon entering through its beautiful white facade, you are confronted with a double curved granite staircase–left side for ladies and right side, complete with the historical boot scrapper, for the gentlemen. The real gem of the house is the White Ballroom, designed so that nothing would compete with the beauty of the original owners seven daughters.
In 2003 the last owner of the house passed away and it became the hotel that it is today. The pristine historic rooms are complete with an enviable collection of period antiques so you can spend the night in the original owner’s beds.
Omni Royal Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
Known by locals as simply “The Royal” or the “Royal O”, the Omni Royal Orleans was built in 1960 on the corner of St. Louis and Royal in the French Quarter where the St.Louis Hotel once stood before being destroyed in the 1915 hurricane. This hotel has been the epicenter of social events among old New Orleans families, not to mention you are likely to run into many of the city’s politicians at lunch on Friday at the Rib Room. James Bond himself has frequented the Royal Orleans–the hotel made a cameo appearance in the 1973 Voodoo themed Live and Let Die.
San Antonio, Texas
What began with an overly stereotypical German immigrant building a brewery turned into not only San Antonio’s–and arguably Texas’–most historic hotel but also a culinary…and haunted destination. Located steps from the Alamo, Menger Hotel is a history junky’s paradise. It was here that General Sam Houston and General Robert E. Lee and their soldiers slept before heading into battle. In fact, the hotel quickly became a fan favorite, but for an unexpected reason: Mango Ice Cream. Both the soldiers and patrons loved it so much the hotel quickly became a 19th-century foodie destination, and it still is today.
There’s only one problem with the hotel, though. It’s haunted, holding onto the title of “The Most Haunted Hotel in Texas,” actually. With some thirty-eight spirits — but who’s counting? –roaming the halls, guests’ stays may not be completely solitary.
Estes Park, Colorado
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
So goes the chilling line from Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film, The Shining based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The famous American novelist has since said that he found inspiration for the haunted hotel in The Stanley, perched alongside the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado.
Feeling a bit creeped out? The 35 acres of natural beauty comprised of storybook mountains, Estes Lake, and hiking trails with no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy it all should help take your mind off whatever King saw in The Stanley.
The “First Lady of Waikīkī,” the Moana Surfrider opened her grass skirts to the public in 1901 and is hailed to have brought Americans to Waikiki, the home of Hawaiian royalty. When she opened, she was one of the tallest and most elaborate buildings on the island and home to the Territory’s first electric-powered elevator. Today the hotel still retains its distinctive H shape as well as the huge Banyan tree in the courtyard.
The whole hotel was updated in 1983 to better reflect its historic architectural beginnings. You can join the hotel for historical tours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to hear the stories of heritage and hospitality that has made this hotel one of the most important in Hawaii. The hotel has retained many of its historical features while updating the guest rooms to compliment the surrounding scenery. Whether you’re sitting inside or outside, you’ll be calmed by the peaceful composition of colors.
Omni Parker House Boston
The original Parker House Hotel on the site opened in 1855 with the current incarnation of the hotel being built in 1927. 2015 marked the 160th anniversary of the hotel! Join the likes of Charles Dickens and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, members of the Saturday Club who met at the hotel once a month. The hotel has many star literary points: Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence had the Countess Olenska staying at the Parker House.
The hotel has an impressive list of past employees–Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X both worked here. Most rooms feature cherry wood furnishings, 19th-century reproduction artwork, and crown molding and integrate historical elements with modern amenities.The Parker House still has Charles Dickens personal mirror as well as the lock and key to his apartment door displayed at the hotel.
Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa
The Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa used to be a 21-mile trek from the nearest train station, where visitors took to the healing waters used by Native Americans. They shared their knowledge with a doctor named John Anderson in 1796 when he first purchased the parcel of land including the springs and built the Stone Inn. Today the hotel retains many of its historic features including 9-foot ceilings with garden views in the historic wing of this designated National Historic Landmark.
You can also relish the opportunity to play the links on one of the first golf courses in America. The Bedford Springs Resort had one of the first indoor swimming pools in America–a lavish affair where you can still swim year-round in the hot spring fed waters.
Today the Mission Inn is considered the largest Mission Revival style building in the USA but it had humble beginnings back in 1876 when it was built as a small cottage hotel. Several incarnations later saw the building of magnificent archways, flying buttresses and the addition of Tiffany stained glass windows and a gold-leafed Rayas altar to the St. Francis Chapel.
The Old World decor remains at the Mission Inn making it popular with filmmakers, even as a stand-in for European castles in movies like “Man With The Iron Mask,” making a stay here feel almost like a magic gateway to Europe. Take a guided tour of the Mission Inn, offered every day, to soak up the rich history and stunning architectural notes of this property.
The Heathman Hotel
Much like the devilishly catchy parody songs of “Portlandia,” the dream of the past is, indeed, alive in Portland at The Heathman Hotel. The Heathman Hotel, built in 1927 as an upscale lodging for the rich railroad and lumber magnates, has remained a place of status and superb hospitality ever since. Tucked in the heart of downtown Portland, the Heathman is a vibrant hub of artistic and social life. Although the space is woven with rich history, you won’t have to relive the feather stuffed mattresses of the time (thankfully). Special packages allow guests to choose from an “Art of Sleep” bed menu, meaning the toughest decision you’ll make during your stay is choosing between TempurPedic or European Pillow-top.
Before retiring with some renowned room service, spend an evening discovering the hotel’s vast art collection via audio tour (don’t miss the Andy Warhol pop art) or nerd out like a book worm in the hotel library, which has more than 2,700 volumes signed by the authors.Be sure to venture outside the lap of luxury and explore the nearby farmer’s market, catch a show at the adjacent Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall or spend some time wandering into quaint local coffee shops.
Admiral Fell Inn
The Admiral Fell Inn has served over time as a ship chandlery, a theater, and a sailor’s boarding house before turning into the charming historic hotel it is today. The Inn is located in the bustling hub of Baltimore’s historic waterfront in Fell Point, named after the founding English family. The building which became a boarding house for sailors was taken over by the YMCA in 1929, lodging 50,000 sailors a year until 1955. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Inn was expanded and became a hotel which preserved the architectural and historic integrity of the lovely structure. The neighborhood was founded in 1726, making it the oldest waterfront community in Baltimore looks like a classic European city, complete with brick sidewalks, cafes, and restaurants.
Omni Homestead Resort
This designated National Historic Landmark has a rich history spanning nearly two and a half centuries. Originally founded in 1766, the Omni Homestead Resort has been hosting vacationers and 23 US presidents who have come for the hot springs, the largest in the state of Virginia, as well as the championship golf courses and the oldest alpine ski resort in Virginia.
One of the original hotel buildings sadly burned by a 1901 bakery fire but was reconstructed in tune with historical records. Seven hot springs flow down to the property, giving guests the chance to enjoy the heated natural mineral waters. The Jefferson Pools, which are owned and operated by the resort, are located about 3 miles away.
John Rutledge House Inn
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is arguably the most preserved American city with its colonial roots evident in the surrounding buildings of this highly walkable town. Naturally, finding a historic hotel to stay in is no issue, and the John Rutledge House Inn, built by its namesake in 1763, is an obvious candidate. Mr. Rutledge himself is embedded in American history as a signer of the U.S. Constitution, governor of South Carolina, and a short-term chief justice of the Supreme Court.
The Inn blends two carriage houses and a home with restoration efforts that have enhanced the ironwork, its original decadent interiors, and carved Italianate marble fireplaces. The John Rutledge House is just 1 of 15 homes of signers of the U.S. Constitution that stand today and the only one to serve as both a historic landmark and bed and breakfast.
Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Rarely can a hotel engage a guest beyond upgrade requests and sneakily eating the $4 mini-bar Oreos. Even rarer is that a hotel can tell a story, let alone tell the story of a city, of a culture, of a people. Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza captures this story and places its guests in the midst of history. What originated as the hacienda of the esteemed Ortiz family — think the Clintons and Bushes of Santa Fe–in 1625 has transformed into a beautifully an updated version but with all the nooks and crannies of the Old World.
The hotel’s luxury casitas remain within the preserved adobe walls from the 17th century, and guests can enjoy the Colonial furnishings, architectural artifacts, and even the Kiva fireplace from the original Pueblo three-hundred years ago. This hotel isn’t just a place to sleep — or a pit-stop on your Breaking Bad tour — but it’s a place to relive the origins of Santa Fe.
Concord’s Colonial Inn
With such a long history, dating back to 1716 when the original Concord’s Colonial Inn structure was first built, to its participation in the Revolutionary War when it was used as a storehouse for arms and provisions, its no wonder that the Inn is quite famously haunted. The Inn also was the home of writer Henry David Thoreau while he attended nearby Harvard University.
At least you know you’ll be keeping the company of some very old ghosts! Stay at the historic main Inn which actually dates back to 1716. It still has the original wide plank pine floors, post-beamed ceilings, and wainscoting.
Inn at Presidio
San Francisco, California
San Francisco deserves a stop on any history buff’s itinerary with its connections to the California gold rush that led to considerable Chinese immigration in the U.S. Many forget, however, that San Francisco is older than the United States and that includes the Presidio, situated in the city’s modern-day downtown. The area at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula first served as a military post for New Spain before switching hands to a newly independent Mexico. Then, in 1846, it fell under U.S. control until 1994 when the national landmark became a national park site.
The Inn at Presidio opened in 1903, featuring Georgian Revival brick construction with three stories and a cinematic view from the top floor of the Bay and the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge. After a few days here, nobody would fault you for leaving your heart in San Francisco.
Loews Don CeSar Hotel
St. Petersburg Beach, Florida
The Loews Don CeSar Hotel, fondly referred to as “The Don” by locals, is a magnificent pink palace nestled on the pillowy white sand of Florida’s gulf coast. Built in the height of the Jazz Age, the Don CeSar was a Gatsby-esque getaway for wealthy figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Clarence Darrow. When the champagne stopped flowing and the flapper dresses were retired, the U.S. Army purchased the hotel in 1942 to be used as a hospital for airmen returning from WWII. After the hotel underwent a $3.5 million restoration project in the early ‘70s, it re-opened as a hotel and has since been a sought-after vacation destination for beach lovers and history lovers alike.
When you’re a bit too crispy from the Florida sun and salty waves, explore the surrounding St. Pete area. You can pop over to the 440-acre island of Egmont Key State Park to see one of the last government-operated lighthouses from 1858, wander the trippy gallery at the Salvador Dali museum or imbibe some craft beer at one of the many new microbreweries popping up all over the city.
When it opened in 1925, The Redmont brimmed with luxury. Rooms had private baths, ceiling fans, and guests could even get cold water in their rooms–COLD WATER, people! Today not much has changed–you can even get hot and cold water. The Redmont still brims with that same 1920s luxury but it’s even more grandiose–like stunning ballrooms and New Orleans-style mezzanines (please, don’t throw beads).
What distinguishes the hotel has been its embrace of Birmingham presently. The hotel serves as a backdrop for Birmingham’s culinary and arts scenes through both its in-house Harvest restaurant (Gulf Shrimp Bloody Mary, anyone?) and partnership with SlossFest, a massive local music and arts festival. This historic hotel–Hank Williams did stay here, country fans–may only be three stars, but, for its historical and contemporary existence, it’s a five-star experience.
Did we forget your favorite historic American hotel? Tell us which in the comments!
*Cover Image of Nottaway Plantation by Michael McCarthy