Aspen Times Weekly: Historic Hotel Renovations to Make You Swoon
October 19, 2016
If I have a second passion beyond travel, it's history, and when I can marry those two loves into one exceptional hotel stay, I know my journey is already a success. There are thousands of fantastic hotels out there, but there are only a few remaining that have the cultural, architectural and historic impact to make a unique, interesting and beautiful hotel. The following are some of my recent favorites which have recently reinvented themselves beyond the history of a mere four walls.
Wallcourt Hall, Aurora, New York
Located in the pristine Finger Lakes region of New York, the Inns of Aurora, a lake-side retreat with three existing properties — the federal-style Aurora Inn, Italianate limestone E.B. Morgan House and vibrantly-decorated Rowland House overlooking picturesque Cayuga Lake — recently opened its fourth location in May, Wallcourt Hall. Wallcourt Hall was originally built in 1909 as a dormitory for Miss Goldsmith's School for Girls, a preparatory school run by Anna Goldsmith Taylor. Founded by Sarah Yawger in 1885, the school had its home in what is now called Taylor House, across the street from the Aurora Inn. Under Anna's stewardship, the school thrived and soon needed additional housing. For this purpose she built Wallcourt Hall whose name comes from the brick-walled vineyard that originally stood in its place. This gem features 17 guestrooms, each with custom upholstery handmade in Italy as well as fine art from the personal collection of owner Pleasant Rowland, founder of the American Girl Doll empire.
Spicer Mansion, Mystic, Conn.
A landmark since 1853, the restored Spicer Mansion in Mystic, Conn., also made its debut this past May. The mansion was purchased by its namesake, renowned sea captain and benefactor Elihu Spicer, as his family's summer home to escape the stifling summer months in Brooklyn, New York. A master entertainer, Captain Spicer welcomed family and friends to his estate, often putting out pineapples, a symbol of hospitality, to make his guests feel welcome, as was the tradition of the time and profession. The property remained in the Spicer family for more than 70 years before being sold and resold over the next five decades. Through the Great Depression and World War II, plagued by changes in fortune and finance, the grand house dimmed. The building was divided into eight apartments before ultimately falling into disrepair by the 1970s, facing being formally condemned. Owners came and went, some working to restore the property to its former glory, but it was not until the Gates family of Stonington purchased the property in 2013 that the mansion was saved, salvaging many of the home's original architectural details including the intricate parquet floors, plaster moldings, hand-painted ceilings, carved mahogany doors and balustrades.
The Marriott Syracuse Downtown, Syracuse, New York
I have a soft spot in my heart for this one, having attended Syracuse University, when the downtown Marriott was the landmark known as Hotel Syracuse. The property closed in 2004 and the historic hotel, built in 1924, underwent an extensive renovation, reopening to the public in August. A former favorite for famed guests such as John Lennon, the renovation added the modern necessities while restoring the landmark's historic components (including intricate murals, woodwork and chandeliers and some with Stickley doors and furniture). The property includes 261 guest rooms, the rustic Eleven Waters farm-to-table bistro, a barber shop, lobby bar and soon-to-come steakhouse on the penthouse floor (the only high-rise restaurant in Syracuse). (Go Orange!)
COMO, The Treasury, Perth, Australia
OK, this one is not East Coast, unless you can consider Western Australia, very, very East Coast. But I had to include it because it is probably the most exciting renovation and concept of a city block I have seen in recent years. In October 2015, COMO Hotels and Resorts – a group of privately owned and operated island resorts, city hotels and luxury adventure retreats from London to Bhutan — opened COMO The Treasury in Perth, Western Australia. It represents a historic moment for an iconic quarter at the state capital's beating heart. The hotel occupies a group of late Victorian stone and brick buildings – known locally as the 'State Buildings' – which have played an important role in the city's history for the past 140 years, serving variously as a post office, land titles office, and treasury. Also once home to Perth's original seat of government, they betray in their grand architecture all the ambitions of settlers keen to make their mark. To retain the best of that heritage, it cost AUS$110 million in a meticulous restoration project overseen by Kerry Hill Architects, encompassing not only the entire Cathedral Square redevelopment on Cathedral Avenue, but also the interior and exterior of this new COMO hotel.
Amiee White Beazley is always on the search for a great new hotel. Send your reservation suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org