written by
Joe Boone

When making plans for vacation or business travel, the hotel you chose can often decide the fate of your travel experience. With more than 52,000 hotels currently in operation in the United States and 4,800 new hotel projects in the pipeline at the end of 2021, the world is definitely your oyster when seeking suitable lodging accommodations. 


While today’s sleek new chain hotels, sparkling new luxury resorts, and ultra-modern hi-rise hotels offer comfort and convenience with all the modern amenities, there is something magical and alluring about staying in a plush, historic hotel filled with old-world grandeur and timeless charm. Steeped in history and often nestled in some of the nation's most influential neighborhoods, you can still find a historic hotel in almost every major city in America, and thanks to ongoing preservation and loving restoration, most offer all the modern amenities today’s discerning guests have come to expect.


Historic Hotels of America, the prestigious official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a great source for information on the finest historic hotels in the U.S. Historic Hotels of America has identified over 300 quality hotels of historical significance in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands that have faithfully maintained their authenticity, historic architectural integrity, ambiance, and sense of place. 


The Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC is a perfect example. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, just two blocks from the White House at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., the Willard is truly one of the nation’s most illustrious historical landmarks. With roots dating back to 1816 and a legacy of unrivaled hospitality spanning more than 200 years, this iconic luxury hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for good reason. 


Throughout its glorious history, the Willard has hosted prominent guests like Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama. Dr. King wrote his momentous “I Have a Dream” speech while sitting in the Willard’s lobby shortly before delivering it at the Lincoln Memorial.


Enjoying its place as the pinnacle of social and political life in Washington, D.C., the 335 luxurious rooms and suites of this historic four-diamond luxury Beaux-Arts hotel celebrate the capital’s rich history, combining American renaissance and luxury. Featuring columns and gilded ceilings, its interior is coated in gold with the halls speckled in burgundy, with paintings of historic moments adorning its walls. The hotel’s historic Round Robin Bar has been a lively meeting place for D.C.’s political and social elite since it was established in 1847.


When planning a visit to Boston, Massachusetts, consider a stay at the XV Beacon, a renowned landmark in downtown Boston for more than a century. 


This upscale, 63-room boutique hotel is ideally located in historic Beacon Hill, next to the city’s financial center in a quiet area with hidden gardens and dozens of antique shops. Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S. is a pleasant stroll away, as is Charles Street, with its numerous small fashion boutiques, independent shops, and a variety of restaurants and cafes.


Approach XV Beacon Hotel from the cobbled, gas-lit streets of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood and its past sings out to you. Its two lower levels feature wonderful cast-iron details that are rich in ornamentation and gilded shielding. Built in 1903, the magnificent eleven-story Beaux Arts building was once known as the “Boston Transit Commission Building” and quickly dominated the local skyline. It wasn’t until 1998 that it was transformed into the stunning boutique hotel that it is today. The hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2016.


If you are heading to the heart of the Bluegrass State, 21c Museum Hotel Lexington offers a uniquely historic hotel stay within a contemporary art museum setting. Known for manicured horse farms, thoroughbred racetracks like Keeneland, Kentucky Horse Park, and Kentucky Wildcats basketball, Lexington Kentucky’s southern charm lends itself to the hospitality that awaits you at 21c Museum Hotel Lexington. Housed in a complex with a contemporary museum and cultural center, this upscale 88-room boutique hotel is woven into the fabric of downtown Lexington and welcomes both visitors and the local community to enjoy its curated exhibitions and cultural programming. 


Dating back to 1914, the original architects incorporated a stunning array of Beaux-Arts Classical, Imperial Roman, French Renaissance, and Baroque design elements, creating an architectural masterpiece upon its completion. 21c acquired the building in 2012 and following a four-year renovation, the towering edifice was opened as the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, becoming a member of Historic Hotels of America in 2019.


Just a few feet from the white sandy shoreline of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu sits one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Hawaiian, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Also known by its alias, “The Pink Palace of the Pacific,” due to the iconic bright pink hue of its concrete stucco Spanish/Moorish facade and architecture, The Royal Hawaiian has been host to numerous celebrities and world dignitaries over its 90 year history. A historic beachfront luxury hotel and part of The Luxury Collection brand of Marriott International, it's one of the first hotels established in Waikiki, dating back to 1927.


Built at a cost of over $4 million (1927 cost), and surrounded by a fifteen-acre landscaped garden, the H-shaped layout features 400 rooms, as well as an offsite golf course. Many renowned celebrities have vacationed at The Royal Hawaiian over the years, including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Frank Sinatra, as well as renowned statesmen including General Douglas MacArthur, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2011, the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” emerged as an internationally renowned resort once again, following its complete renovation in 2009. 


Another historic beachfront resort hotel, also built during the Roaring 20’s and still in operation today is Condado Vanderbilt Hotel on the sunny beaches of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2015 and originally built in 1919 by Frederick William Vanderbilt, the historic Grand Dame hotel was the social epicenter of San Juan. Once a destination for royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars, the hotel fell into disrepair, closing in the1970’s, until meticulously restored and reopened in December 2014, returning the Vanderbilt to the Roaring 20s style, sophistication, and service for which the hotel was known.


Debuting in 1919, the hotel’s unrivaled majesty immediately made it one of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation getaways. The hotel’s guest book was soon filled with illustrious names like Charles Lindbergh, Errol Flynn, Bob Hope, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor, and later, John F. Kennedy. Now restored to its original grandeur, the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is again a cherished historical landmark in Puerto Rico, earning its membership in the Historic Hotels of America since 2015.

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