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9 Hotels That Were Something Totally Different in Their Past Lives

From a jailhouse to a cruise ship to a bottling plant, these converted hotels offer visitors a totally unique experience.

By Emily Handy on June 15, 2021

Bottleworks Hotel Lobby
Indianapolis IN / The Addison Group

With travel making its big comeback, cities across the country are building new hotels at a breakneck pace. These shiny new high-rises are beautiful but sometimes feel interchangeable with shiny new high-rises in any other city.

Which is why our favorite kind of hotel isn’t actually new. It’s a place that’s been rooted in the community for years, with a rich and intriguing history that was lovingly transformed into a hotel. Staying at a converted hotel with a backstory and preserved historical details makes for a unique travel experience – one that ensures you have a deeper understanding of the city you’re staying in and a strong sense of place.

From a converted jailhouse to a cruise ship to a bottling plant, these 10 hotels used to be something completely different. Which one are you most excited to stay at?

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iStock/raksyBH

1. Jailhouse Inn

Newport, RI

Who would have thought that an old jail could be so charming? Initially built in 1772, this former Newport jail and police station is now a super cute and comfortable 24-room hotel. Playful decor touches like an original cell door and bars on the common area windows remind you that you are, in fact, staying in an old jail. The inn is centrally located in the heart of downtown and is just steps away from the harbor, restaurants, and shops – and unlike its original incarnation, guests are free to come and go as they please. Serve some time here and don’t forget to take advantage of the complimentary continental breakfast!

2. Greenbrier Hotel

White Sulphur Springs, WV

Since 1778, the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, WV has delighted guests with its amenities and natural mineral springs. Royalty, celebrities and an impressive 27 of America’s presidents have checked into this world-class resort. But there’s a secret hidden deep below: an emergency bunker was built under the West Virginia wing of this resort to house 535 members of Congress during the Cold War.

Now, the Greenbrier Hotel offers guests a 90-minute tour of the 112,544-square-foot declassified bunker, which once secretly housed a laboratory, clinic, cafeteria and a decontamination chamber, among other things.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hotel Skyler (@hotelskyler)

3. Hotel Skyler

Syracuse, NY

Originally built in 1921 as a Jewish house of worship, the synagogue moved locations in 1968 and the city of Syracuse purchased the building. The site was briefly converted into a home for the Salt City Theatre and then sat vacant before finally becoming Hotel Skyler in 2011. Now, the hotel boasts being the first hotel in Syracuse and the third in America to be certified LEED Platinum thanks to its geothermal heating and cooling system, its 499-foot well, and LED lighting throughout.

4. La Posada de Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM

Once a private home to the wealthy merchants and socialites Abraham Staab and his wife Julia, the La Posada de Santa Fe property is now a historical luxury resort. Built in 1882 and proudly a member of the Historic Hotels of America, the hotel is also known as “The Art Hotel of Santa Fe” thanks to its impressive curation of American sculptures and paintings.

If you stay here, be sure to keep an eye out for Julia’s ghost, which is said to have never left the property. Be sure to imbibe in a margarita at the Santa Fe resort’s upscale restaurant Julia, an official stop on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail.

5. Charmant Hotel

La Crosse, WI

Located in an upcycled candy factory built in La Crosse and 1898, the stylish and upscale Charmant Hotel is one of a kind. While you won’t want to go licking the walls like you’re in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, this hotel is still pretty sweet with details like original wood beams and maple flooring that some say still smell like candy. Even the hotel’s name is an homage to its past “” Charmant was once a premium line of chocolates made by the Joseph B. Funke Candy Company. If you go, don’t miss the Sweets Bar offering up handmade chocolates 24 hours a day.

6. McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel

Portland, OR

You won’t get scolded if you fall asleep in class at this quirky elementary school-turned-hotel. The Kennedy School opened up in 1915 and since then has been a neighborhood landmark. The school was closed in the mid-’70s and was set to be torn down until the McMenamin family swooped in and opened McMenamins Kennedy School in 1977.

Many of the 57 guest rooms at this Portland hotel are former classrooms complete with blackboards and cloakrooms, while some are themed after famous novels. A movie theater and a pub are housed in what was once the school’s auditorium. The rest of the property features a saltwater pool and several bars and restaurants. 

7. The Press Hotel

Portland, ME
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

This impressive boutique hotel was once a newspaper hub and home to the Portland Press Herald. The Portland-based hotel takes its decor ideas from the building’s history and includes a writing desk and ergonomic leather writing chair in each of the 110 suites. Newspaper headlines and references are tastefully scattered about on the walls, the backs of chairs, and even the carpet. Relax in the Inkwell, a coffee bar that was once the Portland Press Herald’s City Room, or retreat to your room to write. 

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The Addison Group

8. Bottleworks Hotel

Indianapolis, IN  
This stunning Indy-based hotel is bursting with history. Built in the 1920s as one of the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottling plants, the Bottleworks Hotel once churned out 2 million bottles of soda a week. The plant moved in 1964 and the building sat empty until 1969 when the Indianapolis Public Schools purchased it.

In 2016 the developer Hendricks Commercial Properties began transforming it into the luxury hotel you see today. Art Deco details and restored original architecture is around every corner, and guests enjoy the vintage photo booth and billiards alongside many modern amenities. 

9. Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade

Cleveland, OH 
Housed in what was once one of America’s first indoor shopping malls, the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade is a sight to behold. The Arcade was built in 1890 and dubbed “Cleveland’s Crystal Palace,” and for a good reason. Look up for a stunning skylight ceiling and admire all of the historic Victorian architectural details as you head down to the plethora of restaurants and retail shops conveniently located inside the Arcade. 

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