US: Historic Hotels under Renovation

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Across the United States, hoteliers are seeking to breathe new life into older properties. Detroit's Book-Cadillac Hotel - built in 1924 - is being restored to open late next year as the 455-room Westin Book Cadillac Detroit. In its glory years, the hotel hosted Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman, but it stood vacant for more than two decades before the renovations began.The spacious lobby of Oklahoma City's Skirvin Hotel became a place where oil tycoons met politicians after it was built in 1911. It also sat empty for nearly 20 years until February when it reopened after a $55 million (€38 million) renovation as the Skirvin Hilton, complete with 29 hand-carved Bacchus busts, accented by gold leafing, that peer from the hotel's pillars.In Seattle, a $10 million (€7 million) renovation was just completed for the century-old Alexis Hotel and in Boston, the Charles Street Jail - built in 1851 and once tagged by officials as "unfit for human living" - is now The Liberty Hotel."There's a trend, generally in the travel industry, for people wanting to make every part of their trip a unique experience and I think hotels are really responsive to that by providing ... a little more personality and a unique experience," said Peter J. Frank, editor-in-chief of the luxury travel Web site concierge.com.Frank said the renovations also provide a new look for the hotels, which are trying to attract luxury customers. Rooms in The Alexis Hotel, which was built in 1901, for example, feature stainless steel four-poster beds, rococo mirrors, 300-thread-count sheets and high-definition televisions.In Boston, the former jail had been abandoned for about a decade after previous attempts to use the space for offices failed."It's a great location, at the foot of Beacon Hill, one of Boston's premier residential areas," said Gary Johnson, lead architect for The Liberty Hotel project. "Most people in Boston have never set foot in the building until now."Keeping with the history of the space, jail cells appear in the hotel's restaurants and bars and guests pass five cells on the way to the elevators. Developers, of course, brought down the jail's former 18-foot-high (5.5-meter) perimeter wall."Nobody's hiding the fact it was a jail. In fact, we're celebrating that," Johnson said. "The building was once a social reform place. Now it's social in the friendly sense of the word."source: ehotelier

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