Historic hotels get 21st-century upgrades
By Daniel Yee
By Daniel Yee
ATLANTA — Elaine Hernando planned to stay in one of Atlanta's big-box hotels, but when she saw The Ellis, she canceled her reservation and booked a room at the renovated historic hotel instead.
On the outside, the 15-floor hotel retains its stately 1913 architecture, complete with a traditional open-air balcony on the second floor.
Inside, however, the hotel rooms boast 21st-century comforts, including plush beds, flat-screen TVs and even a place to play music from iPods.
"I really like boutique hotels — we travel a lot for work," said Hernando, 30, a sales representative from Los Angeles. "I loved being there — the windows have a really great view; the iPod dock, that was cool."
Nationwide, 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 Seattle, a $10 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 www.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.