We love plenty of purpose-built hotels, of course. But for the kind of architectural contrast that’s impossible to plan, we’ve also got some favorites among hotels whose buildings have been adapted from a very different use. Prisons, factories, firehouses, seminaries — here are eight of Tablet’s finest repurposed hotels.
This one’s former life is obvious from the name. But a glance at the building reveals that Victorian firehouses were rather more ornate than the garage-and-pole arrangement that’s more common today. Chiltern Firehouse is now one of London’s great nightspots, and there’ll be no late-night alarm call breaking the mood.
The Liberty Hotel
If you’re going to do time in a cell, there are less scenic places than Boston’s Beacon Hill to do it. The old Charles Street Jail is now the Liberty Hotel, and it’s a throwback to an era when jails were a bit more architecturally impressive than they are now — which means these halls are perfectly suited to housing luxury-hotel guests.
Les Bains Paris
This one has had several lives. First a Haussmann–era private bathhouse, then a legendarily debaucherous nightclub from the Seventies through the Nineties, Les Bains Douches is now doing business as a luxury boutique hotel — albeit one that pays plentiful tribute to its history by once again serving as an essential stop on the Parisian nightlife scene.
Washington School House Hotel
Park City, Utah, USA
It’s unfortunate that the American ski boom took place largely during a particularly dull era of postwar architecture. But the Washington School House Hotel is not your typical ski hotel. As an adaptation of a 19th-century schoolhouse, it’s not just full of character — it’s also limited to a size which is pleasantly, manageably intimate.
The High Line Hotel
New York City, USA
First an apple orchard, later the General Theological Seminary, it’s no surprise that the High Line Hotel is a more sedate affair than you’d expect from a Chelsea boutique hotel. The building’s Gothic style grounds it in Manhattan’s deep history, lending the High Line a character no off-the-shelf design can match.
NH Lingotto Tech Hotel
The Lingotto building is famous in Turin as the one-time headquarters of the Fiat auto company, and still features a test track on the roof (which you’ve seen on screen in the original Italian Job). No less an architect than Renzo Piano was chosen to bring the building into the 21st century, and the resulting hotel is anything but ordinary.
A colossal warehouse on Liverpool’s Stanley Dock, dating back to the middle of the 19th century, is now home to the Titanic Hotel, which is simultaneously an homage to the city’s mercantile and industrial history and a contemporary symbol of high ambition for the Merseyside waterfront.
Lloyd Hotel, oddly enough, was a hotel first, and only later a refugee center, a juvenile detention center, and a complex of artists’ studios. But with the rebirth of Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands, Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy is back to its original purpose — with nearly a hundred years of history now on display.