May 31, 2024

Explore 8 Adaptive Reuse Sites from Historic Hotels of America

For the historically minded traveler nothing brings forth more delight than an opportunity to stay at a hotel which once had a different use altogether. These spaces, saved from languishing as white elephants or demolished to make way for new constructions, can be architectural marvels, but are often examples of successful adaptive reuse projects.

Historic Hotels of America®, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognizes, celebrates, and promotes the finest hotels in the United States. Today there are over 300 hotels inducted into Historic Hotels of America from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—and each one works to preserve their sense of place.

In 2024, Historic Hotels of America released its Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Best of Adaptive Reuse list. The hotels on this list range from former factories, schools, and warehouses. While the full list is filled with incredible reuse projects, we’ve selected eight that get you started.

Former Seed Company Warehouse is now Atheneum Suite Hotel (Detroit, Michigan, 1879)

Founded as a seed company warehouse in Detroit, Michigan, when the city was hailed as the “Seed Capital of the World,” the Atheneum Suite Hotel traces its history 1856 when businessman Dexter Mason Ferry established his seed-growing company and opened a large warehouse complex on the corner of Monroe Street and Beaubien Boulevard. In 1886, architect Gordon S. Lloyd designed a newer, grander Romanesque-inspired warehouse, drawing inspiration from the Marshall Field’s Warehouse Store in Chicago.

Debuting as the largest industrial structure in Detroit at the time, the building stood eight stories in height and featured a marvelous façade of brick and limestone trim. The ornate warehouse served as the company's headquarters for decades to come. By the 1950s, the company expanded into world markets as the “Ferry-Morse Company" and moved its business operations away from Detroit, leading to the closure of its historic warehouse.

View of an opulent hotel lobby with blue seats and white marbled columns.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

Interior lobby of Atheneum Suite Hotel.

In the 1980s, businessman Jim Papas, a Greek immigrant with deep connections to the neighborhood, acquired the site with plans to build an upscale hotel. He recognized the building’s rich heritage and directed renovations to preserve its architectural integrity. Papas and his team transformed the Ferry-Morse Company’s warehouse into a multi-use urban mall known as Trappers Alley, establishing the Atheneum Suite Hotel there at the same time. Part of the historic Greektown neighborhood, The Atheneum Suite Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2023.

A Former Carmelite Convent is now the El Convento Hotel (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1646)

Exterior of the El Convento Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is a beautiful yellow building with white trim.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

Exterior of El Convento Hotel.

Built over 350 years ago, in the historic walled city of Old San Juan, El Convento Hotel was a Roman Catholic convent for nuns of the Carmelite Order. The land was donated to the order by Doña Ana Lanzós, a wealthy widow, in the early 1600s, but construction was delayed while labor and material resources were redirected to establish city fortifications. In 1646, King Phillip IV of Spain approved the convent and for nearly 250 years, it was one of the Caribbean’s major Catholic facilities, until it closed in 1903, determined by the Bishop of Puerto Rico as too expensive to maintain.

In the mid-20th century, Robert Woolworth stepped in and invested in a complete rehabilitation, transforming the aged convent into a stunning, boutique historic hotel. Reborn as “El Convento Hotel,” it emerged as one of the most popular vacation destinations in all of San Juan, and celebrities’ Rita Heyworth and Truman Capote were among the first patrons to step inside.

Further restorations and renovations revitalized the Spanish-designed features of the original convent, such as the detailing throughout the building’s facade. Among other historic features, a 300-year-old Spanish Nispero fruit tree remains in the historic courtyard. El Convento Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1999.

From Family Home to La Posada de Santa Fe (Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1882)

Set on six beautifully landscaped acres in Santa Fe, New Mexico, La Posada Hotel's history harkens back to the arrival of German émigré Abraham Staab and his wife, Julia. The Staabs arrived in Santa Fe in the mid-1850s, after taking the arduous journey along the Santa Fe Trail. Their grand family home was completed in 1882. When Abraham passed away in 1913, the house remained a private residence until the 1930s, when new owners transformed the mansion and adjacent land into a hotel with casita-style guestrooms, calling it “La Posada Inn.”

At the time, Santa Fe was a major stop along Historic Route 66, when new motels, restaurants, and service stations popped up along the route during this era to support increasing traffic. Though many are gone today, La Posada de Santa Fe has offered fine hospitality ever since, with millions of dollars invested in preserving its 19th and 20th century historic details while modernizing accommodations through the eras.

Exterior of La Posada de Santa Fe in Santa Fe New Mexico. An adobe structure with the background of a pink and blue sunset with the earm glow of neon.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

Exterior of the La Posada de Santa Fe.

In 1997 an investment transformed La Posada de Santa Fe from casita-style guestrooms into a sprawling, world-class resort with new facilities like a spa and conference space, with more updates when the hotel changed hands in 2013. La Posada de Santa Fe was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2019.

Former Glass Factory is now the Ledges Hotel (Hawley, Pennsylvania, 1890)

View of the exterior of a hotel that is on the edge of a flowing river. It is made of stone with  a wrap around fence.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

View of the exterior of the Ledges Hotel.

Perched amid the breathtaking scenery of the Pocono Mountains, Ledges Hotel is a tranquil destination with a fascinating industrial history. It was established in a five-story Federal-style building that dates to the 1890s when it served as the J.S. O’Connor American Rich Cut Glass Factory, one of the largest of its kind in the United States at the time. Founded by an Irish immigrant, who had worked for 23 years as the head of another nearby glass factory, the factory on Wallenpaupack Creek was water powered and one of the county’s largest employers for some time.

In 2011, family-owned Settlers Hospitality acquired the building to develop a hotel and restaurant that would preserve the aesthetic of this historic building, constructed of Pennsylvania Bluestone. Wood from the trusses of the adjacent Bellemonte Silk Mill was styled into modern beds and tables for guestrooms. Décor in the hotel’s restaurant, Glass, includes original glass mold prints from the factory as well as images from its factory era. Wood lumbered from a fallen 250-year-old Copper Beech Tree was used to create a live edge bar and tabletops for the dining room. A part of the hotel known as “the ruins” was converted into an outdoor room/lounge space. Ledges Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2013.

From a Train Station to the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (St. Louis, Missouri, 1894)

View of the opulent green and gold lobby of a former train station turned hotel in St. Louis. The ceilings are arched and the lobby area is a wide open space.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

View of the interior of the Saint Louis Union Station Hotel.

On September 1, 1894, the St. Louis’ iconic Union Station opened its doors. Local architect Theodore Link led its design amid a contest held at the behest of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. Given control over the entire project, Link subsequently created a magnificent, sprawling complex that stood as a masterpiece of American architecture. Link designed the Grand Hall to resemble a passageway inside a medieval castle; the walled French city of Carcassonne was his inspiration. Ornate details that remain today proliferated throughout the space, too, such as spectacular gold leafing, wide stained-glass windows, and wall carvings made from Indiana limestone. A stunning, 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling crested the Grand Hall, anchored by a beautiful, wrought-iron chandelier. One of the United States’ largest and busiest train terminal, Union Station was home to 22 railroads and 32 tracks in its heyday.

Today, the transportation complex has undergone a renaissance that restores and respects its heritage. St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, is at the center of an award-winning family entertainment destination in the historic Victorian-era train terminal. The train shed is now the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. Designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1991.

Former Junior High School Turned Hotel Grinnell (Grinnell, Iowa, 1921)

Erected in 1921, the Hotel Grinnell building was once Grinnell, Iowa's junior high school. Designed by the prominent Des Moines-based architectural firm of Proudfoot, Bird & Rawson, the building lived its first life as a Classical Revival style public school, part of a larger complex of school buildings. After the school closed in 1978 and much of the complex was demolished, the surviving junior high school building served as a municipal office building for the city.

In the early 21st century, an ambitious entrepreneur meticulously restored and redesigned the building and Hotel Grinnell was reborn in 2017 as a modern, eco-conscious boutique hotel, eatery, and event destination. The front desk was the principal’s office in 1921 and guestrooms are the building’s former classrooms, with original Maplewood floors and high ceilings. The school’s theater, now an event venue, has a soaring coffered ceiling which was painstakingly restored to its former grandeur and a grand staircase that leads up to the hotel’s luxury penthouse suite, originally the dressing room above the stage.

View of the lobby of Hotel Grinnell, an open space with a "g" at the back wall. The rest of the room is white with seating.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

View of Hotel Grinnell Lobby.

The school’s old locker rooms are now bunk rooms with 10 beds each—designed for big families, wedding parties, or children's slumber parties— and some of the original wood locker room benches are found throughout the hotel. Hotel Grinnell was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2023.

Former Bank Building is now the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington (Lexington, Kentucky, 1914)

View of one of one of the  meeting rooms at 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. There is a bank vault door in the background with a nicely set table and artwork with golden birds on the walls.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

View of one of the meeting rooms at the 21c Museum.

In 1913, desiring a grand high-rise for their business, Fayette National Bank hired the well-known firm of McKim, Mead & White to design its new home in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2012, 21c Museum Hotels—a hotel collection known for adapting historic buildings to use as hotels and arts spaces—acquired the former bank building and hired architectural firms based in New York and Pittsburgh to adapt the Beaux Arts bank building into a hotel.

The creative team came up with a hotel building that combined contemporary design with the restoration of the building’s Ionic columns, marbled walls, Tennessee Pink marble flooring, and vaulted ceilings. The 21c Museum Hotel Lexington opened four years later. The building today is both a luxurious hotel and a contemporary art museum, welcoming both visitors and the local community to enjoy its curated exhibitions and cultural programming. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 21c Museum Hotel Lexington was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2019.

Former Warehouse Building is now the Napa River Inn (Napa, California, 1884)

Exterior of the Napa River Inn, a long brick building with an awning along the front.

photo by: Historic Hotels of America

View of the Exterior of the Napa River Inn.

In 1882, Captain Albert E. Hatt, a German immigrant, invested in a plot of land at Main and Fifth Streets in Napa where he built a massive multipurpose warehouse which became known as the “Hatt Building.” Local merchants used it to store goods and it provided space for Alma Hogan Hatt, Albert’s wife, to open a restaurant. On the second floor, the Hatts added a skating rink, library, and dining area. After the Hatt family passed away, the building served as a granary and mill to serve local farmers for about 50 years.

After a period of uncertainty, an investor acquired the building in 1992 with a plan to transform it into a stunning hotel, worthy of the beautiful Napa Valley, while preserving the facility’s rich architectural integrity. The Hatt Building debuted as the new—but very historic—Napa River Inn in 2000. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Napa River Inn was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2004.

Donate Today to Help Save the Places Where Our History Happened.

Donate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation today and you'll help preserve places that tell our stories, reflect our culture, and shape our shared American experience.

Katherine Orr is the director, marketing strategy and communications at Historic Hotels of America.

The Mother Road turns 100 years old in 2026—share your Route 66 story to celebrate the Centennial. Together, we’ll tell the full American story of Route 66!

Share Your Story