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Ten Historic US Hotels

From Southern plantation homes to buildings that feature on city tours, there are US hotels that are definitely places to see as well as to stay in.

From Southern plantation homes to buildings that feature on city tours,

there are US hotels that are definitely places to see as well as to stay in.

The Burnham Hotel in Chicago


Hotel Burnham

Standing on State Street, 'that great street', the Hotel Burnham has been described by some architects as the world's first modern building. About 2/3 of the building is glass, much of the rest being terracotta. The lower half was built in 1891 and the rest of it completed by 1895. Skyscrapers were first built in Chicago, not New York - they say New York only started building them when the Chicago ones failed to fall down - and this was the first skyscraper to have so much glass in its facade, something that would later become commonplace. The building is officially known as The Reliance Building and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It only became home to the Hotel Burnham in 1999, though many of the original historic features were preserved.

UK tour operator: Bon Voyage

The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago


Palmer House - A Hilton Hotel

The Palmer House is such a historic part of the Chicago cityscape that it features on city tours, including the excellent tours by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. There have been three hotels on the site, the first being one of the world's finest hotels when it opened in 1871. However, it only lasted an unlucky 13 days before it burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire that year. It re-opened in 1873 as 'The World's Only Fireproof Hotel' and claims to be the USA's oldest continually-operating hotel. A new hotel was built on the same site from 1923-25, then the largest hotel in the world, but business continued as the new hotel was built stage by stage around the old one.

UK tour operator: Trailfinders

The Hotel del Coronado in Southern California


Hotel del Coronado

In Coronado, across the bay from San Diego in southern California, the Del Coronado is another National Historic Landmark. It was built in the style of a Victorian beach resort in 1888, when it was the largest resort hotel in the world. Many US Presidents have stayed there over the years, along with numerous Hollywood stars escaping Los Angeles, including Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Kirk Douglas, plus the movie star who became President: Ronald Reagan.

The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver


Brown Palace

The Brown Palace in Denver has such a wealth of history behind it that they offer twice-weekly public tours (free to hotel guests). Built downtown in 1892 it was one of the first hotels in the world to be built around an atrium. Almost every US President has stayed there for conventions or campaigning since 1905. Deep below the hotel is the artesian well which still provides the hotel's water, while up on the roof a colony of bees thrives.

UK tour operator: Audley Travel

The Beverly Hills Hotel


The Beverly Hills Hotel

Some hotels imply you'll spot stars if you stay with them, but this is where Hollywood's movers and shakers really do meet for lunch in the Polo Lounge and hang out around the pool. The hotel opened on Sunset Boulevard in 1912 and has 12 acres of gardens as well as its landmark pink bungalows. It's one of the places to stay, even if you don't move and shake.

UK tour operator: Abercrombie and Kent

The Peabody Hotel in Memphis


The Peabody

Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, the Peabody is a downtown Memphis landmark, just a few blocks from the music and bars of Beale Street. The first Peabody was built in 1869 but the present Italian Renaissance-style building opened in 1925 at a cost of $5 million (about $66 million in today's money). In the 1930s the General Manager came back from a hunting trip with some English decoy ducks, which he and his friends thought they'd leave in the fountain in the lobby for a laugh. The tradition of the Peabody Ducks lives on. They live on the roof and are brought down in the elevators every day to be led to the fountain and fed.

The Monmouth Historic Inn in Natchez


Monmouth Historic Inn

This National Historic Landmark was built in 1818 and tours of this grand Mississippi plantation home are free for guests. Rooms contain a lot of the house's original 19th-century furniture and there are 26 acres of grounds filled with flowers and magnolia trees. Staying here is a real experience of Southern history.

UK tour operator: Trailfinders

The Ernest Hemingway Suite at the Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans


Hotel Monteleone

A member of the Historic Hotels of America, this Beaux-Arts-style hotel was built in the French Quarter in 1886. It remains a family-owned hotel, still run by descendants of Antonio Monteleone, who emigrated from Sicily to the USA in 1880. It's noted for its Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge, which opened over 60 years ago, though it does have more modern amenities including a heated rooftop swimming pool. It's particularly famous for its literary guests over the years, including Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Anne Rice and John Grisham.

UK tour operator: Abercrombie and Kent

The Westin St Francis in San Francisco


Westin St Francis

Built in 1904 on Union Square in the very heart of San Francisco, the Westin was part of big plans to turn the city into 'the Paris of the West'. The owners first studied grand European hotels like Claridge's in London and The Ritz in Paris before drawing up designs for their own equivalent to rival them. The Westin was badly damaged by the Great Earthquake of 1906, and the interior further damaged by the fire that followed. The hotel arose again to re-open the following year and it remains the only hotel on Union Square.

UK tour operator: American Sky

The Old Faithful Inn and Geyser in Yellowstone


The Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone was established in 1872 and is regarded as the first National Park in the world. The Old Faithful Inn was added in 1903-04 in a suitably rustic style of log beams and stone pillars, said to be the biggest log-built structure in the world. It's been damaged by earthquakes and fires over the years but, like the nearby Old Faithful geyser that you can see from the inn, it keeps on going.

UK tour operator: Audley Travel


To find out more about the USA's historic hotels visit the website of Historic Hotels of America.