Historic Hotels of America Names 2024 Best Of Adaptive Reuse

These hotels are living proof that historic buildings can serve contemporary needs while preserving their timeless character.

From a former Carmelite convent in San Juan, Puerto Rico to an old power plant in Savannah, Georgia, the 25 hotels recognized last month by Historic Hotels of America® represent the best in adaptive reuse.

A sustainable approach to historic preservation, adaptive reuse saves unused historic buildings from demolition by rehabilitating and renovating them for a new purpose. Applying adaptive reuse in the hospitality industry gives travelers the chance to visit historic buildings that might have otherwise have been destroyed.

Released during Preservation Month, Historic Hotels of America’s 2024 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Best of Adaptive Reuse list spotlights 25 preserved historic buildings that were not originally built to be hotels. Guests can spend the night in former factories where Ghirardelli chocolate and world-class cork products were produced, or make a historic Masonic temple their home base while exploring New Orleans. One historic hotel featured on the list is a former junior high school that embraces its past with “hall pass” guestroom keycards and signature cocktails like the Prom Queen. Another historic hotel featured on the list is a former train station that curates train-car-themed suites, named after ticketing agents who once worked there. Others offer dining inside a historic bank vault and historic smokestack.

These hotels are living proof that historic buildings can serve contemporary needs while preserving their timeless character.

Historic Hotels of America


An official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the preservation nonprofit highlights the ways in which history and heritage are preserved in the U.S., as well as the people doing this work: The theme this year honors “People Saving Places.”

“Historic hotels preserve the past to serve the present, making them a beacon of sustainability, as well as fantastic destinations for solo travelers searching for new experiences, couples in need of a romantic getaway, and families setting out to make lifelong memories,” said Lawrence P. Horwitz, Executive Vice President, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Historic Hotels of America applauds forward-thinking investors and hoteliers who see potential in historic buildings, as well as the guests who choose to stay at historic hotels. At Historic Hotels of America, the ‘people saving places’ are the guests, hotel staff, and the hotels’ communities, who support these special places throughout the year.”

Here’s a closer look at six of the Top 25:

Historic Hotels: Best Of Adaptive Reuse

Here are all 25 hotels on Historic Hotels of America’s Best of Adaptive Reuse list, along with what they used to be.

  • El Convento Hotel (1646) San Juan, Puerto Rico: Carmelite Convent
  • Kings Courtyard Inn (1853) Charleston, SC: Mixed-Use Commercial Building
  • Cork Factory Hotel (1865) Lancaster County, PA: Cork Factory
  • The Inn at Leola Village, Est. 1867 (1867) Leola, PA: Amish Tobacco Farm
  • Atheneum Suite Hotel (1879) Detroit, MI: Seed Company Warehouse
  • La Posada de Santa Fe (1882) Santa Fe, NM: Family Home
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Madison Historic Eagle Cotton Mill (1884) Madison, IN: Cotton Mill
  • Napa River Inn (1884) Napa, CA: Warehouse
  • Ledges Hotel (1890) Hawley, PA: Glass Factory
  • Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square (1893) San Francisco, CA: Chocolate Factory
  • The Kendall Hotel (1894) Cambridge, MA: Fire Engine House
  • St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (1894) St. Louis, MO: Train Station
  • The Lodge at the Presidio (1897) and Inn at the Presidio (1903) and San Francisco, CA: U.S. Army Housing
  • Chicago Silversmith Hotel & Suites (1897) Chicago, IL: Artisan Workshop and Retail Building
  • The Union Station Nashville Yards (1900) Nashville, TN:  Train Station
  • The Inn at Diamond Cove (1910) Portland, ME: U.S. Army Fort and Barracks
  • JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, GA: Power Plant
  • 21c Museum Hotel Lexington (1914) Lexington, KY: Bank Building
  • Hotel Grinnell (1921) Grinnell, IA: Junior High School
  • Haywood Park Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection (1923) Asheville, NC: Department Store
  • The Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (1924) San Antonio, TX: Medical Arts Building
  • Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue (1926) New Orleans, LA: Masonic Temple
  • 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis (1926) St. Louis, MO: YMCA
  • Hotel Warner (1930) West Chester, PA: Movie Theater
  • The Graylyn Estate (1932) Winston-Salem, NC: Family Home

El Convento Hotel (1646) San Juan, Puerto Rico

Former Carmelite Convent

El Convento Hotel
El Convento Hotel (1646) San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and El Convento Hotel)


Located in the historic walled city of Old San Juan, El Convento Hotel was built over 350 years ago to be 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 build the city’s fortifications. In 1646, King Phillip IV of Spain approved the convent, and San Juan finally had its beautiful new convent.

Debuting as the “Monasterio del Señor San José de la Orden de nuestra Señora del Carmen” in 1651, the convent welcomed three nuns from Hispaniola as its first residents. For nearly 250 years, the convent was one of the Caribbean’s major Catholic facilities, often providing support to the Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista—the second-most historic cathedral in the Americas. In 1903, the convent closed. The Bishop of Puerto Rico determined that the convent was too expensive to maintain, and the building faced an uncertain future for 50 years.

In the mid-20th century, Robert Woolworth stepped in and invested in a complete rehabilitation of the building, ultimately transforming the aged convent into a boutique hotel. Reborn as El Convento Hotel, it soon emerged as one of the most popular vacation destinations in all of San Juan. Numerous celebrities—including Rita Hayworth and Truman Capote—were among the first guests to step inside. Further restorations and renovations have rejuvenated the building’s historical and structural integrity, revitalizing the Spanish-style design features of the original convent, such as the architectural details throughout the building’s façade. 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.

Ledges Hotel (1890) Hawley, PA

Former Glass Factory

Adaptive Reuse
Ledges Hotel (1890) Hawley, Pennsylvania. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and Ledges Hotel)


Perched on the edge of Wallenpaupack Creek in Hawley, PA, amid the breathtaking scenery of the Pocono Mountains, Ledges Hotel is a tranquil destination with a fascinating industrial history. The five-story Federal-style building dates to the 1890s, when it served as the J.S. O’Connor American Rich Cut Glassware Factory, one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. at the time. Founded by an Irish immigrant, the factory on Wallenpaupack Creek was water-powered, and one of the county’s biggest employers.

In 2011, family-owned Settlers Hospitality Group acquired the building to develop a hotel and restaurant that would preserve the aesthetic of this historic building, constructed with Pennsylvania Bluestone. Wood from the trusses of the adjacent Bellemonte Silk Mill was repurposed 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 historic images from its factory era. Wood 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 lounge space. This area is a guest favorite, and allows visitors to see a portion of the original factory building, where the architecture blends seamlessly with the surrounding natural rock ledges and waterfall. Merging modern design and amenities with historical integrity and environmental sustainability, Ledges Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2013.

St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (1894) St. Louis, MO

Former Train Station

Adaptive Reuse
St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (1894) St. Louis, Missouri. Credit: Historic Hotels of America and St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton)


On September 1, 1894, St. Louis’s iconic Union Station—the future St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton—opened its doors. Local architect Theodore C. Link led its design: a magnificent, sprawling complex that stood as a masterpiece of American architecture. Link planned the Grand Hall to resemble a passageway inside a medieval castle; the walled French city of Carcassonne was his inspiration. Ornate details that can still be seen today proliferated throughout the space, such as spectacular gold leaf, wide stained-glass windows, and wall carvings made from Indiana limestone. A stunning, 65-foot-tall, barrel-vaulted ceiling crested the Grand Hall, anchored by a beautiful, wrought-iron chandelier. One of the nation’s largest and busiest train terminals at the time, Union Station was home to 22 railroads and 32 tracks in its heyday.

Today, the transportation complex has undergone a renaissance that restored and respects its heritage. St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton is at the center of an award-winning family entertainment destination within the historic Victorian-era train terminal. The hotel’s guestrooms, meeting and event space, and Grand Hall have been fully renovated and expanded. Clock Tower Suites have train-themed décor, and each guestroom door is marked with the name of a railroad ticketing agent whose offices were once in that section of the building. The train shed is now the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. Other entertainment at the complex includes the St. Louis Wheel, carousel, and mini golf. In the Grand Hall, where visitors can watch a 3D light show, the original stained glass and ornate plasterwork have been restored. 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.

JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, GA

Former Power Plant

JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District
JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (1912) Savannah, Georgia. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District)


By the beginning of the 20th century, Savannah, GA, emerged as one of the region’s fastest-growing communities. To meet the modern city’s demands for electricity, Savannah officials commissioned the development of a sprawling power plant and station along the Savannah River in 1912. For nearly 100 years, Riverside Station helped power Savannah.

The plant closed in 2005, its future uncertain, but the Kessler Collection—a collection of hotels known for their elevation of art and design in hospitality—acquired the decommissioned power plant in 2012, and invested millions into transforming the plant into a magnificent hotel. The former power plant debuted as the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District in 2020. The exterior retains the power plant’s iconic twin smokestacks and brick exterior, and the interior was repurposed with the addition of hotel guestrooms, restaurants, shops, and other mixed-use commercial spaces.

“We wanted to maintain as much of the existing power plant as possible by finding ways to reveal the history and authenticity of this building,” Diana Kessler, Creative Director, Kessler Design Studio, said of this adaptive reuse project. “When a guest experiences the property, there are many architectural and design details that pull from the history of the power plant.”

Today, films, tours, and history exhibit walls tell the story of Riverside Station at the hotel. Guests will discover repurposed steel benches and refinished brick throughout the property: 575,000 pieces of historic brick from the original building were cleaned and used in the rehabilitation. At Stone & Webster Chophouse—named for the plant’s original architects—guests can dine inside the core of a century-old smokestack. JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2022.

21c Museum Hotel Lexington (1914) Lexington, KY

Former Bank Building

21c Museum Hotel Lexington
21c Museum Hotel Lexington (1914) Lexington, Kentucky. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and 21c Museum Hotel Lexing


The 21c Museum Hotel Lexington dates to 1914, when the Fayette National Bank constructed its headquarters in Lexington, KY. Desiring a grand high-rise, Fayette National Bank hired the well-known architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to design its new headquarters.

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-style bank building into a hotel. The creative team produced a hotel building that combined contemporary design with the restoration of the building’s Ionic columns, marble walls, Tennessee Pink Marble flooring, and vaulted ceilings. 21c Museum Hotel Lexington opened four years later.

Today, the building is both a luxury hotel and a contemporary art museum, welcoming both visitors and the local community to enjoy its curated exhibitions and cultural programming. At the hotel’s restaurant, Lockbox, the Fayette National Bank Building’s original safe deposit vault remains intact and has been reimagined as an intimate private dining room for guests to enjoy. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 21c Museum Hotel Lexington was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2019.

The Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (1924) San Antonio, TX

Former Medical Arts Building

Adaptive Reuse
Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (1925) San Antonio, Texas. (Credit: Historic Hotels of America and Emily Morgan San Antonio)


In 1924, real estate developer Clifton George and architect Ralph Cameron decided that the prosperous, growing city of San Antonio needed a medical arts building. Medical arts buildings were a new concept for the era, a large building for doctors and other medical professionals to practice their various specialties. Rival cities like Dallas and Houston had their own medical arts buildings, inspiring George and Cameron to invest in a triangular plot of land near the historic Alamo. Two years later, the medical arts building—the future Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel—opened. It debuted as a 13-story skyscraper, the tallest building in the city at the time, adorned with Gothic Revival-style motifs. Cameron had masterfully incorporated many Gothic-inspired architectural elements throughout his design, including a steeply pitched mansard roof, terra cotta detailing, and a chateau-inspired corner tower. Perhaps the most notable Gothic architectural features are the façade’s gargoyles, many of them posing to show a series of ailments.

The building was a success for many decades, and it received a new lease on life when it was acquired by hoteliers in 1984. They restored and renovated the building, and converted the building into a hotel. It was named The Emily Morgan Hotel as an homage to the legend of Emily Morgan, a woman who, according to the legend, helped the Texans win the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 by seducing Santa Anna. Today, The Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, provides its guests with some of the city’s best hospitality and proximity to the Alamo. Not only have guests continued to find its charming guestrooms to be among the finest in the city, but they have also enjoyed its proximity to prominent historical attractions like the Alamo. The Emily Morgan San Antonio – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Alamo Plaza Historic District, and it was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2015.

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