If historic architecture allows passersby to catch a glimpse of local culture, than staying in historic hotels and inns gives visitors a chance to experience history, if only for a few nights. Grand hotels—often elaborate and extravagant turn-of-the-century structures—are some of our big cities’s most famous buildings. But it’s often the small inns that contain some of the most charming examples of antique architecture. Here’s a (far from complete) list of ten of the nation’s more storied places to stay.
Inn at the Presidio (San Francisco, California)
Built in 1903, this quaint, three-story inn was formerly known by the bland moniker Building 42 due to its past life as part of a large Army base, which has now been turned into a National Park in the midst of the city. Named in honor of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, this Georgian-revival style building once provided quarters for unmarried offices, but has been retrofitted into a 22-room retreat complete with fireplaces and a wide porch. The inn is a short stroll from Cow Hollow and the Marina District.
Historic Park Inn (Mason City, Iowa)
Built roughly 15 years before the Imperial Hotel complex in Tokyo, this Iowa landmark prefigured design elements and ideas utilized in architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s later work. Unmistakably Prairie School with its horizontal sweep, wide overhangs and stained glass, this small-town stop is the only Wright hotel left standing, Originally built in 1910 as part of a larger hotel and bank project, it was recently restored and reopened in 2011.
The Chanler at Cliff Walk (Newport, Rhode Island)
Located near the scores of grand homes that line this posh stretch of New England beachfront, The Chanler offers a luxurious experience for those without the Vanderbilt bankrolls necessary for a private summer escape. Built as a summer residence in 1873, the inn showcases a variety of architectural styles in the guest rooms, from French Provincial to Greek Revival.
River Street Inn (Savannah, Georgia)
This ornate Southern city offers an embarrassment of architectural riches, including this restored cotton warehouse. Originally constructed in 1817, the building has been repurposed to add character to the space, including wide entrances, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a series of balconies that wrap around the upper floors. Boasting gas lamps and cobblestone streets, it’s a fitting stay in a city where main streets read as architectural history books.
The Twelve Oaks (Covington, Georgia)
Few places attract fans of both Gone With the Wind and the Vampire Diaries, but this antebellum Georgia bed & breakfast—the inspiration for the former and film location for the later—exudes that kind of charm. Built in 1836 by Judge John Harris, the former home is considered a prime example of Southern architecture, and was even occupied by General Sherman when he marched through Georgia in 1864.
The Middlebury Inn (Middlebury, Vermont)
Built on the site of a tavern that once stood at a crossroads near the Green Mountains, this restored inn, built in 1827, offers Victorian style on the city’s village green. One of the oldest hotels in the country, the Inn includes additional guest rooms in the Porter Mansion, an annex that was originally built in 1825.
Tarpon Inn (Port Aransas, Texas)
Built from surplus lumber used in Civil War barracks, this low-slung lodging on the Gulf coast, rebuilt numerous times in its long history, has been a seaside escape for more than a half-century, boasting what it claims to be the state’s longest porch. Named after the large fish that used to be a staple of sportsmen who used to flock to this retreat, the hotel’s lobby boasts thousands of fish scales signed by famous anglers, such as FDR.
Pioneer Inn (Maui, Hawaii)
The oldest continually operating hotel in the state, the Pioneer was built in 1901 by Canadian immigrant George Alan Freeland (the waterfront side overlooking Lahaina harbor still boasts some of the original square nails). Constructed to recall the country inns of the late 19th century, the building boasts a storied history, including its own chapter in Hollywood history. Spencer Tracy and actress Katharine Hepburn spent so much time at the hotel during the filming of The Devil at 4 O’Clock that the Tracy-Hepburn suite was christened in their honor.
Southernmost House (Key West, Florida)
Perched on the edge of the island’s bustling Duval Street, near the southernmost point of the continental United States, this mansion exudes the carefree charm and character of the Conch Republic. Built as a private residence in 1896, the building had a brief turn as a Cuban nightclub, Cafe Cayo Hueso, before being converted back into guest rooms. It’s housed five presidents, as well as literary legend Ernest Hemingway. Guests can sway in a hammock facing the sea (with Cuba just 90-or-so miles in the distance).
Inn on Ferry Street (Detroit, Michigan)
A group of turn-of-the-century mansions and carriage houses as opposed to a single inn, this 40-room complex near the Detroit Institute of Art boasts an array of Victorian and turn-of-the-century touches, all part of a painstaking, $12 million restoration in 2002. Situated in the midst of one of the city’s historic districts, the Queen Anne mansions, built of brick and sandstone, boast bay windows, turrets, and wide, welcoming front porches