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America's Iconic Downtown Hotels, Mapped

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New boutique hotels will always have the buzz, but trendy newbies can't replace the splendor of staying downtown at a truly grand hotel. More than just fancy places to spend the night, these architectural gems are woven into the local landscape, having served as meeting places for leaders and celebrities, and in many cases, dining and entertainment hubs. The latest hotspots jockeying for attention may have trendy designs and of-the-moment restaurants, but it's hard to beat a signature building that truly has a place in history. Here are just some of the legendary, historic hotels that serve as focal points in their respective cities.


Hotel Week 2014 [Curbed]

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1. U.S. Grant

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326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101

Built by the son of ex-President Ulysses S. Grant, this grand hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter was designed by Harrison Albright and built for $1.5 million in 1910. It’s been a gathering spot for presidents and naval officers for decades; 12 commanders in chief have slept here, and the radio towers installed on the building’s roof in 1939 delivered one of FDR’s addresses to the nation. The 11-story hotel, which includes the famed Grant Grill restaurant, was also the site of the city’s first Comic-Con.

2. Beverly Hills Hotel

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9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

A Mediterranean revival beauty originally designed by Pasadena architect Elmer Grey in 1912, with key additions by Paul Williams, the "Pink Palace" on Sunset actually predates the founding of Beverly Hills by a couple of years, but in many ways, defined the town’s glamor during its midcentury heyday. A pink-and-green celebrity magnet in a city full of them, from Chateau Marmont to the Sunset Tower Hotel, this is a true Los Angeles icon.

3. Mayflower Hotel

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1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

Nicknamed the second best address in D.C. and named on the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing, the Mayflower has been host to presidential balls and a second home to many D.C. figureheads such as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who ate lunch here every day for decades. FDR even dictated his famous “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” line in suite 776. Designed by Robert F. Beresford and Warren and Wetmore, a New York firm, the hotel was plagued by cost overruns and unforeseen construction issues, costing nearly $150 million in today’s dollars (imagine, an over-budget project in the capitol). The designers certainly didn’t skimp on stylish detailing; the lobby contained antique crystal chandeliers and Botticino marble floors, and Italianate ironwork decorated the glass dome in the Palm Court. Sadly, the hotel isn't quite the same destination it once was; one of the most historic parts of the hotel, Town and Country Lounge, a famous Beltway watering hole, closed down in 2011.

4. The Raleigh Hotel

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1775 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Miami and South Beach boast some of the world’s most iconic hotels, from the Fontainbleu and stunning Biltmore to the neon glow of the Breakwater. But this Art Deco gem, designed by one of the style’s grandmasters, Lawrence Murray Dixon, and built in 1940 during the beginning of the city's hotel boom, stands as a cherished local landmark. Passing an afternoon at the turquoise-tiled pool, christened the world’s best by Life magazine in the ‘40s, in one of the pink-striped lounge chairs, is highly recommended. It's also recommended you go as soon as possible, at least if you want to see it before fashion magnate Tommy Hilfiger begins a massive renovation that's been in the works for the last year and a half.

5. The Drake Hotel

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140 E Walton Pl
Chicago, IL 60611

Built in 1920 for the then princely sum of $10 million, this towering Italian Renaissance structure near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile had a commanding perch, set next to a curve in the city's lakefront. Designed by Charles Fox and Benjamin Marshall, a reputed partier who designed many of Chicago's grand hotels and residences, it's filled with iconic flourishes, including the Palm Court, Coq d'Or bar, and neon sign, which was installed in 1940, and has been a luxe resort and meeting place for the city's upper crust since it opened.

6. Palace Hotel

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2 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

A Bay Area landmark since before the 1906 earthquake—which demolished the original structure, then the tallest in the city and also known as the Bonanza Inn—the Palace has been through quite a bit during its century-plus existence, including a multimillion-dollar interior renovation by Beatrice Girelli that finished earlier this year. But the grandeur of Trowbridge & Livingston’s original design rings true throughout the two-acre, nine-story hotel, especially within the Pied Piper Bar (decorated with a Maxfield Parrish painting of the same name) and the Garden Court restaurant.

7. Waldorf Astoria New York

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301 Park Ave
New York, NY 10022

An Art Deco landmark designed by Schultze and Weaver, this New York icon re-opened at its present location in 1931, boasting the title of tallest hotel in the world at the time, and frankly, never got off its particular pedestal. It’s been a hotbed of celebrity, wealth and intrigue ever since: a center for Cold War intrigue and a celebrity hangout, it was a center of literary and high society. The opulent interior includes a massive 4,000-pound clock purchased from the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, imported Belgian black marble, and Peacock Alley, a restaurant named after a mirrored alleyway that connected the original hotel’s two buildings; society women would reportedly stroll down the passage and admire their dresses. The hotel was recently purchased for $1.95 billion, with the new owners planning a major renovation.

8. Adolphus Hotel

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1321 Commerce St
Dallas, TX 75202

Called the “most beautiful building west of Venice,” this towering Beaux Arts building was the project of Anheuser-Busch brewing magnate Adolphus Busch, who was approached by a group of local businessman curious if he would take the lead in constructing a posh new hotel for the booming Texas city. Busch came through, recruiting St. Louis architect Thomas P. Barnett of Barnett, Haynes & Barnett to create a first-class building decked in bronze and walnut. Much of the interior was stripped and sold to finance a renovation project in the early ‘80s, but the hotel’s charm, and key details, remain, such as the chandelier decorated with eagles and hops vines, a reference to the founder’s namesake company.

9. Fairmont Olympic Hotel

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411 University St
Seattle, WA 98101

Designed in the then trendy Italian Renaissance style in 1924 by local architectural duo Charles Bebb and Carl Gould, the hotel, which covers a city block, was built to fill a void in the city’s lodging landscape. The city’s Chamber of Commerce actively sought to bring a world-class hotel to the city, and in the process, created a civic mission; the public naming contest arrived at the name Olympic after receiving thousands of entries. Numerous changes in ownership haven’t dislodged the grande dame from her position as a Seattle institution; the Spanish Foyer is an especially luxe lounge.

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1. U.S. Grant

326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101

Built by the son of ex-President Ulysses S. Grant, this grand hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter was designed by Harrison Albright and built for $1.5 million in 1910. It’s been a gathering spot for presidents and naval officers for decades; 12 commanders in chief have slept here, and the radio towers installed on the building’s roof in 1939 delivered one of FDR’s addresses to the nation. The 11-story hotel, which includes the famed Grant Grill restaurant, was also the site of the city’s first Comic-Con.

326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101

2. Beverly Hills Hotel

9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

A Mediterranean revival beauty originally designed by Pasadena architect Elmer Grey in 1912, with key additions by Paul Williams, the "Pink Palace" on Sunset actually predates the founding of Beverly Hills by a couple of years, but in many ways, defined the town’s glamor during its midcentury heyday. A pink-and-green celebrity magnet in a city full of them, from Chateau Marmont to the Sunset Tower Hotel, this is a true Los Angeles icon.

9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

3. Mayflower Hotel

1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Nicknamed the second best address in D.C. and named on the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing, the Mayflower has been host to presidential balls and a second home to many D.C. figureheads such as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who ate lunch here every day for decades. FDR even dictated his famous “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” line in suite 776. Designed by Robert F. Beresford and Warren and Wetmore, a New York firm, the hotel was plagued by cost overruns and unforeseen construction issues, costing nearly $150 million in today’s dollars (imagine, an over-budget project in the capitol). The designers certainly didn’t skimp on stylish detailing; the lobby contained antique crystal chandeliers and Botticino marble floors, and Italianate ironwork decorated the glass dome in the Palm Court. Sadly, the hotel isn't quite the same destination it once was; one of the most historic parts of the hotel, Town and Country Lounge, a famous Beltway watering hole, closed down in 2011.

1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

4. The Raleigh Hotel

1775 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Miami and South Beach boast some of the world’s most iconic hotels, from the Fontainbleu and stunning Biltmore to the neon glow of the Breakwater. But this Art Deco gem, designed by one of the style’s grandmasters, Lawrence Murray Dixon, and built in 1940 during the beginning of the city's hotel boom, stands as a cherished local landmark. Passing an afternoon at the turquoise-tiled pool, christened the world’s best by Life magazine in the ‘40s, in one of the pink-striped lounge chairs, is highly recommended. It's also recommended you go as soon as possible, at least if you want to see it before fashion magnate Tommy Hilfiger begins a massive renovation that's been in the works for the last year and a half.

1775 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

5. The Drake Hotel

140 E Walton Pl, Chicago, IL 60611

Built in 1920 for the then princely sum of $10 million, this towering Italian Renaissance structure near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile had a commanding perch, set next to a curve in the city's lakefront. Designed by Charles Fox and Benjamin Marshall, a reputed partier who designed many of Chicago's grand hotels and residences, it's filled with iconic flourishes, including the Palm Court, Coq d'Or bar, and neon sign, which was installed in 1940, and has been a luxe resort and meeting place for the city's upper crust since it opened.

140 E Walton Pl
Chicago, IL 60611

6. Palace Hotel

2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105

A Bay Area landmark since before the 1906 earthquake—which demolished the original structure, then the tallest in the city and also known as the Bonanza Inn—the Palace has been through quite a bit during its century-plus existence, including a multimillion-dollar interior renovation by Beatrice Girelli that finished earlier this year. But the grandeur of Trowbridge & Livingston’s original design rings true throughout the two-acre, nine-story hotel, especially within the Pied Piper Bar (decorated with a Maxfield Parrish painting of the same name) and the Garden Court restaurant.

2 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

7. Waldorf Astoria New York

301 Park Ave, New York, NY 10022

An Art Deco landmark designed by Schultze and Weaver, this New York icon re-opened at its present location in 1931, boasting the title of tallest hotel in the world at the time, and frankly, never got off its particular pedestal. It’s been a hotbed of celebrity, wealth and intrigue ever since: a center for Cold War intrigue and a celebrity hangout, it was a center of literary and high society. The opulent interior includes a massive 4,000-pound clock purchased from the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, imported Belgian black marble, and Peacock Alley, a restaurant named after a mirrored alleyway that connected the original hotel’s two buildings; society women would reportedly stroll down the passage and admire their dresses. The hotel was recently purchased for $1.95 billion, with the new owners planning a major renovation.

301 Park Ave
New York, NY 10022

8. Adolphus Hotel

1321 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75202

Called the “most beautiful building west of Venice,” this towering Beaux Arts building was the project of Anheuser-Busch brewing magnate Adolphus Busch, who was approached by a group of local businessman curious if he would take the lead in constructing a posh new hotel for the booming Texas city. Busch came through, recruiting St. Louis architect Thomas P. Barnett of Barnett, Haynes & Barnett to create a first-class building decked in bronze and walnut. Much of the interior was stripped and sold to finance a renovation project in the early ‘80s, but the hotel’s charm, and key details, remain, such as the chandelier decorated with eagles and hops vines, a reference to the founder’s namesake company.

1321 Commerce St
Dallas, TX 75202

9. Fairmont Olympic Hotel

411 University St, Seattle, WA 98101

Designed in the then trendy Italian Renaissance style in 1924 by local architectural duo Charles Bebb and Carl Gould, the hotel, which covers a city block, was built to fill a void in the city’s lodging landscape. The city’s Chamber of Commerce actively sought to bring a world-class hotel to the city, and in the process, created a civic mission; the public naming contest arrived at the name Olympic after receiving thousands of entries. Numerous changes in ownership haven’t dislodged the grande dame from her position as a Seattle institution; the Spanish Foyer is an especially luxe lounge.

411 University St
Seattle, WA 98101