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7 Hotels With Unexpected Past Lives

Soaked in history, these unique properties have intriguing former lives.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Hotels With Unexpected Past Lives

modern luxury staircase shopping mall in berlin
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(Getty Images)

Explore contemporary properties with fascinating backstories.

If you love history, consider staying at a hotel with an unusual past. Some repurposed properties' pasts are infamous, some are inspiring and some are just quirky. Among the many unique converted hotels, you can pick from former prisons, brew factories, shoe factories and even a jumbo jet. Many hotels were once castles or convents, but one was both a castle and convent plus an Inca temple as well. Take a virtual tour of seven hotels with surprising previous lives.
Liberty Hotel
Credit

(Dom Costa/The Liberty Hotel)

The Liberty Hotel

Boston

The ironically named Liberty Hotel was Boston's Charles Street Jail. Its former "guests" ranged from suffragists to Malcolm X to organized crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger. The 1851 ex-jail was converted into a 298-room luxury boutique hotel and a National Historic Landmark. At the foot of Beacon Hill, the Liberty Hotel is located near the Freedom Trail and Boston Common. Above the 90-foot lobby rotunda are catwalks with original railing. Bars from the former jail line windows in the Liberty's Clink restaurant. And the hotel's bar, Alibi, is the former drunk tank. True to the prison theme, the rooms' do-not-disturb signs read "Solitary."
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Explore contemporary properties with fascinating backstories.

If you love history, consider staying at a hotel with an unusual past. Some repurposed properties' pasts are infamous, some are inspiring and some are just quirky. Among the many unique converted hotels, you can pick from former prisons, brew factories, shoe factories and even a jumbo jet. Many hotels were once castles or convents, but one was both a castle and convent plus an Inca temple as well. Take a virtual tour of seven hotels with surprising previous lives.

The Liberty Hotel

Boston

The ironically named Liberty Hotel was Boston's Charles Street Jail. Its former "guests" ranged from suffragists to Malcolm X to organized crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger. The 1851 ex-jail was converted into a 298-room luxury boutique hotel and a National Historic Landmark. At the foot of Beacon Hill, the Liberty Hotel is located near the Freedom Trail and Boston Common. Above the 90-foot lobby rotunda are catwalks with original railing. Bars from the former jail line windows in the Liberty's Clink restaurant. And the hotel's bar, Alibi, is the former drunk tank. True to the prison theme, the rooms' do-not-disturb signs read "Solitary."

The Brewhouse Inn & Suites

Milwaukee

You don't need to be a beer lover to enjoy staying at Milwaukee's Brewhouse Inn & Suites. Set in the former Pabst Brewery, which was once recognized as the world's largest brewing company, the renovated 1844 building has its original two-story stained glass window depicting King Gambrinus, the "patron saint of beer," plus enormous copper brew kettles. The front desk is constructed of more than 1,550 beer bottles from Milwaukee-based breweries. Plus, the inn and its 90 suites adjoin Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub, which serves Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. The pub, located in an 1891 millhouse, offers free shuttles to Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks games.

The Craddock Terry Hotel

Lynchburg, Virginia

This hotel was once the Craddock Terry Shoe Company, the country's first shoe factory south of the Mason-Dixon Line and eventually the world's fifth-largest shoe maker. The property was transformed into a 44-room luxury boutique hotel, yet it retains its original 1905 feel, with brick and stone walls, exposed wood beam ceilings and unique shoe memorabilia. Breakfast is even delivered in an old-fashioned shoe shine box, and complimentary shoe shines are available. Built on the edge of the James River, the hotel's nine-foot-tall windows offer views of the river, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lynchburg. Another part of the hotel was an 1896 tobacco warehouse, constructed of bricks handmade in Virginia.

El Cosmico

Marfa, Texas

Live out your nomadic fantasies at Marfa's 21-acre El Cosmico, where you can stay in Mongolian yurts, renovated vintage trailers with birch interiors, safari tents and Sioux-style teepees, among other accommodation options. It's just one reason why "60 Minutes" termed tiny Marfa a "capital of quirkiness." El Cosmico's lodging experience includes workshops on songwriting, crafts, plus cowboy haute cuisine. Visit its annual autumn Trans-Pecos Festival of Music and Love to take part in the festivity. This West Texas town has been a backdrop for artists and Hollywood movies ever since the 1956 classic "Giant." It remains a major draw for minimalist artists like Donald Judd, who established galleries across Marfa.

Jumbo Stay Hostel

Stockholm

While many travelers dislike sleeping on a plane, you may actually enjoy sleeping in a converted Boeing 747 at Jumbo Stay Hostel at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Enjoy a peaceful slumber in the jumbo's Cockpit Suite, or perhaps the Black Box Suite is more your style. The 33 rooms also include the Engine Room or Wheelhouse Room. It's an ideal place to stay especially before an early morning flight because it's only a 10- or 15-minute free shuttle bus ride away from airport check-in counters. Parked permanently at Arlanda's entrance, the completely refitted Boeing 747 dates back to 1976, and was once part of Pan Am's fleet.

Pousada de Sao Tiago

Macau, China

Once an early 17th-century Portuguese fortress in China, the Pousada de Sao Tiago is now a luxurious 12-room boutique hotel. Its hilltop pool terrace overlooks the inner harbor of Macau, a Portuguese territory for almost 500 years and Asia's first and last European colony. In 1999, Macau became a special administrative region of China, as is Hong Kong, a one-hour high-speed ferry trip away. The hotel and former fortress are named for Sao Tiago, St. James, patron saint of Portugal's army. Brush up on history while checking out Macau's historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and casinos. The territory has been dubbed the "Las Vegas of Asia."

Belmond Palacio Nazarenas

Cusco, Peru

This elegant all-suites hotel high in the Andes was once an Inca temple, later a 16th-century conquistador's mansion and then an 18th-century convent and orphanage. Today, the 55-suite hotel in Cusco has a spa, a heated outdoor pool, a chapel and even a soap butler to help you choose soaps of indigenous Andean coca leaves, herbs or flowers. Typical Inca stonework and carving is seen in the walls and above the main entrance, with the mansion's enormous hinged doors. It's a great place to stay while exploring Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire, and before visiting Machu Picchu, the "lost city of the Incas."
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