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Before I was A Hotel: The Story Behind These Buildings

Hotels located within historic buildings are truly one of a kind. Former factories, breweries, and banks are amazing spaces for hotels thanks to their imposing architecture and intriguing history – they offer an old-world charm which new-build hotels just can’t replicate.

Original features like stained glass windows, frescoed ceilings, and parquet flooring give us a peek into a building’s past and with a bit of careful restoration, they can play an integral part in a hotel’s interior design. It’s these hotels, full of character and creaking floors, that offer some truly memorable stays.

From a Texas hotel in a former brewery, to a London hotel in a reimagined magistrates court, and a stunning design hotel in a former gravel quarry on a remote Swedish peninsular, we’ve rounded up the most luxurious hotels housed in unique and historical buildings.

Hotel Threadneedles, London

Hotel Threadneedles is located in the heart of the City of London – the capital’s financial district. The building, which dates back over 160 years, was originally used as the headquarters of the London, City and Midland bank. The name itself had its first recorded mention in 1598 when it was called ‘Three Needles’, most likely to have come from the sign of a needle workshop (as shops were identified not by numbers but by symbols) and from the Merchant Tailor’s coat of arms at the Guildhall which was three needles. The name was referenced again in 1666 and 1677 when it had changed to ‘Threed Needles’ and through time became ‘Threadneedle Street’.

The bank’s central atrium has now been converted into a welcoming guest lobby and the original stained-glass windows, elegant marble pillars and lofty ceilings have been restored to their original glory. The banking counter has also been revamped and can now be found inside the hotel’s Champagne Bar. The hotel offers 74 rooms, including a penthouse with superb views across London.

Top Tip: During the working week, the City of London is a chaotic tangle of expensive suits and working lunches, but at the weekend it becomes one of London’s most peaceful areas, an excellent choice for a city break.

Hotel Spedition, Switzerland

Nestled on the banks of the deep-blue Lake Thun, the city of Thun offers sweeping alpine views and a charming historic Old Town with a 12th-century turreted castle. Just a short stroll from the castle, you’ll find Hotel Spedition, a boutique hotel with 15 individually designed rooms. Back in the 19th-century, the building was home to a cheese, fur and leather-trading company, nowadays, the original oak-beams creak and groan like an ancient choir, their old-world feel juxtaposed with a sophisticated design and playful fabrics. The cellar (once used for cheese ripening) is now home to the hotel’s restaurant which offers family-style dining and Swiss cuisine.

Hotel Emma, Texas

San Antonio’s Hotel Emma is housed in a converted 19th-century brewhouse – once the location of the Pearl Brewery. The brewery’s original machinery, concrete beams and exposed pipes are now part of the hotel’s striking industrial design, but it’s the scandalous history of the Pearl Brewery – a tale of infidelity, betrayal and murder – which has us hooked. The hotel is named in honour of Emma Koehler, who became CEO of the brewery after her husband was shot and killed by his mistress (also named Emma) in 1914. Emma Koehler was so successful in her role as CEO, that the brewery was the only one in the state of Texas to make it through prohibition– a trailblazing female CEO always gets our seal of approval. Read more about Emma’s story here.

NoMad, London

A stunning grade II-listed building in the heart of London’s Covent Garden has been chosen for NoMad’s first foray outside of the USA. NoMad London will take residence inside the reimagined Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, a 19th-century building steeped in history – Oscar Wilde, Emmeline Pankhurst and the Kray twins all stood trial here. The hotel, which is due to open later in the year, will include 91 rooms and an event space inside the old courtroom. A museum which delves into the history of London’s Metropolitan Police Force is also planned.

Fabriken Furillen, Sweden

The Swedish island of Gotland is a land of craggy limestone, Viking settlements and deserted beaches. Teetering on the island’s northeast peninsular lies Fabriken Furillen, an 18-bedroom guesthouse built within a former building workshop that was once part of the limestone factory in a gravel quarry. The restaurant and guest rooms can be found in the building of the old worker’s canteen – the rooms fully renovated with recycled materials and muted tones. The hotel has kept its industrial character, with minimalistic Scandinavian design in hues of white and greys, together with an open fireplace and chunky wool textiles with heavy blankets and woollen rugs bringing a softness to the hard edges. Fabriken Furillen also has two secluded cabins tucked away in the woods – they’re a 20-minute bike ride from the main hotel and offer the ultimate self-isolation and off-grid experience.

Artist Residence, Bristol

It’s been 12-years since the first Artist Residence opened in the seaside city of Brighton, its room’s decorated by a group of local artists in exchange for free lodging. The brand has grown from strength to strength in recent years and Artist Residence Bristol (due to open later this year) will be the groups fifth property. Located in a part Georgian townhouse, part boot factory, the founders have worked hard on this Grade I listed building to restore original beams, industrial sliding doors and Georgian cornicing as well as exposing the original brick walls.

What will be a 23-bedroom hotel will feature an eclectic mix of industrial, vintage and bohemian design. Bedrooms will range from the smaller Shoebox (cosy nooks featuring original floor to ceiling windows and a king-size bed) to the largest Artist Suite (original Georgian cornice, roll top bath and views over leafy Portland Square). Artist Residence Bristol will also incorporate community spaces including a coffee shop, garden and restaurant.

Cotton House, Barcelona

The Cotton House Hotel stands on the site of the former headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation, the hub of Catalonia’s once booming textile industry, an imposing neoclassical building and landmark in the city of Barcelona. Original features including the marble staircase, delicate parquet flooring and stunning hand-crafted wooden panelling have been carefully restored to their old-world glory. The 83 bedrooms at the hotel boast one-off pieces of vintage furniture and sumptuously soft cotton sheets, and the Damask and Ottoman Suites have magnificent colourful frescoes adorning their high ceilings. In a nod to the building’s textile heritage, there’s a ‘L’Atelier’ on-site offering made-to-measure shirts and bespoke garments.

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