Travel is a great source of nostalgia. That feeling of hitting the road and breaking free of your daily routine calls to mind the thrill of school being out and summer vacations of years past. No matter how old we get, summer is always waiting for us, letting us pick back up where we left off last summer. It’s the same with a great historic hotel. Each time you come back, no matter how many years pass, there’s that feeling of awe. You imagine all the good times had by travelers throughout the eras. There are more than 300 properties registered as Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These are a few of our favorites, all of them Virtuoso-preferred.
Just across the bay from San Francisco, in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, Cavallo Point occupies what used to be Fort Baker, built between 1901-15. Cavallo Point’s selection of historic rooms are in what used to be officers’ residences, including the 1,175-square-foot Frank House, which features an enclosed sun porch and sweeping views of San Francisco Bay. In addition to maintaining and restoring the fort, Cavallo Point has spearheaded a number of green initiatives to preserve Golden Gate National Park.
On the site of a mansion in Philadelphia, The Rittenhouse’s modern beaux-arts layout was completed in 1913 and the design was updated in the 1960s. Once owned by the Cassatt family, which included the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and an artist whose work was showcased at the 1868 Paris Salon, the building was later owned by the Episcopal Church of Philadelphia and housed an academy whose alumni include several members of Barrymore acting family. Today, guests can stay in the lavishly appointed Cassatt suite and enjoy afternoon tea in the languid Mary Cassatt Tearoom.
As the name suggests, El Convento once housed a Carmelite convent, built in the mid-1600s during the age of the conquistadors. In the heart of Old San Juan, the hotel lovingly preserves Spanish colonial architecture and design. Rooms feature wooden beams, handcrafted tiles and handmade antique furniture. Located just a few minutes from the cruise terminal, El Convento persevered through last year’s hurricanes and offers guests a chance to get up close and personal with the history of Puerto Rico before heading off on a Caribbean adventure.
The Hermitage Hotel Nashville
When construction began in 1908, downtown Nashville was transitioning from its antebellum roots to become a residential and commercial center. The Hermitage Hotel was one of the keystones in that transition, earning fame as Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel. A decade later, the hotel served as national headquarters for both sides of the struggle on women’s suffrage and the epicenter of the celebration of the 19th Amendment’s passage. From presidents to country music legends to Babe Ruth, distinguished guests throughout the years have made their way through the marble-adorned lobby to mahogany-paneled rooms.
The Royal Hawaiian
“The Pink Palace” opened in Waikiki in 1927 and ushered in the age of luxury travel to Hawaii. Back then, you had to get to the islands by steamship, and guests would port large trunks full from a long journey. Thus, rooms in the original six-story, 400-room stucco building designed in Spanish and Moorish styles had huge closets, still featured in the historic wing. The Royal Hawaiian served as an R&R center for the military during World War II. The first registered guest was Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, who would have been queen of Hawaii had the monarchy lasted, and the hotel was a favorite of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku and his band of Waikiki Beach Boys. The hotel offers weekly tours tracing its history.