8 luxury hotels with unorthodox histories

One might be surprised to learn that a favorite luxury hotel was once an 18th-century prison or a paper factory. In fact, a handful of the world's most lavish lodgings actually have a past that was rooted in an industry far different from tourism and hospitality. Sure, spending the night in an infamous prison or an opulent bank may sound like the plot to a work of fiction. Yet it can now be a reality thanks to these eight hotels, which have set up shop in enchanting, history-rich buildings with storied pasts—and great design.

Luxury hotels with unorthodox histories
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Luxury hotels with unorthodox histories

Beginning in 1922, this Queens hotel was home to a radio manufacturing company and, later, a successful paper mill. Elements of its industrial past are today represented by a selection of antique furnishings found in guest rooms. Rooms starting at $131; paperfactoryhotel.com/.

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Photo: Courtesy of David Ayash

This trendy Boston hotel is housed in the infamous Charles Street Jail, built in 1851. From its Do Not Disturb signs that read “Solitary” to its mugshot-filled bar called Alibi, this hotel has not forgotten its origins. Rooms starting at $195; libertyhotel.com/.

Photo: Courtesy of Liberty Hotel

Just steps away from the city’s famous Grand Place, this brick building was converted from a prison to a hotel in 1957, just in time to host the many luminaries traveling to the city for the World’s Fair. The hotel lobby features original cobblestone floors that date back to year 620. Rooms starting at $194 a night; roccofortehotels.com/.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Amigo

Willy Wonka fans will delight in a visit to this hotel, which is the site of the former Ghirardelli chocolate factory. Contact hotel for rates; fairmont.com/.

Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Ghirardelli Square

As its name suggests, this luxe, five-star lodging on the Bosphorus was once an Ottoman imperial palace. Though much of the original structure was destroyed by a fire, many of the hotel’s outer walls date back to the 1800s. Rooms starting at $128 a night; kempinski.com/.

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Photo: Getty Images

From 1926 to 1977, this building served as the headquarters to the Boston police department. Loews took ownership of the property in 2013 and converted it to the hotel it is today. The hotel’s marble lobby floor, gold doors, and outdoor blue lights are remnants of the old station. Rooms starting at $225 a night; loewshotels.com/.

Photo: Courtesy of Loews Boston Hotel

Two former bank buildings make up this luxury hotel and event space. The former Lloyds Bank Headquarters banking hall now serves as an opulent event space, while the bank vaults house an indulgent spa. Rooms starting at $102 a night; bristol-harbour-hotel.co.uk/.

Photo: Courtesy of Mark Bolton

Located inside a converted prison within a medieval castle, this chic hotel in the Oxford Castle Quarter pays homage to its roots via industrial accents, exposed brick and steel beams, and prison-inspired room names like the “House of Correction Double” and “Cell Double.” Rooms starting at $220 a night; malmaison.com/.

Photo: Getty Images


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