11 Hotels With Exciting Past Lives
By Liz Behler
In their previous lives, these hotels were banks, brothels, and more.
1. Liberty Hotel, Boston / Formerly: A Jail
Guests may be eager to stay here now, but that wasn’t always the case. Opened in 1851, the building was originally the Charles Street Jail, home to several famous inmates, including Malcolm X and Sacco and Vanzetti. The jail officially closed in 1990 and was reopened in 2007 as the trendy Liberty Hotel. The jail's 90-foot tall central atrium was preserved, as were several jail cells which are now located in the hotel's aptly-named restaurant, CLINK.
2. Sarotti-Höfe Hotel, Berlin / Formerly: A Chocolate Factory
You don’t need a golden ticket to stay at this one-time chocolate factory. During the 19th century, this building complex was home to the Sarotti chocolate factory, pumping out millions of pralines and chocolate confections.
3. Nobis Hotel, Stockholm / Formerly: A Bank
The interior of this luxury hotel may be all modernist furnishings and sleek Scandinavian design, but in 1973, the building was home to Stockholm’s Kreditbanken building, where robbers held hostages for six days. The infamous ordeal gave us the term “Stockholm syndrome,” a psychological phenomenon in which hostages feel sympathy for their captors.
4. Malmaison Hotel, Edinburgh / Formerly: A Brothel
The first of the boutique luxury chain's hotels to open was once a seaman's mission and later a house of ill repute. If a stay here feels a little too risqué, try the Malmaison in Glasgow, which was formerly an Episcopal church.
5. Sala Silvermine Hotel, Sweden / Formerly: A Silver Mine
It’s rare when you have to take an elevator down to your hotel room, but the main attraction at this former silver mine is a suite situated more than 500 feet underground. Able to accommodate two people, this small cavern comes with a guided tour of the mines and an intercom radio to communicate with hotel staff (cell phones don’t work this far below ground level).
6. Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico / Formerly: A Bullfighting Ring
Built in 1866, this space was originally a San Pedro bullfighting ring. In 1975, the ring hosted its final event and nearly faced demolition until it was rescued and the grandstand was converted into a luxury hotel in 1989.
7. Blow Up Hall 5050, Poland / Formerly: A 19th Century Brewery
This high-tech art hotel's history may not be immediately apparent, but if you look past ultra-modern design and art installations, you'll find the painstakingly preserved brickwork and architecture of the brewery it once was.
8. Monastero Santa Rosa, Almalfi Coast, Italy / Formerly: A Monastery
Opened in 1681, this cliff-hugging hotel was originally a closed-order Dominican monastery famous for their sfogliatelle, a filled shell-shaped pastry that later became known as "Santa Rosa." The monastery operated until 1912, when it fell into disrepair. Over the years, efforts to turn it into a successful hotel failed. Finally, in 1999, an American businesswoman spied the building while sailing and bid $10 million—enough to outbid Italian kingpin Silvio Berlusconi. Sixty million dollars later, the hotel finally opened its doors in 2012.
9. Inkaterra La Casona, Cusco, Peru / Formerly: Training Grounds for Incan Soldiers
This mansion may date back to the 16th century, but history was made here before construction even began. Situated on land belonging to the Warakos Academy, this was the training ground for the Incan army. Later, it became home to several conquistadors and in 1825, provided lodging for Simon Bolivar (Bolivia’s namesake) after his final victory in the Peruvian War of Independence. While the 11-suite boutique hotel has been updated with modern amenities, such as WiFi and flat screens, the building's internal structure remains, along with carefully preserved frescos.
10. Union Station, Nashville / Formerly: A Train Station
When this castle-like structure opened in October 1900, it was as a railway station. Aside from ticket counters and the usual things that come with a train station, the building also featured impressive stained glass windows and two alligator ponds. The station counted notable passengers Mae West and Al Capone (on his way to a Georgia penitentiary) as patrons. The station fell victim to the decline of passenger rail service and became abandoned in 1979. It wasn't until December 1986 that it reopened as a hotel.
11. Ashford Castle, Ireland / Formerly: Home to the Guinness Family
Built in 1228 for the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family, this castle changed hands several times and counts the Guinness family (of beer-brewing fame) among its inhabitants. In 1939, the property was converted into a hotel and was later featured in the 1951 film The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne.