The South's Best Historic Hotels 2020
The South is full of stunning historic buildings, and these timeless hotels have maintained their allure. Book these reader picks for the top historic hotels in the South, each with an unforgettable sense of place. From The Peabody in Memphis to Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, these classic stays won't disappoint.
24. Hotel Settles (Big Spring, Texas)
Like West Texas, the Hotel Settles has had its fortunes perpetually tied to the price of oil. Located about an hour and a half south of Lubbock, the hotel opened in downtown Big Spring in 1930 after ranchers Lillian and Will R. Settles struck oil on their property. At the time, this 15-story structure was the tallest building between El Paso and Fort Worth, big enough to house a hotel and a pharmacy. After making it through a handful of owners, the property closed in 1982 during one of the state’s periodic oil busts. The shuttered spot was abandoned for years until Big Spring native and entrepreneur George “Brint” Ryan purchased it in 2006 and invested nearly $30 million bringing the town’s tallest building back to life. Today, the hotel has 65 spacious rooms, the Pharmacy Bar & Parlor in the original drugstore, and the Settles Grill, which specializes in West Texas comfort food.
hotelsettles.com, 432-267-7500, 200 East Third Street, Big Spring, TX 79720
23. National Hotel (Miami Beach, Florida)
This classic Art Deco landmark has adorned Miami Beach since 1940. Roy France, a Midwestern architect who moved to the area after he took a trip to Florida with his wife in 1931, designed the towering hotel. France’s 14-story building features 116 rooms with views of both the city and the ocean (as well as 36 poolside cabana rooms and suites). It also reflects the way France envisioned anything he designed for the Sunshine State’s coast: “Let in the air and sun. That’s what people come to Florida for.” The completely restored hotel is just a stroll away from the restaurants, cafes, and nightlife of Miami Beach. You can easily spend a day exploring the neighborhood, which includes one of the country’s largest collections of Art Deco architecture. Then again, you might prefer to just enjoy the sun and salty air at the hotel’s relax- ing infinity pool. At 205 feet long, it makes for a mighty impressive lap.
nationalhotel.com, 305-532-2311, 1677 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
22. Colony Hotel & Cabaña Club (Delray Beach, Florida)
The 1920s are still roaring at the Colony Hotel in downtown Delray Beach, while a couple of miles south, its oceanfront Cabaña Club gives guests easy access to the waves. The present day slips away inside the 70-room hotel, which includes a handful of two-bedroom suites, along with the original 1926 elevator, telephone switch- board, and handwoven Ficks Reed wicker furniture. Newlyweds Agnes and George Boughton bought the property in 1935, and the Colony has been the family business ever since. Generations of Boughtons have worked at the hotel. In 1949, they added the Cabaña Club with private lounges and a heated saltwater pool.
colonyflorida.com, 561-276-4123, 525 East Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33483
21. Gage Hotel (Marathon, Texas)
Back in 1878, 18-year-old Alfred Gage moved from Vermont to Texas with just a $20 gold piece and high hopes of building a fortune. Settling in the wilds of the southwestern frontier, Gage eventually built a sprawling ranch that covered more than 500,000 acres, as well as a hotel in the nearby town of Marathon. Today the Gage Hotel remains a centerpiece for the small town, an artists’ community about 40 miles north of Big Bend National Park. Spread across 27 landscaped acres, the Gage reflects the town’s artistic bent and the area’s frontier spirit, with 45 rooms styled to capture a definitive West Texas vibe. You’ll find 15 newly remodeled rooms in the hotel’s main building, while the other rooms face an interior courtyard in the pueblo-style Los Portales annex. Nearby, the Captain Shepard House, beautifully restored, has five spacious rooms while five uniquely appointed Casitas (little houses) offer home-style stays for families.
gagehotel.com, 432-386-4205, 102 Northwest 1st Street Highway 90 West, Marathon, TX 79842
20. The Statler (Dallas, Texas)
Downtown Dallas was booming in the 1950s. A much-needed Central Library building opened, Republic National Bank erected a 36-story skyscraper, and The Statler Hilton Dallas started welcoming visitors. The modern 20-story Statler claimed several hotel-industry firsts: elevator music, custom televisions in every room, and even a rooftop heliport that could receive guests. Through the years, renovations have helped further revitalize and modernize the hotel. Today The Statler features 159 guest rooms, Pan-Asian cuisine at restaurant Fine China, and panoramic views from the poolside Waterproof bar perched over the city. The Statler Ballroom remains an entertainment center for downtown Dallas, the attractions of which are walkable from the hotel.
thestatlerdallas.com, 214-459-3930, 1914 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX 75201
19. Capital Hotel (Little Rock, Arkansas)
Affectionately known as “Little Rock’s front porch,” this downtown hotel has been a place for the capital city’s residents to welcome guests and celebrate special events since 1876.Totally renovated 13 years ago, it features 94 rooms, including 15 partial suites and four full suites. The Capital has always been known for serving some of the best food in town, and it continues that tradition withon-property restaurants One Eleven, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Joël Antunes, and the Capital Bar & Grill, where executive chef James Hale favors regional ingredients for a menu focused on comfort food. You can walk to nearby attractions such as the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and the River Market district. The Arkansas Arts Center is just a short drive away.
capitalhotel.com, 501-374-7474, 111 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72201
18. The Gasparilla Inn & Club (Boca Grande, Florida)
A world away from Florida’s sprawling theme parks and roadside attractions, “The Inn,” as it’s known to the regulars, is a return to a slower-paced, more genteel time. The wooden manor house was built on Boca Grande, a narrow island 53 miles south of Sarasota, in 1913. One of the state’s last original resort hotels, The Gasparilla includes over 130 rooms in the main inn and the surrounding cottages. Among its famous guests have been such business magnates as J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford, as well as artists like painter John Singer Sargent. It has a long-established reputationfor impeccable service and Old Florida character. The Pink Elephant, Gasparilla’s restaurant, has been serving island diners for over 60 years, whereas the Sharp Houses are the new starsof the property, offering three- and four-bedroom private accommodations ideal for families. This is a seasonal inn, closed July through October, but worth the wait if you want to hit the beach (or the spa’s 80-foot- long heated lap pool) in style.
the-gasparilla-inn.com, 877-764-1420, 500 Palm Avenue, Boca Grande, FL 33921
17. The Clifton (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Thomas Jefferson knew a scenic spot when he saw one. So in 1799, he had a Colonial-style home built about 6 miles southeast of downtown Charlottesville for his daughter, Martha, and her husband. Renamed The Clifton by later owners, the building was an inn for decades. Two years ago, the home got a much-needed face-lift when the Blackberry Design group updated its interiors. The renovated Clifton includes 20 guest rooms (in the original Manor House, Garden Cottages, Livery Stables, and nearby Collina Farmhouse), as well as a restaurant, bar, and wine cellar. There are also a few modern perks, such as an infinity pool and hot tub. The grounds include a private lake and a chef’s garden—a source of fresh produce for the on-site restaurant, 1799.
the-clifton.com, 434-971-1800, 1296 Clifton Inn Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22911
16. 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (Eureka Springs, Arkansas)
Constructed of White River limestone on a site with 15 acres of landscaped gardens, 1886 Crescent overlooks the northwest Arkansas mountain town of Eureka Springs. The property’s 72 rooms and suites, as well asfour luxury cottages, are walkable to Eureka Springs’ many shops, boutiques, and galleries, but you might want to stay put and take advantage of the New Moon Spa & Salon, The Crystal DiningRoom, SkyBar Gourmet Pizza, and those well- tended gardens, tied to hiking, biking, and walking trails that loop through the city. Having been featured on such TV shows as "Ghost Hunters," the 1886 Crescent has gained a reputation as America’s Most Haunted Hotel, with ghost hunts held throughout the year. The property has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of 12 Haunted Historic Hotels of America.
crescent-hotel.com, 855-725-5720, 75 Prospect Avenue, Eureka Springs, AR 72632
15. Menger Hotel (San Antonio, Texas)
German immigrants Mary and William Menger, owners of one of the city’s first successful breweries, opened this hotel next door to The Alamo in 1859. While William ran the hotel, Mary was head chef for the Mengers’ Colonial Room Restaurant—which still serves some of the juiciest steaks and freshest seafood around. Totally renovated in the 1980s, the oldest continually operating hotel west of the Mississippi River retains many of its 19th- century amenities, such as the Menger Bar. Built in 1887 as a replica of London’s House of Lords Pub, the place provided Theodore Roosevelt a central (and entertaining) location to recruit his Rough Riders for the Spanish-American War. Today the bar is still a great spot to unwind after a day spent touring the nearby Alamo Plaza and San Antonio River Walk—just before you settle into one of the 316 guest rooms and suites for the night.
mengerhotel.com, 210-223-4361, 204 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205
14. White House Hotel (Biloxi, Mississippi)
Cora White finally got tired of cooking, cleaning, and entertaining all of the summer visitors who showed up to the beachfront home she and her husband, attorney Walter White, shared. So she wrote to all former guests and informed them of her room rates for the coming season. In 1910 the couple turned their home and the house next door into the White House Hotel. Although Walter eventually became a circuit judge, he continued adding innovations to the hotel, while Cora and her sons Walter and John, along with architect George B. Rogers, started to expand the original building. The family sold the hotel after Cora’s death in 1934, and it went through decades of neglect, decay, and hurricane damage. Then a major restoration six years ago returned the exterior of the White House to its turn-of-the-century elegance but with sleek, modern interiors. Today, the 76-room hotel features a swimming pool with Biloxi Beach views, Cora’s Restaurant & Bar, and a lighted fountain spraying rainbow-hued water above the lawn facing Mississippi Sound.
whitehousebiloxi.com, 228-233-1230, 1230 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530
13. The Driskill (Austin, Texas)
In 1886, honorary Civil War colonel Jesse Driskill had earned so much money through selling cattle that he was able to build a downtown hotel—then he lost it due to a drought that destroyed his livestock business and wealth. Fortunately, the new owners kept the hotel going, and today the 189-room property maintains itsoriginal Victorian elegance, now marriedto 21st century amenities. Hear the kind of music that made Austin famous every night at The Driskill Bar, or sample one of the city’s best happy hours during the bar’s Sunday Blues with Antone’s. Just a few blocks away lies famous Sixth Street, home to a plethora of music venues, restaurants, and shops.
driskillhotel.com, 512-439-1234, 604 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701
12. Union Station Hotel (Nashville, Tennessee)
The towering Romanesque Revival building that houses this hotel was Nashville’s main train station for more than 80 years. And since 1986, when it opened as a hotel, it has weathered occasional challenges and renovations, now welcoming visitors as one of downtown’s most luxurious stays. Union Station Hotel became even more luxe following a major restoration of its over-100-year-old stained glass windows and soaring towers, as well as the 125 guest rooms. The project also added Carter’s, a restaurant and lounge that partners with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to serve locally sourced spirits and cocktails. The centrally located hotel is within walking distance of such popular Nashville attractions as the Frist Art Museum, and it’s a short drive from the Ryman Auditorium.
unionstationhotelnashville.com, 615-726-1001, 1001 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203
11. Greystone Inn (Lake Toxaway, North Carolina)
Few Southern stays can offer misty mountains and rippling waters, but The Greystone gives you the best of both. Set on the shore of North Carolina’s Lake Toxaway, about 60 miles south of Asheville, the 30-room inn was originally a summer home for a Savannah socialite. In 1913, Lucy Armstrong asked her husband, George, for a vacation home in the North Carolina mountains. George joked that if Lucy loved the spot so much, she should camp out there through the summer. So Lucy lived in a tent on the shore for three months (albeit with 11 capable servants) and persuaded George to build her a Swiss chalet-style home that she named “Greystone.” After Lucy’s death, the property passed through several owners and sat empty for a few years until Shannon and Geoffrey Ellis, owners of The Willcox hotel in Aiken, South Carolina, bought it in 2017. Now totally remodeled and restored, The Greystone still features the rambling terraces, screened porches, and warm, flickering fireplaces that Lucy so enjoyed. She would probably like a few of the new amenities as well, such as complimentary sunset cruises aboard The Miss Lucy, a 26-seat electric mahogany boat.
greystoneinn.com, 828-966-4700, 220 Greystone Lane, Lake Toxaway, NC 28747
Check Out The South's Best Historic Hotels
10. The Martha Washington Inn & Spa (Abingdon, Virginia)
The stately brick building in downtown Abingdon served in several different capacities before opening as a hotel in 1935. Completed more than a century earlier as a home for Gen. Francis Preston; his wife, Sarah; and their nine children, the four-story house was one of the largest private residences in all of southwest Virginia. It was later used for Martha Washington College and asa boardinghouse for actors performing at the Barter Theatre just across the street. Like the Barter (the longest-running professional resident theatre in America), the inn has worked hard to maintain its historic charm while adding new amenities. The Preston family’s former living room became the lobby, and 63 antiques-filled rooms and suites reflect the storied inn’s 19th-century origins.
themartha.com, 276-628-3161, 150 West Main Street, Abingdon, VA 24210
9. Greyfield Inn (Cumberland Island, Georgia)
The Greyfield Inn is the only place to stay on Cumberland Island, a pristine barrier island just north of the Georgia-Florida state line. But when a spot offers this level of luxury and service, you really don’t need alternatives. Thomas Carnegie (Andrew’s brother) and his wife, Lucy, built Greyfield in 1900 for their daughter, Margaret Ricketson. In 1962, Margaret’s daughter, Lucy R. Ferguson, turned the gift into an inn. Today, the property is home to 200 acres that touch the Atlantic Ocean and include some beautiful marshlands. The Carnegie family continues to oversee the inn and maintain its stellar reputation. Take your pick between staying in either of the two private cottages or one of 15 rooms in the main house. Since the Greyfield is the only place to stay, eat, and play on the island, your nightly rate covers accommodations; transportation to Cumberland on the Lucy R. Ferguson ferry; use of bicycles, fishing gear, umbrellas, and beach chairs; and guided history and nature tours. Chefs Whitney Otawka and Ben Wheatley present a Southern breakfast each morning and a three-course dinner at night, plus a daily picnic lunch and afternoon hors d’oeuvres for guests— they’re all included.
greyfieldinn.com, 904-261-6408, 4 North Second Street #300, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
8. The Brown Hotel (Louisville, Kentucky)
Through the years, The Brown’s visitors and staff have seen everything from a pet baby lion to a stay from the queen of Romania. Built by Louisville businessman J. Graham Brown, the hotel opened at the corner of downtown’s Fourth and Broadway in 1923. The block swiftly became the city’s business and social center as the Brown Theatre, a church, and an office building were added to the area. Several stars of the era left their marks on the hotel. Victor Mature even worked as an elevatoroperator here before he made it big in Tinseltown. And, of course, the current hotel staff still loves to tell tales about Lily Pons leaving her pet lion unattended while she sang at the Brown Theatre. The lavish but laid-back hotel even has its own famous sandwich, the Hot Brown. Originally created at The Brown’s restaurant by chef Fred Schmidt, the steaming, open-faced turkey sandwich includes bacon, Mornay sauce, and Romano cheese. And the Hot Brown you’ll get today is as tasty as that first one Schmidt served up in 1926.
brownhotel.com, 888-888-5252, 335 West Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
7. The Hermitage Hotel (Nashville, Tennessee)
Since opening in 1910, The Hermitage Hotel has hosted a galaxy of Presidents, sports heroes, and movie stars. It even helped create the city’s recording industry—the Country Music Association was formed in Hermitage meeting rooms. Since then, the 122-room hotel has remained the hub for much of the city’s political, business, and entertainment life. U.S. Presidents Taft, Wilson, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Bush paid visits here. So did Babe Ruth and John Dillinger. Following a gradual decline during the sixties and seventies, this property was bought by Historic Hotels of Nashville, which completely renovated and reopened it as a luxury boutique stay. Enjoy fine dining in the Capitol Grille (which prepares local foods sourced from Tennessee growers and farmers), and sip handcrafted cocktailsin the Oak Bar.
thehermitagehotel.com, 615-244-3121, 231 6th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219
6. The Don CeSar (St. Pete Beach, Florida)
St. Pete's “Pink Palace” has been welcoming literati like F. Scott Fitzgerald since 1928. After serving as a convalescent center for United States Army airmen during World War II and then a Veterans Affairs Regional Office, The Don CeSar looked as if its best days had passed. But then a group of passionate locals formed a “Save the Don” committee. In the early seventies, developer William Bowman bought the property, launching a $3.5 million restoration project. Since then, the distinctive pink structure on St. Pete’s shore has continued updating with such new amenities as the full-service Spa Oceana and The Rowe Bar. Just a half mile away, The Don has created 70 one-bedroom Beach House Suites right on the Gulf, perfect for families.
doncesar.com, 844-338-1501, 3400 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
5. The Breakers Palm Beach (Palm Beach, Florida)
Industrialist Henry M. Flagler was building his Florida East Coast Railroad in the 1880s when he stopped for a while on Palm Beach to erect an oceanfront hotel. That’s just the sort of thing men like Flagler did. Set on an Atlantic beach where the waves crashed onto the shore, the place quickly became known as The Breakers. Today, the sprawling 140-acre resort has five styles of rooms and 11 types of suites (including many with views of the sea), along with 10 restaurants, the four-pool Beach Club, and one of Florida’s oldest golf courses. Even if you don’t stay here, you should step inside the legendary lobby—200 feet long with a ceiling created by 75 Italian artisans. The grande dame of Palm Beach hospitality is also green, committed to maintaining the environment with energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste-reduction systems. She’s keeping up with the times, and we really admire her for it.
thebreakers.com, 844-890-1086, One South County Road, Palm Beach, FL 33480
4. Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Around 1880, Italian shoemaker Antonio Monteleone moved to New Orleans. He purchased a small hotel on the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets in 1886. He then added to the property, buying a nearby hotel. It was renamed the Monteleone and has since undergone major renovations. Now the fifth generation of Monteleone’s descendants runs the 570-room hotel, which also includes 55 suites. Treat yourself to a day at Spa Aria or a dip in the rooftop pool. If you’re more of a foodie, head to on-site restaurant Criollo or stop by a Vieux Carré landmark known as The Carousel Bar & Lounge, New Orleans’ only rotating bar. It opened in 1949 and quickly became a gathering place for artists and writers. Authors Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner all reference the iconic spot in their works, and playwright Tennessee Williams was a regular. The Carousel still serves some of the best cocktails in a town known for its lively drinking scene. Remember—the storied bar rotates every 15 minutes. So be careful as you step off that stool, especially if you’ve been tipping the Sazerac.
hotelmonteleone.com, 504-523-3341, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
3. The Jefferson Hotel (Richmond, Virginia)
Lewis Ginter spared no expense in constructing his hotel—and honoring his hero. Richmond’s wealthiest citizen at the time, Ginter spent an estimated $5 to $10 million to plan, build, and furnish The Jefferson Hotel, which opened in 1895. A lifelong admirer of Thomas Jefferson, he also commissioned sculptor Edward V. Valentine to create a life-size Carrara marble statue of the statesman for the main lobby. Ginter’s first guests enjoyed conveniences such as electricity and elevators as well as hot and cold running water in each room. The downtown hotel continues to modernize as it retains its original elegance. Seven years ago, 181 rooms and suites and the Rotunda and Palm Court lobbies were renovated. Meanwhile, the hotel’s Lemaire Restaurant got a new look and a menu celebrating local ingredients and regional cuisine.
jeffersonhotel.com, 888-918-1895, 101 West Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23220
2. Jekyll Island Club Resort (Jekyll Island, Georgia)
One of Georgia’s “Golden Isles,” Jekyll Island lies just off the state’s coast, about 20 minutes south of Brunswick. A popular 19th-century private hunting spot for some of the richest industrialists in America, Jekyll became the winter retreat of choice for their families when the Club opened in 1888. Ever since then, the distinctive Victorian structure has welcomed guests from all over the world. Now a state park, Jekyll Island and its beaches are protected and pristine, while the Jekyll Island Club Resort—the original club- house along with additional cottages, converted into a hotel property—continues to add modern innovations and additions. The Jekyll Ocean Club, a waterfront hotel with 40 suites, opened four years ago.
jekyllclub.com, 844-201-6871, 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527
1. The Peabody Memphis (Memphis, Tennessee)
Besides celebs from the music world (Elvis Presley, Justin Timberlake) and Hollywood (Morgan Freeman, Kathy Bates), Memphis locals would likely also count the Peabody Ducks among their most celebrated luminaries. The original hotel opened in 1869, and a newer, more lavish Peabody was built at the present location on South Second Street (just a few blocks from historic Beale Street) 56 years later. In 1933, after having more than a few beverages, some hunters placed live ducks in the lobby fountain—and started an 87-year tradition that continues with the twice-daily “March of the Peabody Ducks.” The famous fowl are just one of many reasons to love this beautiful 464-room luxury hotel. Shops include a modern version of Beale Street’s venerable Lansky Bros. store (where Elvis purchased many of his ensembles) as well as the Lansky Lucky Duck gift shop. Savor French cuisine at Chez Philippe, a rib eye at the Capriccio Grill steak house, or freshly baked treats in the Peabody Deli & Desserts pastry shop. Most of all, you can enjoy the impeccable hospitality of the staff.
peabodymemphis.com, 901-529-4000, 149 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103