The iconic and legendary hotels inducted into Historic Hotels of America® and Historic Hotels Worldwide® are noteworthy for their grandeur and architectural significance. Guests and visitors to these hotels can see wonderful examples of the artistry, craftsmanship, and extraordinarily detailed work preserved from the past. Some of the best examples are viewed by looking up at these magnificent ceilings and domes in the public areas of these hotels including lobbies, ballrooms, and restaurants. These ornate ceilings and domes include some of the finest examples of stained-glass, painted frescoes, painted ornamental plaster, stenciled wood, and of course, gold leaf. Often, these beautiful, ornate, grand and detailed ceilings have been recognized as historically significant local or regional historic landmarks. (Visit www.HistoricHotels.org/Ceilings for a complete listing of these ornate masterpieces.)
Here are the 2018 Top 25 Most Magnificent Ceilings and Domes at Historic Hotels of America:
- The Willard InterContinental, Washington, DC (1818): The Willard’s iconic lobby has a coffered ceiling that is adorned with 48 original state seals. The seals for Alaska and Hawaii reside on the back pillars of the iconic Peacock Alley. For over a century, the Crystal Room has played host to many of Washington DC’s most elegant social and corporate events. From sophisticated receptions and lavish galas to prestigious conferences and annual meetings, the Crystal Room provides a stunning backdrop for an unforgettable event. Exuding spectacular opulence, the Crystal Room’s design motif includes mottled green columns, crystal-dripping chandeliers, ornate hand-carved gold leaf crown molding, and antique drapery.
- French Lick Springs Hotel (1845) French Lick, Indiana: The Baroque-style murals on the ceiling of the mezzanine level of the hotel are visible by just looking up from the lobby. In keeping with the area’s fame for producing mineral-laced “Pluto Water” 100 years ago, the murals depict the mythological story of Pluto’s World. A single mural over the main lobby shows Orpheus and Eurydice, symbols of love, in a springtime setting. This is the story of Pluto’s world, as told through a breathtaking mural containing six separate panels. The mural may look like a masterpiece that was crafted in a bygone era, though it actually was designed, painted and installed during the 2005-2006 renovation that restored French Lick Springs Hotel to its original grandeur. A group of artists from Conrad Schmitt Studios invested 1,500 hours in the planning and creation of these mural panels. In the process, Pluto’s world came to life.
- Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa (1852) Mobile, Alabama: Inside the lobby of the Battle House is a stunningly beautiful dome that is over 42 feet tall and 63 feet wide. The Tiffany-style glass in the dome features fleur-de-lis designs, in keeping with the city’s history, as the true birthplace of Mardi Gras. The painting technique used to depict these rulers in the lobby ceiling is called Trompe-l’œil. It is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects really exist, instead of being just two-dimensional paintings. In refurbishing the dome from 2004 to 2006, master plaster artists were brought in to work with their apprentices and make molds of all the design elements in the ceiling. The glass ceiling designs were carefully repaired and more than 95 percent of the glass is original to the 1908 construction.
- The Menger Hotel (1859) San Antonio, Texas: The Victorian lobby reflects the 1909 remodeling, designed by noted San Antonio architect Alfred Giles. Giles transformed the simple utilitarian space into a grander, neoclassical style which was popular at the time. The oval-shaped lobby is dominated by eight Corinthian columns. The original columns were cast iron and encircle the redesigned columns ornamented with festoons, garlands, modillions, and painted to resemble stone. The leaded skylight was added as part of the 1909 alterations, as was the decorative tile floor which extended into the Colonial Room Restaurant. Many of the pieces of furniture in the lobby are believed to have been purchased by William Menger on his frequent buying trips to New York and Europe in the 1860s.
- The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee: The ornate stained glass skylight and carved wood ceiling in The Peabody’s Grand Lobby is one of the signature characteristics of the hotel, measuring in at 32 feet high and 3,100 square feet in total. The ceiling dates back to the opening of the current Peabody, built in 1925. The hotel was designed by noted Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager, who also designed the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. The glass skylight is located in the Peabody Lobby Bar and the lobby fountain where the famed Peabody Ducks reside during the day. The Duckmaster offers daily history tours in the Grand Lobby, which highlight the ornate ceiling. A little-known fact about the ceiling is that the beautiful carved wood that surrounds the stained glass is not wood as it appears, but sculpted plaster.
- Palmer House®, a Hilton Hotel (1871) Chicago, Illinois: The ceiling of the Palmer House has been compared to that of the Sistine Chapel of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Measuring in at 28 feet high and 50 feet by 28 feet wide, it is approximately the size of a basketball court. These 21 distinct pieces of artwork were completed in Paris in 1926 by Louis (Pierre) Rigal. Three large circular panels illustrate classic romantic scenes from Greek mythology. Depicting Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Apollo, the god of sun, music, and poetry in his pursuit of Daphne; and the god Pluto in his pursuit of Persephone. There are nine vertical paintings of the Muses where each Muse depicts a joy of life. The 16 plaster frescos that frame the ceiling are done in the style of the 15th century Della Robbia family in the colors of Wedgewood blue, cinnabar, and celadon. The paintings that adorn the ceiling were completed in 1917 in France and later installed in the hotel’s ceiling in 1927.
- Capital Hotel (1873) Little Rock, Arkansas
- Wentworth by the Sea (1874) New Castle, New Hampshire
- The Pfister Hotel (1893) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (1894) St. Louis, Missouri
- The Jefferson Hotel (1895) Richmond, Virginia
- Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods (1902) New Hampshire
- West Baden Springs Hotel (1902) West Baden Springs, Indiana
- The Bellevue (1904) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Castle Hill Resort and Spa (1905) Proctorsville, Vermont
- The Seelbach Hilton Louisville (1905) Louisville, Kentucky
- The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn (1909) Cooperstown, New York
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown (1912) Portland, Oregon
- Fairmont Copley Plaza (1912) Boston, Massachusetts
- Amway Grand Plaza (1913) Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
- La Valencia (1926) La Jolla, California
- The Cavalier (1927) Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Lord Baltimore Hotel (1928) Baltimore, Maryland
- Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (1931) Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to the above, there are other noteworthy and magnificent ceilings and domes at Historic Hotels Worldwide:
- Tivoli Palacio de Seteais (1787) Sintra, Portugal: The frescoes of Salão Nobre at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais are original from the palace’s construction in 1787. The artist of these frescoes is unknown but was inspired by the French Jean Baptiste Pillement who painted the Pillement Room. The Royal Room is original from the palace’s construction in the 18th century by the Portuguese architect José da Costa e Silva. This room reflects the romanticism of Sintra and tells a love story in the frescoes above.
- Hilton Paris Opera (1889) Paris, France: Dating back to 1889, its Eiffel style lobby in the Hilton Opera Paris and Second Empire Style covered ceiling are decorated with paintings and sculptures by the artist Charles Joseph Lameire (1832-1910). Several French movies were filmed with this magnificent backdrop over the years.
- Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (1893) Québec City, Canada: The original sketch for the beautiful hand-painted ceiling of the Verchères Space was designed by architect William Maxwell. The ceiling includes leaf and flowering vine design embellished with cartouches and monochrome motifs. The palette includes shades of blue and green against a yellow background. Palm designs are visible on top of each column. The original name of this space was the Palm Court and its original use was a tea room. The ceilings date back to 1924.
- Grand Hotel Tremezzo (1910) Tremezzo, Italy: Frescoes in the Grand Hotel, represent the scenes of the Aeneid of Virgil and scenes of heaven. The grand ceiling at this historic hotel was painted by Francesco by Francesco Conegliani, Gianbattista Tiepolo’s pupil. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, well-known as Gianbattista Tiepolo known as an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice. He was prolific and worked not only in Italy but also in Germany and Spain.
- Hotel New Grand (1927) Yokohama, Japan
- The Fullerton Hotel (1928) Singapore
“Historic hotels are perfect places for romantic getaways or for celebrating special occasions. These beautiful ceilings and domes are unique to these legendary hotels,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “These ceilings are treasures preserved from the past and are wonderful examples of the detail, artistry, and craftsmanship from another time. When you next visit one of these historic hotels, be sure to look up and discover these grand and ornately detailed ceilings.”
Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels and has more than 300 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated historic hotels. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, please visit www.HistoricHotels.org.
Washington DC-based Historic Hotels Worldwide® is a prestigious collection of historic treasures, including historic hotels, castles, chateaus, palaces, academies, haciendas, villas, monasteries, and other historic lodging spanning more than ten centuries. Historic Hotels Worldwide recognizes authentic cultural treasures that demonstrate exemplary historic preservation and their inspired architecture, cultural traditions, and authentic cuisine. Historic Hotels Worldwide along with Historic Hotels of America are official programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (United States of America).
Www.HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com allows travelers to book their next getaway from more than 3,000 historic and cultural experiences, and view special offers at participating historic hotels from 30 countries. To be nominated and selected to be featured on this supplemental marketing program website, historical lodging properties must be at least 75 years old; utilize historic accommodations; serve as the former home or be located on the grounds of the former home of famous persons or significant location for an event in history; be located in or within walking distance to a historic district, historically significant landmark, place of historic event, or a historic city center; be recognized by a local preservation organization or national trust; and display historic memorabilia, artwork, photography, and other examples of its historic significance. To be selected in the United States for inclusion in Historic Hotels Worldwide, a hotel must meet the above criteria plus be a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, please visit www.HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com.