8 Storied 21C Museum Hotels That Seamlessly Blend Art and Hospitality

Contemporary art is at the center of the 21C Museum Hotels concept. Art collectors and preservationists Steve Brown and Laura Lee created the multi-faceted hotel concept, which consists of a boutique hotel, art museum, and restaurant, in 2006. Their initial plans came about as sort of a ‘labor of love’. The creators wanted to play a part in the preservation and rejuvenation of their hometown of Louisville, KY.

Their belief in being able to use art to help invigorate and energize downtown Louisville sparked interest in other cities, which has led them to expand their brand to include 8 additional hotels. Accor Hotels recently acquired 85% of 21c Museum Hotels, which allows them to benefit from its global hospitality platform. The hotels will be a part of the MGallery collection of storied, luxury boutique hotels around the world.

1. 21c Bentonville

The inspiring 21c Bentonville hotel is located in the Bentonville, Arkansas Town Square within walking distance of the Crystal Bridge Museum of Art and next to The Walmart Museum. Who knew Walmart actually had a museum! This digitally curated museum engages visitors with stories about the rise of the mega-superstore that we now know it as today. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, had no idea that the five and dime store he opened in 1950 in the Bentonville Town Square would turn out to be such a global sensation.

Since Walmart became the #1 Fortune 500 Company in 2002, it has cemented Bentonville’s place in history and has contributed to its continued growth. What was once seen as a sleepy town is now seen as a globally recognized business hub, with a growing entrepreneurial presence.

In 2017, 21c Bentonville received the Condé Nast Traveler magazine ‘Readers’ Choice Award and is seen as a cultural hub for those visiting the city of Bentonville, AK.

2. 21c Cincinnati

Located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio sits 21c Cincinnati, adjacent to the Contemporary Art Center and just across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts. It is an award-winning boutique hotel situated in the old Metropole Hotel. The Metropole building dates back to 1912, during the height of the Cincinnati hotel resurgence. There was eventually a mezzanine added and a penthouse apartment. In 2009, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. At that time it was also acquired by 21c Museum Hotel developers with plans of renovating it and making it a part of their portfolio of boutique hotels.

In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds center fielder, Edd Roush, was standing in front of the Metropole hotel when he learned that the Chicago White Sox had plans of throwing the World Series.  Yes, the game was fixed!

While guests likely won’t see any of the Reds players standing out front hailing a cab, they’re certain to see some interesting artwork before ever stepping foot through the doors of 21c Cincinnati.

3. 21c Durham

The historic Hill Building in Downtown Durham is now home of 21c Durham. The same architects who designed the famed ‘Empire State Building’ were the same who designed the Hill Building.  John Hill, a local Durham banker’s commissioned the building back in 1937. Since the building was constructed during the art-deco period, it only made sense that the architects would include it in the design of the new downtown Durham building. This is where John Hills’ family-owned banks were located until the building was sold to SunTrust in 2004.

Downtown Durham was almost dormant until 21c Durham made its appearance. It seems that the hotel was a welcomed addition to the area, as it involved an investment of nearly $50 million, much of which was funded by the city to help revitalize its downtown area. Mayor Bill Bell admitted that the new 21c Durham hotel would be the place to be in downtown Durham.

Durham, North Carolina is now seen as a town with an edge, while still maintaining its Southern hospitality. A visit to the city of Durham definitely warrants a stay at the most cutting-edge hotel in town, 21c Durham.

4. 21c Kansas City

Visitors could stay at any hotel in Kansas City, Missouri but why not stay in a hotel with some history, 21c Kansas City. Located in the once famous Savoy Hotel & Grill, in the center of downtown Kansas City, sits a hotel with a haunting past. The Savoy hotel was built in 1888 and is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States located west of the Mississippi River. Since it was the first hotel that travelers would see upon arriving by train, it was often where they would stay. Due to the depression and residents moving further from the city, the hotel started to fall into despair. In 1965 the hotel went through a complete renovation and was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If walls could talk I’m sure the walls of the Savoy Hotel would have a lot to say. Many former staff members and hotel guests have spoken about the hauntings of the Savoy Hotel that they personally experienced. They have reported hearing strange voices, seeing shadows and hearing doors opening and closing. Some reported a feeling of someone following them on the second floor and seeing a small girl wearing a Victorian dress on the fourth floor.

Visitors may not stay at the 21c Kansas City hotel expecting to see anything unusual but if they do, they shouldn’t be surprised. It would certainly give them something to talk about other than the museums they visited in Kansas City.

5. 21c Lexington

Skyscraper buildings are no big deal today but they were in 1914 when Lexington’s first skyscraper was built. It is a 15-story building, known as the Fayette National Building, which at one time was the tallest building between Atlanta and Cincinnati. The building was purchased by 21c Museum Hotels and is now where 21c Lexington sits. It’s no mystery that whenever a city is serious about revitalizing their downtown areas, they are thrilled to attract the attention of 21c Museum Hotel developers. That is because it becomes the center of cultural exploration. It was no different for Lexington, KY.

Downtown Lexington is now alive with picturesque green spaces, theaters, live music, and lots of outdoor festivals year-round. The Fifth Third Pavilion at Cheapside Park in the heart of the city hosts weekly events and offers a rich nightlight. Locals gather for the weekly Farmer’s Market in downtown Lexington and enjoy The Square, an assortment of retail stores, entertainment, and dining all in one block.

Anyone staying at 21c Lexington won’t have to go far to experience the Southern charm and excitement of the city. It puts them in close proximity to everything happening in the city center.

6. 21c Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky is where the 21c Museum Hotel concept came to life. In 2006 Laura Lee Brown and husband, Steve Wilson created the luxury brand hotel concept, that would start to spark tremendous interest in other major cities. The idea was simply a way to breath life back into downtown Louisville, which the pair was able to accomplish with the opening 21c Louisville.

As unique as the concept itself is the property that it occupies, five 19th century tobacco and bourbon warehouse buildings, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Considering the hotel is in part, a museum, it is fitting that the first of its kind is located along Museum Row. In this same area, visitors will also find the Louisville Slugger Museum where a 120 feet replica of Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger bat sits out in front.  And the Muhammad Ali Center, which pays homage to its native son through visual and audio inspiration. Both museums are star attractions in downtown Louisville.

Visitors to the city are capable of maximizing their time in Louisville by staying at 21c Louisville. Its location is excellent for exploring the various museums along Museum Row.

7. 21c Nashville

Everyone knows Nashville, TN as the home of country music but when you get the chance to take a closer look, you’ll see that there is more than meets the eye. In 2017, 21c Nashville opened in the historical Gray & Dudley building. The Gray & Dudley building was constructed in 1899 and was home of the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company. Don’t let the name of the building fool you though. Housed in the building was a retail store that sold everything from hardware to ice skates. However, when visitors step outside of 21c Nashville they are exposed to a bustling new metropolis, which a Music City Greeter would love to help visitors learn more about.

A Music City Greeter is someone who loves this city and are volunteers who will help you enjoy Nashville to its fullest. Visitors who sign up for the program are taken on a free walking tour of downtown Nashville. The one-hour guided tour helps visitors to learn about the city and visit some of the area’s most visited points of interest. You’ll likely learn more about Nashville in one-hour than you would during your entire visit. What better way to learn about a place than to hear it from someone who actually lives there!

When staying at 21c Nashville, guests only have a short 10-minute walk to the Nashville Visitor Center, where anyone can go to sign up for the Music City Greeter tour.

8. 21c Oklahoma City

The old Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant is now home of 21c Oklahoma City. It was named Best New Hotels in The World by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2017 and feels more like a SoHo New York hotel than a hotel that you would find in the Midwest state of Oklahoma. It is centrally located on the West End of downtown Oklahoma City, OK in the Film Row District.

While Oklahoma City’s Film Row District is popular among visitors, few know about its exciting history. This area is where major Hollywood executives from Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, and MGM studios once sat. With the film studio executives offices right here in Oklahoma City, it stands to reason that many of the stars traveled to Oklahoma City to sign film and television contracts. Many of the same buildings that were a part of the film exchange in the early 1900’s along Film Row are still standing today, thus preserving the history of that era.

There is no guarantee that anyone will be discovered while walking the streets of Film Row in downtown Oklahoma, but what we can guarantee is that guests will love staying at 21c Oklahoma City in the Film Row District.

More Stories
The Algonquin Hotel New York: Literary Legends Know Why The Caged Bird Sings