The 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America in Film & Television History List Is Announced
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#film—Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing, celebrating, and promoting the finest historic hotels in the United States, is pleased to announce The 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America in Film and Television History List. The historic hotels and resorts selected for this announcement have been the settings for iconic scenes in beloved blockbusters, art house favorites, cult classics, and primetime television programs. Guests of these hotels can retrace the steps of many movie makers and film stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Alfred Hitchcock through the storied lobbies and guestrooms, and stand in the same historic places that brought unforgettable characters like Tarzan, Amy March, and Luke Skywalker to life. A few on the list even played roles in the history of the film industry. For example, The Hollywood Roosevelt (1927) in Hollywood, California, was the location of the very first awards ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—known as the Academy Awards® or the Oscars® —and hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in the hotel’s Blossom Room in 1929. Often, historic hotels have been the co-stars in movies, playing their parts through the talents of architects, interior designers, historic preservationists, and nature conservationists. Explore this year’s list to find out how the history of film intersects with historic hotels, from luxury seaside resorts to dude ranch desert escapes.
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River Street Inn (1817) Savannah, Georgia
Set within a beautifully restored, 200-year-old riverside warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, and overlooking the magical Savannah River on historic River Street, the River Street Inn provides interior and exterior locations for filmmakers who want to frame their subjects in something historic, charming, and unique. Established in 1817, River Street Inn is part of the Savannah Historic District, which was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1966, and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1999. Considering the historic nature of downtown Savannah, the Waterfront, and Factors Walk, it is not surprising that the film industry chooses this area often for movies and television. Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Liam Hemsworth, and Tim Daly are just a few of the leading actors that have walked through the corridors of this iconic hotel or have filmed immediately outside its doors. Movies filmed within the hotel or in the surrounding block include The Gingerbread Man (1998), The Do-Over (2016), Lady & the Tramp (2019), Ant-Man & the Wasp (2018), and Academy Award-winning film Glory (1998). In the movie Lady & the Tramp (2019), the famous spaghetti date scene was filmed on the exterior southwest corner of the River Street Inn. Additionally, during a scene where the two pups stroll through a market, this location is really the River Street Inn’s valet area.
Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans (1843) New Orleans, Louisiana
When James Bond (Roger Moore) escapes from the villain “Mr. Big” in Live and Let Die (1973), Bond tells his team to regroup at the Omni Royal Orleans in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. (“Royal Orleans hotel,” Bond tells the cab driver after arriving at the airport.) Located at the fashionable intersection of St. Louis and Royal streets, the Omni Royal Orleans exudes the class and elegance that James Bond would choose for his stay in the Crescent City. Dating to 1843, the hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2010. It appears in a long list of contemporary popular television programs in addition to a few films: NCIS New Orleans (2014-2021), Your Honor (2020-2023), Queer as Folk (2022), Interview with the Vampire (2022), and Daisy Jones and the Six (2023). Movies and shows have been filmed at the rooftop pool area, Rib Room Restaurant, ballrooms, Royal Garden Terrace Courtyard, and various suites. These locations are all open to being visited, booked, or reserved. Cast and crew have stayed the night at the Omni Royal New Orleans, and guests can request to stay in a room once occupied by stars.
The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee
Listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the original Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, opened in 1869 as a symbol of wealth and prestige for the growing city. Its grandeur, both in size and in richness of design, have made it a desirable filming location in the region. Three film adaptations of John Grisham novels have been filmed at The Peabody Memphis: The Firm (1993), The Client (1994), and The Rainmaker (1997). The Peabody Memphis served as the setting for several scenes in The Firm, starring Tom Cruise. The most memorable scene involves a lavish party on hotel’s rooftop in which Mitch McDeere (Cruise) is persuaded to accept a job at a Memphis law firm. The Peabody’s fine dining restaurant Chez Philippe is the setting for a scene in The Client, in which Tommy Lee Jones’ character District Attorney ‘Reverend’ Roy Foltrigg is dining with FBI agents at the restaurant’s best table and a fan asks for his autograph. The Peabody’s historic Continental Ballroom appears in The Rainmaker as the room in which Matt Damon’s character takes the bar exam. The Peabody Memphis is also known for light-hearted moments in film, often due to its charming signature tradition of timed displays of live ducks promenading through the lobby, an event called the “Peabody Duck March.” The hotel’s duck march has appeared on screen in the comedy Soul Men (2008), starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac, and in The Open Road (2009), starring Justin Timberlake and Jeff Bridges. The Peabody Marching Ducks have also appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and on Sesame Street when Bert and Ernie celebrated Rubber Ducky Day.
Palmer House® A Hilton Hotel (1871) Chicago, Illinois
The Palmer House®, A Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, is America’s longest-operating hotel and its on-camera gravitas is undeniable. Palmer House, which was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2007, dates to 1871 and is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The hotel offers filmmakers luxurious settings and large rooms that can accommodate a film crew, gilded lobby with a formal staircase, marble-topped tables, velvet seating, and a ceiling mural depicting Greek mythology. Several notable films shot scenes at the hotel: Curly Sue (1991), Academy Award-winner The Fugitive (1993), and Miracle on 34th Street (1994). It has also appeared as the setting for recent television shows set in Chicago, including Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire. Recently recognized as one of The 2022 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America for a Romantic Proposal and built to be a wedding present from Potter Palmer to his new bride, Bertha, the Palmer House hosted the fifth season of the reality television show Married at First Sight. The reality television show features a few couples, paired up by relationship experts, who agree to marry when they first meet. Scenes were filmed in the hotel’s elegant halls and romantic ballrooms, and in the hotel’s ultimate bridal suites, perfect for the brides to prepare hair and make-up and spend the last moments as bachelorettes with their bridal party.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California, has attracted filmmakers for over a century with its ornate antique features, castle-like towers, Mediterranean domes, flying buttresses, and sprawling arcades. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996 and designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. It dates to 1876 and has been expanded several times since its original construction. The six-story tall inn resembles a colonial-era Spanish mission with thick stucco walls, heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. The ornate central lobby leads to rooms with wood paneling imported directly from a Belgian convent and a grand, art-decked hall with a draped canopied ceiling. The richness and drama of the space made it a fitting setting for movies like The Vampire (1918), a silent film; Idiot’s Delight (1938) starring Clark Gable; The Wild Party (1975), produced by Merchant Ivory Productions, and starring James Coco and Raquel Welch; Vibes (1988) starring Jeff Goldblum; science fiction and fantasy show Sliders: The Exodus, Part I & II (1997); and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), a period drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In 1982, singer Eddie Money filmed a vampire lore-inspired music video for his song, “Think I’m in Love,” at the inn.
The Jefferson Hotel (1895) Richmond, Virginia
Listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, The Jefferson Hotel has a long, illustrious history as a cultural landmark and grand dame hotel in Richmond, Virginia, since it opened its doors on Halloween 1895. Despite its fame and architectural grandeur, the hotel was forced to close in the 1980s and welcomed no guests for about six years. Its story does not pause there, however, because film history was made at The Jefferson Hotel even when its guestrooms were empty. In 1980, filmmakers selected the hotel to serve as the set for My Dinner With Andre (1981), a critically acclaimed art house classic. Director Louis Malle shot the famous scripted conversation between actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn–playing versions of themselves–in the Grand Ballroom, which was transformed for the film to look like Café des Artistes in New York. After the filmmakers left, the hotel underwent a tremendous renovation and reopened on May 6, 1986. Three years later, in 1989, the historic hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America as a charter member.
Jekyll Island Club Resort (1886) Jekyll Island, Georgia
The historic Jekyll Island Club Resort is an iconic resort that exudes Gilded Age glamor and modern luxury. Designated a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and nestled in a barrier island off the Georgia coast, the Jekyll Island Club Resort opened in 1887 as a retreat for America’s wealthiest families. From the lofty tower to the encircling verandas and original heart pine floors, Victorian charm still permeates the public areas and rooms. These traits have allowed the resort to serve as a backdrop for several period films, including The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) directed by Robert Redford and starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Charlize Theron. Fans of Robert Redford’s 2000 film can dine in the Grand Dining Room as characters in the movie did or stroll across the front lawn, also used in filming. Redford and scenic directors chose the resort’s pool as the perfect location for one scene; they covered up the pool and transformed it into an outdoor dance floor. The most popular spot from the film at the resort is a replica of the watering hole enjoyed by Matt Damon. “The Bar,” nestled within the Riverfront Lobby just outside of the Grand Dining Room, offers guests a chance to pull up to the counter or to enjoy their libation from the comfort of leather chairs perched in front of a grand fireplace. Guests of the resort can venture to the Jekyll Island Golf Club and tee off on the same course depicted in the film.
Union League Club of Chicago (1886) Chicago, Illinois
A downtown Georgian Revival landmark, the historic Union League Club of Chicago is a stately and sophisticated social club and hotel dating to 1886. Its rich interiors have served as filming locations for films including My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) and television shows such as Empire (2015-2020). The Union League Club of Chicago and the Empire production team developed a close relationship during their time filming at the clubhouse. The historic hotel co-starred in scenes with Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, and Taye Diggs. The Empire production crew transformed the hotel’s Presidents Hall into a large conference room and used the Lincoln Ballroom for the location of an elegant gala. My Best Friend’s Wedding also filmed a scene in the hotel’s Presidents Hall, a desirable location because of its expansive pillars, wide ceiling, beautiful artwork, and fireplace. After filming, the movie crew left the furniture it had installed for the set. Though the furniture has since been reupholstered for upkeep, the same design was used and the pieces remain in the Presidents Hall to this day. The PBS genealogy show Finding Your Roots (2012-), hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., used the Lincoln Ballroom for interviewing the musician Sting. Sting’s only request of the staff during his time at the club was an electric tea kettle. The Union League Club of Chicago still has the electric tea kettle purchased for him and staff there refer to it as “Sting’s Kettle.” Visitors can request a clubhouse tour to learn more about the history of the building.
Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
Grand Hotel has been an icon of summer resorts since 1887 and a movie icon since 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the hotel is located on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where cars are not allowed and horse-drawn carriage remains the preferred mode of transportation. Adding to its romantic appeal, the Gilded Age resort of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, is often synonymous in popular imagination with the film Somewhere in Time (1980). Starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer, this time travel romance was filmed on location. The filmmakers not only took advantage of the hotel’s sweeping views and Victorian exteriors, they shot much of Somewhere in Time inside the Grand Hotel itself. The movie became a cult classic over the subsequent decades and still claims a following. In fact, Somewhere in Time fans meet annually at the Grand Hotel in late October. For a truly immersive experience, the Grand Hotel has two bookable suites dedicated to the film: the Somewhere in Time Suite and the Jane Seymour Suite. Both rooms are decorated with memorabilia from the movie. The resort also offers a special Somewhere in Time Weekend event package. Visitors to the island can also visit the “Somewhere in Time Gazebo,” a romantic Queen Anne-style gazebo featured in the film, located at the state park west of Fort Mackinac.
Hotel del Coronado (1888) Coronado, California
The Hotel del Coronado seaside resort—with its elegant red cupolas and towers—opened in 1888. Its founders dreamed of creating a seaside resort that would be “the talk of the Western world” and it has, perhaps beyond their wildest dreams. In 1958, the hit sensation Some Like It Hot (1959) was filmed at Hotel del Coronado. The film showcased the talents of Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, while also highlighting the hotel’s assets: a spectacular sun-drenched silhouette of Victorian architecture, the perfect backdrop for the film’s 1929 setting. The classic comedy is the humorous story of two musicians who attempted to flee the Chicago Outfit after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Many film critics consider Some Like It Hot to be one of the greatest films of all time and it is listed on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry today. Named the #1 comedy of all time by the American Film Institute, the movie has an honored place in film and Del history. Although only exterior scenes were filmed at the hotel, the interior scenes do look very Del-like (right down to the placement of the lobby elevator and stairs). Hotel del Coronado was designated a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1977, inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2018, and awarded Historic Hotels of America Best Historic Resort in 2021.
The Historic Magnolia House (1889) Greensboro, North Carolina
The Historic Magnolia House in Greensboro, North Carolina, is a vibrant hotel and fully restored “Green Book” historic site. While the hotel itself has not been featured in a film or television show, it does offer guests a rare chance to learn about the history of The Negro Motorist Green Book that was featured in the Primetime Emmy Awards-nominated television show Lovecraft Country (2020), the documentary The Green Book: Guide to Freedom (2019) directed by Yoruba Richen, and the Academy Award-winning film Green Book (2018) directed by Peter Farrelly. First published in the 1930s, Victor Green’s travel book was a lifesaving guide for non-white travelers navigating Jim Crow America. It listed restaurants, motels, service stations, barber shops, nightclubs and more where African Americans could expect safe service. The Historic Magnolia House was listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book almost every year between 1955 and 1961. From the moment guests walk through the front door of The Historic Magnolia House, they stand in the historic steps of African American travelers who stayed there during the Jim Crow Era. In 1949, Arthur and Louise Gist transformed their Greensboro home—which dates to 1889—into a motel where Black travelers could rest. At the time, most motels were whites-only and so the Gists offered an important service by opening their house to other African Americans. Guests at The Historic Magnolia House during its heyday include Martin Luther King, Jr., writers Carter G. Woodson and James Baldwin, musicians Tina Turner and Ray Charles, baseball star and businessman Jackie Robinson (who starred in his own dramatized biopic, The Jackie Robinson Story, in 1950), and Lena Horne, the performer and civil rights activist remembered for her roles in Stormy Weather (1943), Cabin in the Sky (1943), and The Wiz (1978). The Historic Magnolia House is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2022.
White Stallion Ranch (1900) Tucson, Arizona
The White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, has been the setting for over 25 feature-length films, many of them Westerns made between 1940 and 1970. The ranch began as a family farm in 1900 and 116 years later, in 2016, it was inducted into Historic Hotels of America. Its star apparently rose around the time that the Academy Award-nominated film Arizona (1940) shot scenes at the ranch in 1940. A new owner acquired the ranch in 1945 with a dream of relocating from Chicago to Arizona’s warm desert climate. The farm experienced a cultural renaissance during its time as the new owner, who constructed six new buildings that could be outfitted for guests. As such, the cattle ranch took its first steps toward operating as a traditional, upscale resort. The success of Arizona and the ranch’s growing amenities for guests attracted more Hollywood producers to use the site to film various aspects of their movies. Among the films shot within the vicinity of the ranch during this era of classic Westerns were The Last Round-Up (1947) starring Gene Autry; Winchester ‘73 (1950) starring James Stewart and later selected for the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board; and The Last Outpost (1951) starring Ronald Regan and Rhonda Fleming. The ranch’s true metamorphosis into a vacation destination resort occurred in the 1960s. Allen and Cynthia True purchased it in 1965 and developed it, acquiring some 3,000 acres of land and building additional facilities to accommodate guests. Its popularity soared, and for decades since the historic, family-owned, dude ranch continues to catch the eye of movie producers and location scouts into the 21st century.
The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California
Since 1907, The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco has served as the residence for U.S. presidents, world leaders, and entertainment stars when they are in San Francisco. The landmark hotel is also known for setting the scene of numerous films and television shows for over 85 years. The Academy Award-winning film Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)—the highest grossing film of the 1930s—was filmed at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco, and more recent films like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) have been filmed on-site as well. Other notable films include Vertigo (1958), Towering Inferno (1974), and The Rock (1996). Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, was filmed in the heart of San Francisco, where the characters were residents in an apartment building across from The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco. Alfred Hitchcock stayed at the hotel during the filming of this production. In the early 1970s, the Academy Award-winning film Towering Inferno (1974) filmed scenes at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco. The Rock (1996) features a thrilling scene filmed on the hotel’s iconic Penthouse Balcony, and the following chase scene goes down the hotel escalators and into the hotel’s main kitchen. The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2001.
The Plaza (1907) New York, New York
Designed in a style reminiscent of a French chateau and located off Central Park in New York, The Plaza’s imposing exterior and opulent interior have captivated the imaginations of guests and movie-goers for years. In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller North By Northwest marked the first time The Plaza was prominently featured on the big screen. It is from this hotel that the movie’s hero, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), is kidnapped. In The Way We Were (1973), Barbara Streisand meets Robert Redford by chance at the Fifth Avenue entrance of The Plaza. The Plaza’s place in the cult classic Home Alone 2: Lost In New York came in 1992, when the opulence of the location and the lofty standards of the luxury hotel made it the ideal location for abandoned scamp Kevin McCallister to check-in with his dad’s credit card. The 59th street lobby and Suite No. 411 are the key features of The Plaza shown in the film. In homage to the film and its fans, The Plaza offers a package that recreates a day in the life of Kevin McCallister at The Plaza. The package comes with a 4-hour private limousine ride around New York City to visit other famous Home Alone 2 filming locations from the movie including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, and Radio City Music Hall. Of course, no limousine ride would be complete without a hot cheese pizza to savor while reliving Kevin’s famous limo pizza scene. During the filming of Home Alone 2, the film crew asked what was under the lobby carpeting, because they wanted a scene of Kevin sliding through the lobby. When the carpet was removed, the hotel discovered original tiling from 1907 that now remains uncovered. The Plaza was designated a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1986 and it and was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1991.
The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville Tennessee, Tennessee
Filmmaking has played a role in the history of Nashville, Tennessee’s The Hermitage Hotel since its early years, almost immediately after the hotel opened in 1910. When Tennessee’s “first moving picture play” was filmed in 1914, the filmmakers stayed at The Hermitage Hotel as they moved around the region, and they used the vantage point from the hotel’s roof to capture footage of the surrounding city. Many decades later, filming for a portion of a made-for-television movie Roots: The Gift (1988) starring Louis Gosset, Jr.
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