At Martin’s Patershof hotel in Mechelen, Belgium, the owners don’t roll out the average welcome mat for you. No, when you arrive you will find spread out at your feet the projection from a stained-glass window.

It’s a harbinger of surprises to come when you stay at this boutique hotel — transformed from a Franciscan monastery dating to 1867. Monumenten en Landschappen, the government’s architectural organization, required that the stained-glass rose window above the main entrance remain visible in its entirety. The columns, the choir and the altar also had to be retained.

Martin’s Hotels has distinguished itself over the past decade for such repurposing projects. It now has eight historic properties in Belgium, including a former sugar refinery dating to 1836 (Martin’s Grand Hotel in Waterloo) and a 15th century Carthusian monastery (Hotel de Orangerie in Bruges).

Martin’s is but one of many companies embracing the idea of repurposing, rather than building new hotels from the ground up. The trend is partly spurred by the growing competition for prime locations for urban hotel development. It’s not a money-saving tactic, by any means.

But in these times of experiential and authentic travel, a hotel with historic bones and a good back story is going to appeal to travelers.

Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tennessee
The station that marked the final stop on the train immortalized by Glenn Miller was scheduled to be demolished in the 1970s, but investors turned it into an amazing 25-acre hotel complex instead. You can now choose from among 48 rooms in the hotel’s converted train cars. BYO train whistle.

Written by: Jill Schensul
Published on: October 11, 2016

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