SAHARA Highlights: Hotels

by Jacqueline Spafford and Mark Hinchman, SAHARA Co-Editors | Oct 08, 2020

Hotels are so ubiquitous it is hard to imagine that for most of human history, they didn’t exist. Initially when people needed to put a roof over their heads when travelling or otherwise away from home, they did so in boarding or rooming houses. A few of those still exist and are represented in the SAHARA collection. Hotels really came into their own with the grand structures of the 19th and 20th centuries. The typology faced a challenge with the advent of modernism, a challenge some architects were poised to meet. Highways and automobiles brought about a new subcategory: motels. A phenomenon of recent times are grand buildings not originally designed as hotels, such as banks and post offices, that prove surprisingly adaptable to providing hospitality. Whether you travel or stay close to home this fall, please consider contributing to SAHARA.

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A long white building with mansard roof
Unknown. Prince George Hotel. Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 1817-1820. Photograph by Richard Longstreth.


a three-level interior courtyard lobby
Frank Lloyd Wright. Imperial Hotel. Uchiyama, Japan, 1923. Photograph by Danielle Willkens, 2017.


a six-story brick building with large red characters on the rooftop signage
Unknown. Bitaoyuan Hotel. Bitaoyuan Daijuchan, China, late 20th century. Photography by Dell Upton, 2016.


a small lobby with geometric tapestries decorating the walls.
Unknown. Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park, California, 1927. Photograph by Ruth Lang, 2016. Also known as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, the interiors were adapted for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining.


a long, white, two-story building with external breezeways
Unknown. Rice’s Hotel. Heathsville, Virginia, 1791. Photograph by Richard Guy Wilson.


a lobby with a blue and white modernist bench and patterned doors and wall panels
Igor B. Polevitzky. Hotel Havana Riviera. Havana, Cuba, 1957. Photograph by Danielle S. Willkens, 2016.


a white building with red roof in a mountain setting
Unknown. Beaumont Hotel. Ouray, Colorado, 1886. Photography by Patrick Malone, 2011.


a wide building with hipped roofs and gables
D.W. Greatbatch. Hotel Belgrave. Kimberly, South Africa, 1897. Photography by Sarah Rovang, 2018.


A white building with a curved corner façade
Polevitzky and Russell. Albion Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida, 1935. Photography by Peter Clericuzio, 2013.


a white building with architectural features reminiscent of the federal style
Unknown. Hotel Sofitel Metropole. Ha Noi, Vietnam, 1905. Photograph by Carrie Cushman.


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610