Courtesy Château Saint-Martin & Spa
Château Saint-Martin & Spa in Vence, France, today and in 1958.


Classic Comebacks

Reinventing six legendary hotels for the 21st century—and beyond.


Courtesy Château Saint-Martin & Spa

Courtesy Château Saint-Martin & Spa

Château Saint-Martin & Spa
Vence, France

Built as a fortified estate in AD 360, the château weathered the Crusades and sheltered the Knights Templar but was in ruins by 1900. Parisian industrialist Fernand Genève bought it in 1935 and turned it into a hotel, now operated by the Oetker Collection. The hotel has always been both a quiet, low-key respite from the bustle of the French Riviera and a Michelin-starred culinary destination for day-trippers from the beaches. Woody Allen filmed a few scenes from his 2014 movie Magic in the Moonlight here. German chancellor Konrad Adenauer and President Harry Truman both came here often in the 1950s. Later, Robert De Niro, Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie passed through.

What’s New: Prior to the spring 2018 reopening, all rooms and villas were revamped by Frankfurt-based Bergit Grafin Douglas of MM Design to feel lighter and brighter, with natural wood floors and fabrics from Pierre Frey, Manuel Canovas, Colefax and Fowler, and others. The La Prairie spa and Le Saint-Martin restaurant have been renovated, and a slew of new programs—culinary and nature-oriented biking and hiking through olive groves—have been added as well. Says General Manager Duarte Bon de Sousa, “We strive to introduce our guests to local artists and delicious local traditional food with a modern twist, all in a restyled contemporary French art de vivre.”

Courtesy Hotel Kulm
Hotel Kulm in St.Moritz, today and in 1928.

Hotel Kulm St. Moritz

Established in 1857, St. Moritz’s first luxury hotel lays claim to the first electric lighting in Switzerland (1879), the first public telephone network in Switzerland (1889), the oldest sports bar in the Alps (Sunny Bar), and hosting the opening of both the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics. It’s also said that if it weren’t for the Kulm, the ski industry would not exist in this lakeside resort town. It was a popular summer vacation destination until 1864 when owner Johannes Badrutt enticed a group of English guests to return in December to enjoy mild daytime temperatures and superb skiing (promising he’d reimburse their travel if they didn’t like it). They stayed through Easter.

What’s New: The property’s Kulm Country Club has undergone a $12.15 million renovation overseen by architect and local resident Norman Foster. A $7 million rooms revamp by Pierre-Yves Rochon in the New Kulm Wing yielded a clean and contemporary feel without losing the original hotel’s rustic and luxurious charms.

Joel Addams/Aurora/Alamy; courtesy Ventana Big Sur
Ventana Big Sur in Big Sure, California, today and in 1975.

Ventana Big Sur
Big Sur, California

This homestead of the Post family since 1890 was opened in 1975 as The Ventana Inn. Producer Larry Spector used proceeds from the film he financed, Easy Rider, to complete the project. The hotel closed in May 2017 after the collapse of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in a record landslide and was reopened by Singapore-based Alila Hotels & Resorts in October 2017. This discreet bohemian hideaway with spectacular Pacific views attracts Hollywood’s elite, who come here to escape the glitter, recharge, and reconnect with nature.

What’s New: The property reopened with the first North American Spa Alila, a redesigned Social House, 59 refreshed rooms by Brayton Hughes Design Studio, the Glass House art gallery, an expanded terrace for chef Paul Corsentino’s Sur House restaurant, outdoor fireside seating, Redwood Canyon Glampsites, and a list of discovery-based experiences including wild foraging hike, falconry, a circle of life meditation, and an organic garden tour.

Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; courtesy Bishop’s Lodge
Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe, New Mexico, today and in 1925.

Bishop’s Lodge
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Originally the 19th-century ranch of the Bishop of Lamy (the original 1860s chapel he built still stands), the property was purchased by the Pulitzer family in 1915 and then by Denver mining man James R. Thorpe, who turned it into a resort in the 1920s. The Lodge became a cultural magnet, attracting artists, writers, celebrities, and Hollywood producers in search of horse stables and privacy. The film Crazy Heart, about a washed-up country musician played by Jeff Bridges, was filmed here in 2008. Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Redford, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have stayed.

What’s New: Reopening in fall 2019, the latest face-lift by HRV Hotel Partners and Auberge Resorts is extensive. “We’re being good stewards of its old magic, soul, and history, while adding new experiences and signature events,” says developer Richard Holland. There will be a new wellness and spa facility designed by Sylvia Sapielli, new food and beverage concepts overseen by Chef Dean Fearing, expanded outdoors programs, an art gallery, an artist-in-residence program, renovated stables and chapel, and 120 new and restyled guest suites and residences. Nunzio De Santis, the architect spearheading the renovation, describes the project as remaining “very true to the authenticity, language, and spirit of Bishop’s Lodge—albeit a little eclectic, with some contemporary furnishings that live and breathe next to one-of-a-kind pieces that are authentic to native Mexican and Indian cultures.”

Historic England Archive; courtesy Soho House Kettner’s Townhouse
Kettner’s Townhouse in London, today and in 1867.

Kettner’s Townhouse

Founded in 1867 by Napoleon III’s chef, Auguste Kettner, the hotel was one of the first establishments in London to serve French fare, a nouvelle mode in Victorian England. At the time, the neighborhood was both haute and not-so-haute bohemian with a mix of prestigious theaters like the Palace alongside brothels. It remained open through both World Wars and was a gathering place for creatives and politicos alike, becoming a little notorious for its history of illicit liaisons. Its restaurant has served everyone from Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher. King Edward VII allegedly wooed his mistress Lillie Langtry here. More recently, fashionistas and designers have checked in.

What’s New: Reopened in January 2018 by Soho House Group, the hotel underwent a total overhaul of public spaces, now in an Anglo-French style. Refurbished rooms feature antique sinks, velvet furniture, and William Morris wallpaper. There’s also a magnificent collection of works by primarily British and Scottish artists, including Rachel Howard, France-Lise McGurn, Sara Beazley, Cornelia Parker, and Danny Augustine. At the restaurant, find a modernized menu featuring lighter fare and locally sourced ingredients. “Kettner’s has always been about having fun and being a bit naughty,” avers General Manager Conor Sheehan, “whether it was through the excitement of being one of the first French restaurants in London, the parties of the 1920s, or the boozy lunches of the 1990s.”

Gary Calton/Alamy; courtesy Le Belmond Cap Juluca/Richard James Taylor
Kettner’s Townhouse in London, today and in 1867.

Le Belmond Cap Juluca
Anguilla, Lesser Antilles

Established 30 years ago as a quasi-Moroccan fantasia for celebrities seeking a quiet hideaway far from the high glamour of St. Barth’s and party-happy St. Maarten/Saint-Martin, the resort became instantly famous for its beach on Maundays Bay, which many say is the most pristine, clear, and beautiful shoreline in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Emphasis remains on total escapism and barefoot luxury, allowing for a continued stream of famous guests like Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, Penelope Cruz, Paris Hilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sheryl Crow, and Jennifer Aniston.

What’s New: The Belmond Group, owners of other historic properties like El Encanto in Santa Barbara and Hotel Splendido in Portofino, purchased the property in 2017, closing for a major refurbishment and sinking $121 million into relocating the pool (which now overlooks the beautiful bay), building a new spa and fitness center, and ramping up the décor while retaining the tropical exoticism of the original design. New drinking and dining options include Cap Shack bar (featuring live music) and CIPs by Cipriani (serving dishes inspired by Belmond’s famed Venetian hotel in a casual setting). At Pimms restaurant, the newly hired British Chef Andy Gaskin (a veteran of Michelin-starred kitchens) is planning a nine-course chef’s table experience.

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