May 11, 2012 at 2:29 PM ET
Travelers looking forward to a little luxury in the coming months may want to look backward instead. From Boston to Beverly Hills, iconic hotels are celebrating their 100th anniversaries with historic tours, special events and package deals.
“The years between 1897 and 1912 represented a golden age of outrageous luxury hotels,” said Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico and the author of “Hotel: An American History.”
In fact, 1912 can be considered something of a watershed year. “It’s not just what came before; it’s what came after,” said Sandoval-Strausz. “The income tax was imposed in 1913 by the 16th amendment. Before that, rich folks just had a colossal amount of untaxed income and there had been a burst in hotel building to accommodate them.”
Alas, those days are long gone — heck, for most us, they never existed — but it’s still possible to get a taste of the good life at hotels that recall that golden age. For history buffs and well-heeled travelers, here are three hotels celebrating 100 years of luxurious lodging:
The Beverly Hills Hotel
Before there was a city of Beverly Hills, there was The Beverly Hills Hotel, which opened its doors on May 12, 1912. Ever since, the famous “Pink Palace” has served as a swanky second home for celebrities and Hollywood stars from Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Travelers interested in reliving that rich history can sip vintage cocktails in the Polo Lounge — try the Rebel, inspired by Dietrich, or the Norma Jean, named for Monroe — or book the Centennial Celebration package, which includes accommodations, breakfast for two, two vintage cocktails, a 100-year keepsake candle and box of chocolate truffles. Prices start at $660, which, needless to say, is a wee bit more than the $12 a single room cost in 1912.
The Fairmont Copley Plaza
1912 was a big year in Boston with the opening of Fenway Park, the Franklin Park Zoo and, on August 19, the Copley Plaza. Designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the Plaza Hotel in New York, the Beaux-Arts landmark offered rooms for just $3.50 per night.
A century later, the hotel is now wrapping up a $20 million renovation and celebrating its centennial with 100 days of events, activities and package deals. The Celebration of a Century package, for example, starts at $100 per person and includes lodging for two, a private hotel history tour and history booklet.
And speaking of special celebrations, the hotel is offering an even better deal to any guest who stayed at the hotel on their honeymoon. Bring your original bill and they’ll charge you the same rate you paid on that happy occasion.
Known as the “Grande Dame of Sherbrooke Street,” the Ritz-Carlton Montreal was not only the finest hotel in the city when it opened on December 31, 1912, but also the first in the world to bear the Ritz-Carlton name, in honor of legendary hotelier Cesar Ritz, who helped establish it.
Alas, Montreal-bound travelers will have to wait to experience it as the hotel closed in 2008 to undertake a $150-million renovation that will showcase redesigned rooms, private residences, a Tiffany store and restaurant by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. A reopening date hasn’t been announced, although the hotel is accepting reservations for arrivals from June 1 and beyond.
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.