Once upon a time our banks were serious, ornately decorated places resembling theatres or palaces. With transactions now largely conducted electronically, many of these stately old financial institutions have been left standing empty. Rather than see them shrouded in dusty abandonment or razed to oblivion, hoteliers around Europe and North America are turning the once heavily guarded buildings into glamorous digs. One can now swim laps inside basement vaults where cash and valuables were once stowed, or have a tipple in a lobby where bank customers waited to deposit their savings.
Vienna’s Park Hyatt occupies the headquarters of the former Bank Austria Creditanstalt. Walk through an armoured door in the basement to enter the bank’s original vault. Here, take a dip in a 15m-long indoor swimming pool (above) that features gold-painted tiles. There’s also a basement pool, cut into the vaults of the old Dresdner Bank, in Berlin’s Art Deco-style Hotel de Rome. Swim 20m laps over mosaic tiles flecked in gold, past the original vault door that was too heavy to be removed.
In its previous life, The Langham hotel in Boston was the Federal Reserve Bank, as you can guess from the seal on the floor of its former lobby. Sit around this seal (above) at the BOND restaurant and savour modern American cuisine. Meanwhile at Whitney Hotel’s Bistreaux at the Bank restaurant in New Orleans, you can have a private party in a former vault. Admire its original features like brass and crown mouldings as you dine on Creole cuisine.
The Baroque Boscolo Prague hotel has built its cigar bar in the strong room of the former Czech Mortgage Bank. Sink into plush sofas and enjoy the precious cigars, cognacs and liqueurs stored in metal safes that line the room. In Montreal, customers once deposited their gold in the basement of what is now the Hotel Le St-James. Today, the area is a spa (above) that offers pampering Swedish massages and facial treatments.
This story first appeared in SilverKris
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