The Press Hotel in Portland, Maine, draws on its history as the former home of a major newspaper and printing press.
PORTLAND, Maine—The Press Hotel has found new success in celebrating its history as the former home of a major newspaper in its home state.
The hotel, which opened in May 2015 as a member of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, is catching attention and earning accolades from travel magazines and guests alike. Sources at the property said that success is because of their desire to share the building’s history and ties to the community with their guests.
The hotel inhabits the former Gannett Building in Portland, Maine, which housed the Portland Press Herald’s offices and printing plant until the newspaper moved to a new location in 2010, GM Michael Strejcek said. The original building dates to 1927 and was expanded between 1940 and 1950. The newspaper printed its editions in that building until the 1950s, when the paper bought the building across the street, he said. A tunnel underneath the street connected the newspaper and its printing press.
When the newspaper relocated, a local developer bought and gutted the building, Strejcek said, with the goal of turning it into commercial office space. In the process, the developer left all of the ceilings and long staircases. The property’s current owner, Jim Brady, bought the building in 2012 and decided to turn it into a boutique luxury hotel using historical preservation tax credits to restore the building, helping to maintain its historical features.
The property itself occupies the entire city block, Strejcek said, and has four entrances. The front entrance has the old woodwork and ceiling with restored and repaired stonework.
Hotel designers played on the building’s history as a newspaper office. The guestrooms and suites have vintage desks, he said, and the walls have quotes from newspaper articles. The former city room is now the Inkwell Bar, and the meetings rooms have journalism-themed names.
“They opened a two-story wall for a typewriter installation, a signature of the hotel,” Strejcek said.
There’s also a Toledo scale dating back to the 1930s that the newspaper used to pay for newsprint by the pound, he said.
“It was not in the greatest shape, but a local guy fixed it and put it in shape,” he said. “It’s now the centerpiece of the fitness center. It’s off by a couple of pounds but it’s otherwise pretty cool.”
Ties with the community
The hotel has many visitors from the newspaper who want to see what became of their old office, Strejcek said. They recognize many of the old features, such as the bannister and entrance, he added.
“The relationship with the newspaper and owner is very strong,” he said. “So many former employees are stopping by just to reminisce on years spent here. There’s been really great feedback from the local community and newspaper on how it was preserved.”
The hotel’s restaurant, Union, features locally enhanced cuisine and deliberately has a different vibe from the hotel, Strejcek said. The restaurant is more focused on being local and open to the community, serving food, craft beers and cocktails, he said.
The hotel also has an art gallery in its lower level, he said, that features a rotating selection of work by local artists. The Maine College of Art, a local art school, is responsible for the typewriter installation on the wall.
The property has reached the top spot on TripAdvisor since opening a year and a half ago, Strejcek said. The whole market has seen a lift in average daily rate following the opening, he added.
“I think it attracts additional clientele,” he said. “It’s one of a kind. Some clients would go to different markets and would not come here outside of the Press not being here.”
Portland is a seasonal market, Strejcek said, with leisure guests making up most of the demographic from early June through mid-October and corporate business for the remainder of the year. Occupancy has been mostly steady throughout the year with peak levels in the summer, he said.
The city is one of the best foodie destinations, he said, and there’s an active art scene. There is so much to do within the old neighborhood around the hotel, and it’s easy to navigate. Also, being in New England means this area is popular for those looking to watch the leaves change in autumn, he said.