The first time I visited Portland, Maine two years ago, the old Press Herald building appeared to be an abandoned building, sitting sad, lonely and retired at the corner of Federal and Exchange Street. Just a year later on my next visit to this vibrant city, the beautiful old building had experienced a restoration and resurgence like no other, making it perfect for my first Hipstorical hotel.
I love meeting other people who share my passion for historical preservation and restoration, so I was incredibly excited for Jim Brady, owner and developer of The Press Hotel, to give me a tour of the hotel and point out all of its lovingly restored details. I loved seeing the passion and excitement in him as he took me on my tour.
The Press Hotel was built in 1923 and was home to the Portland Press Herald, the state’s largest newspaper, until 2010 when it moved down the street to its current location. Jim Brady returned to Portland in 2011 after spending some time abroad and found that the building was vacant. Construction started in 2013, and the hotel opened in May of 2015.
From the moment you step through the front door of the hotel, you can tell that so much thought went into not only the preservation and restoration, but also the design. Portland has a rich artistic and creative community, and Jim shared with me how it was important to him to take advantage of that by featuring art by local students and artists throughout the hotel. Jim saw an opportunity to create a high-end, boutique experience for travelers that didn’t exist yet in Portland. It was important for him to create a space that reflected the culture and feel of Portland for visitors.
My absolute favorite art installation in The Press Hotel, and what drew me in as soon as I stepped in the lobby, was a piece called “SWARM.” The installation features a collection of vintage typewriters affixed to a wall in a circular formation, designed by artists at the nearby Maine College of Art (MECA) to represent the chaos of a newsroom. You can also find an installation using the vintage typewriters’ cases near the front desk.
Jim did his best to preserve as many historical aspects of the building as he could, including the original marble and stairs in the entryway and the staircase to the left of the front desk. The window in the entryway is framed by letter press-inspired boxes—a nod to its printing press roots.
In the lobby, Jim and his design team chose an ink blue and orange theme, giving it a retro vibe. Chairs, tables, and textiles were designed by local artists and craftsmen like Angela Adams and Nelson Metal Fabrication. These tables (above) feature stories from different decades of the Portland Press Herald.
Behind the front desk, the newspaper theme continues with a letterpress art installation featuring letters of all sizes, fonts, and colors. (Insider detail: the orange letters spell “resurgam,” which means “to rise again” in Latin—Portland’s motto.)
The letterpress work can also be found on the hotel directional signs throughout the hotel’s hallways, pointing to rooms and meeting spaces in the hotel with names like “The Newsroom,” that reflect the hotel’s history.
The hallways’ wallpaper features actual headlines from the newspaper throughout history, and tumbling typewriter keys cover the carpet.
My day started with breakfast at UNION, the hotel’s restaurant. The quiche and a carrot smoothie were a perfect start to my day, and I loved how they used newspaper clippings as a dining accessory.
The tasteful design aesthetic continues in The Press Hotel’s guestrooms.
My favorite details were the long writer’s desk, the leather chair with “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” printed on the back.
I was in love with The Press Hotel’s logo and all of the quotes featured on the “do not disturb” sign and other signs throughout the guest rooms and in the lobby.
I even loved the luxurious, lavender boutique C.O. Bigelow bath products in the bathroom. It’s thoughtful details like these that really make a difference in a guest experience.
Guests can rent the penthouse suite with private access to a rooftop deck. And your very own vintage typewriter.
The lower level of the hotel once housed the printing presses. Jim and his team wanted to make the best use of the high ceilings and art-gallery feel by creating an art gallery that is open to the public and features works from local artists.
Another great detail in the lower level is the preserved scale located in the hotel’s gym. It once measured paper before it went to press.
My stay at The Press Hotel was one I won’t soon forget. There were so many thoughtful details that went into the design and restoration of the hotel that I felt like Jim and his team not only truly cared about history and the building, but also about me as a guest. Whether you’re a Portland local or a visitor to the area, a stay at The Press Hotel is a must!
Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Maine? Email me and help me build my archives!