In news that every Houston historian will celebrate, The Lancaster Hotel has reopened its doors. The venerable icon is showcasing not only its history, but its grand reimagining, the result of a massive redesign that took more than a year to complete.
The Shinn family took ownership of the hotel last July and made it a mission to bring the iconic building back to its former glory after it suffered significant damage from Hurricane Harvey. Originally opened in 1926 — and built by legendary Houston architect Joseph Finger — The Lancaster has, for nearly 100 years, been a name synonymous with exceptional service and hospitality in Houston.
“I am thrilled to be able to combine my passion for art and hospitality into this remarkable venue,” says principal partner Jay Shinn, whose collection of more than 200 contemporary works of art by internationally recognized and respected Texas artist will grace The Lancaster’s renovated space. “The broad variety of art in this collection that spans 40 years is meant to be accessible and appreciated by all of our guests. It is intended to make them stop and contemplate a question they might not otherwise ever consider. This is what great art can do if you, as our guest, will take the time for the experience.”
Shinn wants The Lancaster to be known as Houston’s “art hotel.” To that end, public spaces and guest rooms now incorporate his collection of more than 200 contemporary pieces by internationally recognized and respected Texas artists such as Mark Flood, Terrell James, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Aaron Parazette, and Margo Sawyer. In addition, pieces by Donald Judd, Donald Moffett, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Surls, among others, are featured throughout the property.
From its public spaces to its luxe 93 rooms — including nine suites — The Lancaster Hotel has long been an address that promises an exquisite experience for guests. Following the renovation and redesign, the hotel now features a refined, classically elegant interior featuring expansive grey and white marble floors. The internal architecture is defined by a two-story lobby with a magnificent five-foot Murano gold and silver glass chandelier.
A luxe lobby
The lobby is further accented by Italianate columns clad in a 1926-style wainscoting and plasterwork extending the original octagonal columns to the ceiling. Upon entry into the foyer, guests are immediately immersed in a visually stunning experience. Floor to ceiling windows on the first level radiate natural light throughout the lobby.
David Cadwallader of Cadwallader Design is responsible for the revamped interiors. He drew inspiration the classic Regency style. Featuring clean, elegant lines with muted colors of white, grey, cream, and taupe, the interior renovation opens much of the lobby and mezzanine spaces, increasing light and improving the flow, creating a more modern living scenario.
Lovers of Houston history will be glad to know that the modern touches celebrate the hotel’s past, even as they nod to Houston’s new role as a cosmopolitan mecca. First floor windows along Texas and Louisiana streets are enlarged to allow more natural light into the restaurant and lobby spaces, while enhancing the drive-up appeal of the Italianate building, and new al fresco dining adjacent to the newly renamed restaurant, Cultivated F+B.
On the mezzanine level, original window transoms that were hidden have been reopened, providing natural light and views of Louisiana Street’s urban sidewalk traffic. In addition, new, opened ceiling coffers extend the height throughout the mezzanine, erasing traces of the lower 1980s ceiling.
In the restaurant, warm mahogany millwork, a zinc bar-top and ribbed gold glass walls and light fixtures nod to the hotel’s 1926 era inception. The design elements in the restaurant are juxtaposed by the curated art works of Trenton Doyle Hancock, Gael Stack, Tommy Fitzpatrick, and photography by Allison V. Smith.
The restaurant’s reimagined menu serves American dishes including the Deviled Egg Collection, braised short rib tacos, Fernando’s Chilaquiles, and cast iron seared scallops. Director of food and beverage Allan Levine and chef Fernando Huerta have positioned Cultivated F+B as the ideal respite for a meal with friends, a power breakfast, pre-theater dinner, or post-performance nosh and cocktail.
They’ve kept favorites from the former menu such as The Lancaster Bread Pudding, crab cakes, bacon-wrapped stuffed figs, and the crispy pan-seared salmon. The recently added al fresco café seating allows guests to enjoy selections as they’re immersed in the bustle of one of the nation’s largest theater districts.
The Lancaster’s walk-up espresso bar, Speedy Boy Coffee features barista service for guests and downtowners alike, and offers special blends and artisan creations daily.
In the guestrooms, luxe Frette bedding and towels add to The Lancaster’s exquisite experience. Evening turn down service, a nod to the elegance of a past era, is offered every night. The new bath fixtures are by Waterworks and Bulgari amenities line the bathroom counters. There’s a new cardio fitness room, and guests will also have access to a nearby full-service fitness center.
With its stunning blend of the classic and the contemporary, the newly imagined Lancaster Hotel should once again be one of Houston’s must-visit addresses.