The historic Blackstone Hotel, which debuted back in 1915, became known as the premier stop-off between San Francisco and Chicago, and it remained one of the country’s most successful small hotels through the 1970s. It also has an impressive presidential history, making it an ideal post-inauguration day destination. In 1952, President Eisenhower watched his nomination for president in the Suite of Presidents and in 1962, President John F. Kennedy first learned of the Cuban Missile Crisis in this same room at the Blackstone. President Ronald Regan and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also visited the hotel, as did celebrities like Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart.
"The all-Omaha development and ownership team was honored to be given the opportunity to bring back this important piece of our local history," said developer Thomas McLeay. "The team worked with local, state, and national preservation agencies to carefully preserve the historic details of the Cottonwood Hotel while simultaneously updating the hotel with state of the art modern technology and amenities. We believe the final product is the perfect mix of old and new that showcases the best of Omaha’s rich history and its bright future."
The building was declared an Omaha Landmark in 1983 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Which made its restoration and renovation a delicate and complicated process. But design firms LEO A DALY and DLR Group did a meticulous job, unveiling a new look that incorporates and honors the hotel’s storied history.
Hand-carved terra cotta columns, a show-stopping marble staircase, original tile, and hardwood flooring, and all of the hotel’s 800-plus windows have been carefully restored. They are juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings and amenities. The historic top-floor Schimmel Ballroom features stunning curved ceilings with intricate carvings complemented by modern chandeliers and plenty of windows. At the same time, the lobby library is a cozy place to rest, especially in front of the ornate fireplace.
The hotel, which added a new wing, has 205 rooms, including 31 suites across eight stories. Rooms feature a warm color palette and classic European Revival details, with some sporting claw foot tubs in the black-and-white-tiled bathroom. Notably, there is a brand new resort-style outdoor swimming pool, complete with cabanas and a pool bar, a first for Omaha. Additionally, there is a solarium and rooftop terrace.
Local art is also on display, with the hotel’s art collection produced entirely by Nebraskan artists. Omaha-born fiber and textile artist Celeste Butler created a dynamic quilt display that incorporates materials from the original Blackstone Hotel, one of five property-specific commissions.
Food is also a highlight here, and rightfully so. The Blackstone is said to be where the Reuben sandwich was invented (at a weekly poker game held by the hotel’s then-owner, Charles Schimmel, from 1920 to 1935), in addition to Butter Brickle ice cream, an iconic Midwest flavor.
The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel now has a classic steakhouse called Committee Chophouse, a French-inspired bistro, Orleans Room, and its café counterpart, Petit Orleans, as well as the Cottonwood Room, a speakeasy-style bar on the lower level, featuring a stunning circular bar surrounding a lifelike yet faux cottonwood tree sprouting from the center. And, of course, the Reuben sandwich is on the menu. The hotel is also teaming up with local purveyors for items like the Cottonwood Pilsner by Omaha’s Scriptown Brewery, and the Cottonwood blend of small-batch coffee, by Archetype Coffee.
To celebrate the opening, the hotel is offering the “Eat. Stay. Love” package, with rates starting at $159 per night, which includes a $50 food and beverage credit and complimentary parking for stays booked by Dec. 31, 2020, and used by March 31, 2021. Book rooms here.