Photos courtesy 21c Hotel, Louisville
The penguins change color, but the excitement is the same each time a 21c Museum Hotel comes to town.
Two of the combination art museum/boutique hotels are open, and three more are to come in the next several years, including several in small to midsize cities.
The first 21c, a 90-room property created from five renovated bourbon and tobacco warehouses with red penguins posted along its edges, opened in 2006 in Louisville, Ky. The city is home to 21c founders, husband-and-wife team Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown.
With 9,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the Louisville hotel quickly became one of the most talked about hotels in the country, written about in such wide-ranging publications as the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, the Wall Street Journal and Travel and Leisure. In 2009, the hotel was named the No. 1 hotel in the United States by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.
In late 2012, a second 21c opened in downtown Cincinnati, like its Louisville counterpart an urban rehab. It is larger, with 156 rooms and 8,000 square feet of meeting space. But like the original, it is an overnight accommodation with an edgy art vibe. Its location, across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts and next to the Contemporary Arts Center, fits the hotel’s artistic personality. Its yellow penguins, like the red ones in Louisville, were made by the Italian firm the Cracking Art Group.
The next 21c, in tiny Bentonville, Ark., will open this spring with green penguins — the color chosen from among three choices by 21c Facebook followers in northwest Arkansas.