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Civic Flair, Brotherly Love

Located in the iconic City Hall Annex in downtown Philadelphia, the repositioned landmark, The Notary Hotel, Autograph Collection, has all of the amenities of a luxury brand while maintaining the nuances of a boutique hotel. Where the historic location had previously been underutilized, the new hotel will cater to the upscale guest, providing a best-in-class luxury experience through design elements that capture a contemporary aesthetic while highlighting elements connected to Philadelphia’s rich history.

“Just like the namesake—the notary, who serves as an impartial witness in all civil duties—the building has been the silent witness to countless notable moments over the years—if only the walls could talk,” said Carla Neimann, SVP of architecture and design, Premier Project Management.

“This is a hotel—and brand—that’s a homage to history, but not to pretension,” she added. “It’s a careful alchemy of elegance and grandeur, mixed with just the right blend of fresh and fun. In the City of Brotherly Love, The Notary celebrates service, and delivers it with romance and style. The guest experience abounds with little touches that make guests feel at home, while promising a luxurious hospitality experience rich with notable moments.”

Inspired by the building’s legacy of civil service, the design team celebrated civic flair through the unique furniture and historic artifacts.

“Our primary goal was to rebrand the hotel by highlighting clean, contemporary lines and materials while simultaneously capturing warmth and nostalgia through the addition of wood grains, ‘collected’ artifacts and intimate lighting levels. By incorporating pieces with an air of formality, The Notary’s high-end materials reiterate the timeless, luxury experience of the Autograph brand,” Neimann explained.

Capturing the Autograph brand’s four pillars of ‘Vision, Unique Design, Mark of Craft and Sense of Place’, Premier Project Management’s design celebrates The Notary in locally relevant and elevated ways, creating the perfect welcome into the portfolio of independent Autograph properties.

“In terms of design challenges, one of our biggest priorities was to balance the dichotomy of old and new, keeping the integrity of the original building while infusing modern touches,” Neimann said.

For example, the hotel lobby’s new marble floors and millwork were seamlessly integrated to accentuate the integrity of the building—a design feature also highlighted by fluted glass details that are a nod to the original building’s 1926 construction. “The existing cast plaster ceiling was retained along with the structure’s original stone walls,” she added.

According to Neimann, the art collection throughout The Notary was curated to accentuate the narrative of the historic building.

“The original bronze revolving door vestibule was left intact, but transformed into an enclosed capsule, housing a custom neon sculpture that celebrates the ‘City of Brotherly Love,'” she said.  “This sculpture is a nod to the history of neon—a material that has made a comeback since the height of its popularity from c.1920-1960. During its height, neon signs dominated downtown areas in all major cities in the USA.”

She continued, “References to the 1920s are abound, nodding to the building’s history as a government facility for over 70 years; sourcing men’s hats from this era, the design team bronzed these objects to create art pieces that sit on pedestals at the entrance. The registration desk has individual mounted name plates, reminiscent of those found in early 20th century post offices. A custom display case shows off vintage 1920s typewriters, and custom hand-tufted area rugs provide warmth through pattern.”