The newly renovated Latham Hotel in central Philadelphia offers a color scheme that will be familiar to frequent guest at boutique hotels. (Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Wow, some apartment, I thought, looking around my posh room at Philadelphia’s Latham Hotel.

Of course, back when the building opened to residents in 1907, it was without the sleek modern furniture or the steely yet soothing color palette of 2012. But I could see the good bones — high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, city views — beneath all the contemporary accouterments.

For 50 years or so, the rentals in this downtown building housed the city’s elite, until investors converted it to a hotel in the 1970s.

Despite its historic pedigree, you don’t get the feeling of a lodging stuck in time. When I arrived in early April, the hotel was in the final stages of a renovation, which included a complete overhaul of the nearly 140 rooms, the lobby and the restaurant.

The decor, with its muted grays and yellows enlivened by pops of color, will be familiar to anyone who has stayed at one of the many places that call themselves “boutique” hotels. I liked it anyway.

Someone had evidently put a lot of thought into making the rooms comfortable and functional. There were enough sources of electrical light to turn night into day once the sun set. I particularly appreciated the two lamps attached to the headboard, perfect for bedtime reading. The two armchairs in front of the bay window were a nice touch, too.

Other traveler-friendly amenities: a safe, two free (!) bottles of water, a Keurig coffee maker and a mini-fridge, blessedly empty of overpriced snacks. An almost comical abundance of pillows adorned the bed (six regular, plus one of the cylindrical variety). A bit head-scratching, though, was the shiny bathroom ceiling that you could see your reflection in. . . . Best not to think about it, really.

The restaurant was closed for the renovation (it’s open now), so the hotel put out a selection of complimentary juice and coffee in the morning. I grabbed a bottle of orange juice to tide me over on my walk to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast.

Location is another built-in amenity for the Latham. It’s only about a block from Rittenhouse Square, where you’re likely to find rooms at other hotels for at least $100 more per night. The landmark City Hall building is nearby, and you can either walk the dozen blocks to Independence Hall or catch a quick subway ride to it. It’s just as easy to get to the sports stadiums on the city’s south side and Museum Mile to the northwest via public transportation.

The hotel staff is friendly, including the bellman who stored my bag while I spent most of my second day in town playing tourist. Before catching a bus back to Washington, I went back to get my backpack. The lobby was bright and pristine and stylish — a tony place to call home, if only for a night. But the first residents could probably have told me that.


Latham Hotel

135 S. 17th St.



Rooms from $229