21C- The Counting House Restaurant and Bar
21C- Vault Lounge
Crafted cocktails...oh yeah!
The Durham Hotel and Rooftop Bar
The Durham Hotel and Restaurant
On the way to a vibrant downtown scene, Durham will soon be the hub to multiple independent hotels. Our jaunt to the Bull City included the discovery of two different but surprisingly complementary concepts: The 21C and The Durham.
The 21C hotel, 111 N. Corcoran St., brings art to the forefront, literally by merging art gallery and hotel. The museum - hotel is the third iteration of the 21c brand and has taken on the task of bringing unexpected high quality contemporary art into public light with seven site specific and various rotating exhibitions.
The 125 room renovated Art Deco building was originally the bank and department store of John Sprunt Hill designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates (of Empire State Building fame). The recent designers at Deborah Berke used architectural restraint in the elevator lobby leaving green marble walls, silver leafed ceilings and terrazzo floors in place while playing on the unpredictable quality of the art itself in the design of the mezzanine level toilets. The design team grouped transparent toilet rooms as if on exhibit. With a flick of a switch the glass panels become obscure to the bystander.
We meandered through the art exhibit and ventured down to the basement level which was once the bank and department store vault, now a unique lounge. After having a perfectly crafted cocktail at the bar we headed over to the Counting House Restaurant for delightful meal.
A second bank building, the former Home Savings Bank re-purposed as The Durham, swings to a different vibe. The Durham, a whimsical mid-century modern hotel, 315 East Chapel Hill Street, by the 315 Hotel Group and the design team at Commune makes me itchy for a dirty martini and a skinny tie. A 54-room full service hotel with a snazzy hotel rooftop bar that provide dramatic views of the city to go along with a cool scene of its own will include music, cocktails and movies (in homage to the old Center Theater formerly of the site?).
It that's not enough the mod vibe has enticed Andrea Reusing, the James Beard award winning chef of Chapel Hill's Lantern to set up shop in the 1960 style two story steel and glass curtain-wall lobby space.
Downtown Durham supporters including the Durham City Council have made the commitment to improving the city core but more importantly making good design an integral component of recreating Durham's downtown as an art and cultural destination. Both hotels were provided extensive incentives.
Intuitively you feel a sense of excitement; you order a martini and before the ice melts you realize that you have discovered a fresh new scene ...design matters. --PF