21c Museum Hotels Opens in Durham, NC

DURHAM, NC—21c Museum Hotels has opened 21c Durham, its fourth property here.

The hotel is an adaptive reuse of the Hill Building, one of the city’s most iconic structures, originally built in 1937. The property mixes contemporary design with historic Art Deco details and offers 10,500 sq. ft. of contemporary art exhibition space open free of charge to the public, a 125-room boutique hotel and Counting House restaurant.

Contemporary art is at the heart of the 21c experience, according to the company. The company was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who believe in the power of innovative and thought-provoking art to transform communities. 21c Durham presents rotating solo and group exhibitions, site-specific installations and a full roster of cultural programming curated by Museum Director Alice Gray Stites.

The property features seven permanent site-specific installations integrated into a variety of spaces around and within the building. Collectively titled Reflecting Transformation, these works reference nature, technology, economics, politics and entertainment to illuminate the evolution of the past into a future-focused present. Works include Duke Riley’s It Will Warm You Twice, a large-scale mosaic made of cigarettes and mini cigars that references the ubiquitous role that tobacco has played in the development and history of Durham, as well as the decline of its influence. Other artists featured are Andrew Erdos, Astrid Krogh, Ned Kahn, Claire Shegog, FUTURERETRIEVAL (Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis) and Leslie Lyons and JB Wilson.

The property’s inaugural exhibition Pop Stars! (on view through August) is a multimedia exploration of popular culture a decade and a half into the 21st Century featuring more than 100 works by an international group of artists. Featured artists include Sanford Biggers, Wang Du, Nick Cave, Ebony Patterson, Mickalene Thomas, Deitrich Wegner, Robert Wilson, Adriana Duque and José Maria Cano. Docent tours of current exhibitions and site-specific installations are offered free of charge to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:00 pm.

The property’s museum space doubles as meeting and event space. The Main Gallery, located in the old banking hall, offers original wood paneling, terrazzo flooring, velvet drapery and LED globe chandeliers. The Vault, located in the historic bank vault on the lower level, offers lounge seating, a site-specific art commission, and historic vault door and safety deposit boxes.

21c Durham offers a variety of guestroom types featuring original terrazzo flooring and natural light. Art Deco windows and steel accents are married with a simple materials palette in gray tones and copper details. The 21c Suite, a one-bedroom suite occupying the entire 15th floor, features custom designed furniture, a private terrace with a soaking tub, en suite bathroom with standing shower and double vanity sinks, powder room and wet bar.

The property is also home to Counting House, helmed by Executive Chef Josh Munchel. Counting House occupies a space that was originally the Ellis Stone department store. Designed by Deborah Berke Partners, the space features an open kitchen, with a chef’s table nearby. The interior also features a graduated ceiling starting with soaring heights of 23 feet and gradually lowering toward the heart of the restaurant, enhancing the space’s intimate character, according to the company. The restaurant also features site-specific contemporary art installations and rotating exhibitions.

21c Durham is housed in the Hill Building located in the Downtown Durham Historic District. The 17-story building was designed in 1937 by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, architects famous for the Empire State Building. The New York-based architects worked in association with Durham architect George Watts Carr. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hill Building is one of three Art Deco structures built in Durham’s commercial core in the 1930s. The ground floor originally housed both the Ellis Stone Department Store and the Home Savings Bank and Trust Company, while offices occupied the other 16 stories. New York-based architects Deborah Berke Partners, design architect and interior design firm for the project, preserved historic details, such as original green marble walls and the silver leaf ceiling and terrazzo floors in the hotel entrance, throughout the property.