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For proof that the British are big on preserving their history, one needn't look further than the new St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, now in its soft opening in London's Kings Cross neighborhood. The Victorian Gothic building, first opened in 1873, served as both a railway station and the Midland Hotel for decades and was saved from demolition thanks to a campaign led by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in the 1960s. Its glory faded when it became an office space, but over the past ten years, the red-brick structure has undergone a staggering $200 million renovation and reopened—with a blessing from the Queen, no less—as a new Eurostar terminal and a 245-room hotel that bridges the gap between present-day luxury and historical authenticity. Thirty-eight of the rooms are in the heritage part of the building, and another 207 are located in a new addition called the Barlow House, as the addition is called. The hotel's public spaces seem from another era, with grand staircases, 50-foot windows, gold-leaf vaulted ceilings, mural-covered walls and the Ladies Smoking Room, the first space in Europe where it was acceptable for women to smoke. The original Booking Room has been converted into a bar and restaurant, while the spirit of other olden-day institutions, namely the barbershop and members-only club, has been preserved. The official opening date will be May 5, exactly 138 years to the day the hotel first debuted. Rooms start at $485; Euston Road; 44-207/841-3540;

Photo Courtesy St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel


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