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An award-winning design

An award-winning design

An award-winning design

An award-winning design

An award-winning design

What makes an award-winning hotel design?

Brent Thomas

December 3, 2018

We sat down with the team’s Architectural Designer, Rachel Smith, and asked her how they turned the 106-year-old Stambaugh Building into an award-winning space.


Here’s what she had to say about the project.

Beginning the Project

What were your hopes for this project prior to diving in?


We hoped to maintain the building’s historic integrity and story while giving it a new life at the same time. We wanted to encourage visitors to stay in Youngstown and see all that it has to offer by designing a hotel for them to stay in.


What were your concerns?


We were concerned about all of the unknowns that can arise when renovating an existing 106-year-old building that had sat vacant for years. It was hard to know what to expect once really getting into what needed to be repaired and what could be salvaged.



What was the demolition process like?


The demolition process lasted for approximately six months and the building also had to be abated for asbestos. We were able to uncover some beautiful historic elements that had been covered up over the years.


On the second floor, we found a whole area of beautiful wood trim work that had gotten covered up with drywall in the years prior. We also uncovered more patterned glazing on a lot of the floors behind drywall in the corridors.


On the exterior, we uncovered a beautiful marble base running along the building that complimented the terra cotta façade.


What were your thoughts after the demolition and abatement process was over?


It was an amazing feeling to see all of the non-historical elements taken down and all of the trash cleared out to finally reveal the beautiful building that we knew was underneath all along. We felt excited because it was now time to start construction and officially begin turning Stambaugh into a useful and functioning building once again.


How well was the building holding up after standing tall for over 100 years?


The building held up remarkably well and is ready to last for another 100 years! There were some minor bumps along the road, but the building was structurally sound, which allowed us to press forward with the renovation.


A lot of historical elements still remained after all these years and some of them were even protected by being covered up with carpet or drywall removed during our renovation.



A Building with History

There is a lot of history in this building. How much of that history did you try to maintain/capture in the renovation of the building? How did you do it?


We tried to maintain as much history as possible, and I think we were successful with that. The terrazzo floors were kept and exposed when possible, in conjunction with the requirements for Hilton.


The corridors are the focal historical element on every floor that they remained. No portion of the corridors were demolished, and we even highlighted historical door openings to show where they once were, compared to the new guestroom doors. Each corridor still has all of the original trim, door casings, elevator doors, and a mail chute as well. We also maintained the existing ceiling and ceiling height in the corridors which means no overhead light fixtures. Light fixtures that fit the turn of the century aesthetic were placed on the walls of the corridors.


All of the existing marble wainscoting was repaired, including in the first floor lobby where it stands over a story tall. The lobby ceiling is very ornate and made of plaster. We had this repaired as well.


Every window was replicated to match the existing and painted the original green color that they once were.


The main stairwell is all original and contains a mix of ornate metal, marble, and wood. All of these elements were refurbished or repaired in some way, excluding the metal risers which just needed to be painted.



What kind of challenges did you have when trying to keep the integrity and history of the building while still aligning with Hilton’s DoubleTree brand standards?


It was quite challenging to make sure we followed Hilton’s standards while not compromising any historical integrity. One of the first challenges was coming up with a second stairway for the hotel and making the existing stairway a safe exit in case of a fire. The new stairwell is located within the extents of the building on the first few floors but actually becomes an addition on the upper floors. When adding anything new to a historical building, there are specific parameters that have to be followed in terms of how the new portion compliments the existing façade. For the existing stairwell, we had to build out a small area in the corridors that contains a fire shutter that will activate if the there is a fire in the building.


We also had to run new utilities throughout the building while not compromising the corridor’s existing ceiling. All existing ceiling heights had to be maintained approximately 10 feet away from any window so that played a part in how all of the spaces were laid out.


The existing corridors had patterned glazing above the wainscoting to allow one to see into the offices that were located in the building historically. When turning those offices into guestrooms, we had to remove the glass due to it rattling and shattering with guestroom doors closing. When the glass was replaced, we had to add drywall and carefully select a patterned vinyl wallcovering that paid homage to the glass. The existing stops for the glazing and all of the casing were left intact and meticulously replaced with the drywall and vinyl wallcovering.



The Design Process

What was the biggest inspiration for the new building design?


The building itself was the largest inspiration for the renovation. We wanted to highlight its historic qualities and play off of those with new design elements. The existing windows and lobby ceiling pattern is green, so we used that color a lot throughout the building. There were also existing coffered ceilings which inspired use to use coffered ceilings in the hotel lobby and banquet spaces. The early 1900’s era can be felt still while moving through the hotel in regards to the new and old elements in terms of furniture, light fixtures, and artwork.


How did you go about designing the new guest rooms? What makes them special?


Hilton required different types of guestrooms, so our first challenge was to try to incorporate the correct amount of each guestroom type within the space we were given. We came up with a floor plan that looks very similar on each floor, but is never exactly the same due to existing constraints.


In the end we actually had 47 different room types in the 125 guestroom hotel, so each room is just a little bit different than the next. Additionally, each guestroom has large windows that go to almost the ceiling and draw your attention as soon as you enter the room.


Each guestroom needed a restroom, which created the challenge of needing to add plumbing chases that were not originally there. We had to carefully carve out space in each room to fit the restroom as well as all of the required furniture by Hilton.


The historical corridors contain a marble wainscoting with a glazed portion above that could not remain due to a fear of the glass shattering. The glass was replaced with drywall and a textured neutral wallcovering which allowed privacy in each of the guestrooms from the corridor.


What are some of the additions to the building that stand out in your mind? Why?


There are a few significant additions to the building which are a new stairwell, a fire shutter for the existing stairwell for fire safety, and a 12th floor banquet space. A new stairwell had to be added per the code, and we had to put a fire shutter at the entry on each floor of the existing stairwell. In case of a fire, this will act as a fire and smoke-free zone for occupants exiting the building.


The banquet space on the top floor is stunning as it is surrounded with large arching windows that give a panorama of downtown.


End Results

What was your favorite element of the project?


It’s very difficult to choose just one element, but I think mine might be the public spaces and how they are surrounded by huge historical windows. There are expansive bronze storefronts along the street edges on the first floor that completely open up to the city outside. The hotel lobby on the second floor has windows on every exterior wall that just draw you through the space. The banquet spaces on the 12th floor are surrounded by enormous arched windows that really take you back to the time period of when the building was first built.


What kind of impact does the renovation of this building have on the local community of Youngstown?


Downtown Youngstown has not had a hotel since the 1970s, so this building is really providing something that the city has been lacking. This renovation brings light to the historic character of Youngstown and represents just one example of some of the beautiful architecture that is downtown. It represents the beauty of taking something old and decrepit and turning it into something new and vital to the city around it. In addition to the hotel, the first floor houses four tenant spaces that provide another reason to visit the building, including a hotel restaurant open to the public.


Interested in learning more? Contact us at today to hear more about transforming this historic space into a modernized hotel.