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Hotel Napoleon Offers Perfect Blend of Historical and Modern

The following article is featured in the 2017 Spring Issue of Memphis Crossroads MagazineClick here to read more from this issue. 

Scimitar_Building_aka_Hotel_Napoleon.jpgHotel Napoleon has brightened Downtown Memphis with its singular look that blends the ultra-modern with 1902-era grandeur. 
“When I first saw the building, I just loved the architecture because it’s so unique compared to what’s in the area,” said Snay Patel who, with his partner Jay Kumar, developed the 58-room boutique hotel at 179 Madison Ave.
When they looked at it, the building had real estate and attorney offices, but the Beaux-Arts and Romanesque Revival building started out in the early 20th century as the home of the Evening Scimitar newspaper. It’s called the Scimitar Building and has also been known as the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Building, and the Winchester Building before its current incarnation. It opened in September after a year of renovation and is a part of the Ascend Hotel Collection of Choice Hotels, a network of boutique hotels.
“We researched to see if we could convert it to a boutique hotel,” Patel said. “Once we got the engineers involved, we were able to take the next step.”
The partners felt it was a sound proposition to create another hotel. Some 10 million people visited the Memphis area last year and there are in excess of 22,300 rooms in more than 240 hotels. “In the last few years the levels have been going up and up,” Patel said, “from about 65 to 70 percent in terms of occupancy.” 
And he thinks the unusual aesthetic blend of the structure, as well as the prime Downtown location, will bring in the guests. 
HN-EDIT_HL7A5517_HDR-Pano-Edit.jpg“We worked with UrbanARCH who helped us put the design together in the lobby,” Patel said. “We wanted something with clean lines and modern — a different approach to what’s in the Memphis area to bring another kind of light.”
It was important, however, to keep significant aspects of the original structure that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
“We worked with architect Chooch Pickard who helped us preserve the historic portions of the building,” Patel said. “We didn’t change the outside except to clean it up and update it. We kept as much as possible inside and worked around them, such as the lobby columns, ceilings, windows and the Tennessee marble in the lobby.”
The amenities go a long way to making the hotel a memorable stay. 
TN729DD05_1.jpgLuna, the hotel’s tapas restaurant and bar offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves wine, local craft beers and signature cocktails. The hotel’s historic character of stately lines blending with LED lighting allows guests access to free Wi-Fi, an executive business center, a fitness center, a free newspaper Monday through Friday and plenty of tech in each room along with smart 50-inch flat-screen Bluetooth-accessible HDTVs.
The innovative Patel-Kumar partnership made it come together, Patel said, “We’ve both been in the hotel industry all our lives.” He said they’ve been working together for a couple of years and have another property on South Main they’re looking to develop. They’ve got other projects in play they hope to put together down the road. 
Hotel-Napoleon-1-(1).jpgWith their entrepreneurial eyes looking to the future, it’s important for the partners to work with the community. That’s why they wanted to join the Greater Memphis Chamber. “The Chamber does a lot of things for the community and we wanted to merge with those who take it in a positive direction. The Chamber is a great source for the hotel industry in terms of tourism and getting the word out. We wanted to be part of the membership.”
Mark Herbison, SVP of Economic Development for the Chamber said that Hotel Napoleon is one example of the over $3 billion worth of development happening right now in Downtown Memphis.
“With recent economic developments like ServiceMaster moving to the Peabody Place and the State of Tennessee providing funding for infrastructure investments in the Pinch District around St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we’re seeing Downtown transform,” he said. “We’re grateful for ventures like Hotel Napoleon who invest in the redevelopment of the current infrastructure and bring new life to the rich history of Memphis.”

Learn more about Hotel Napoleon at

Story by: Jon Sparks
Photos by: Troy Glasgow; Hotel Napoleon

Posted: 5/2/2017 2:44:30 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: MemphisCrossroads

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