History is alive with the sound of music at the Madison Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. While the hotel is only 12 years old, the building has been around for over a century, and it has aged well. As you travel from top to bottom through the former Tennessee Trust Building, you travel through time from 1905 to today. But first, the music.
Don’t let the original structure of this old bank fool you—while the outside of the gray building is old-fashioned, the hotel is anything but. I first realized that when I went to open the lobby doors, and grabbed a golden eighth note serving as a handle. The subtle musical touches continue throughout the property. The lobby, still sleek, is fitted with full-scale travel-sized Traveler Guitars and a Wurlitzer baby grand piano for guests who want to start a jam session while waiting to check in. If you are more of an observer, you’ll love the music-inspired wall hangings like a collage made of old horns. As you make your way to the elevator bank, look up to read the names of some of your favorite rock ‘n rollers subtly inscribed overhead.
Riding up to your room, you can forget about corny elevator music. This is Memphis, after all—home to Elvis, the blues and Beale Street. The back wall of each elevator is covered in iconic album covers, from The Beatles to Justin Timberlake. You’ll be so busy discovering new tunes, you’ll miss your floor.
The Madison Hotel considers itself “boutique,” though it has 110 rooms. Each room has unique quirks like 1970s-esque wallpaper or plush dark purple headboards. If you’re an aspiring musician or air guitar aficionado, stay in one of the ten deluxe rooms that come equipped with a Traveler Guitar. Throw on the headphones (so you don’t drive the neighbors crazy) and strum the night away as you take in the room’s city or Mississippi river views (if you have a river view room, you can see Arkansas from your window!) If you book the Ultimate RockStar package you can take the guitar home with you.
Now, let’s discuss some history. The building was erected as a bank, which shut down—as banks tend to do—and the hotel took over in 2002. As you make your way from bottom to top, you will travel through the building’s history. Start in the basement and hit the gym, where even the most anti-fitness folks will be impressed. The gym stands out not because it’s filled with tons of fancy equipment (which it is) but because of the original vault they decided to leave intact when designing the hotel. The dimly lit and gothic space features 100-year-old steel walls with original nuts and bolts and exposed piping. Make your way back to present day by heading up to the roof. The recently rebranded Twilight Sky Terrace (pictured at top) sits 17 stories above Memphis’ main street and the Mississippi river. It’s the icing on a 17-layer cake of rich and distinctive flavors.
Maggie Parker is the assistant travel editor at Paste Magazine.