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Hospitality's Big Brands Put a Modern Twist on Historic Properties Many hotel chains have started acquiring properties--many in retrofitted historic buildings--that have personalities all their own.

By Bruce Schoenfeld

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Among the lasting cultural innovations this country has created, the chain hotel ranks up there with the personal computer and the hot dog.

When U.S. businessmen took to the road en masse after World War II, deciding where to sleep was a perilous undertaking. As the sun set, they'd pull off the highway and into the lot of an anonymous motel. It may have been clean or squalid, secure or unsafe. With no recognizable name, let alone a TripAdvisor rating, who could say?

Chains such as Holiday Inn gave us the security of knowing exactly what we were getting, right down to the regulation-issue slab of soap. But we're way past that now. As a modern business traveler, I'm bored with sameness. I can navigate a Residence Inn room with my eyes closed and recite the Westin breakfast menu from memory. So I'm always looking for a hotel that looks and feels like nowhere else. At the same time, I'm loath to surrender the perks I've earned from frequent-stay programs--suite upgrades, free internet, points toward a future vacation--and the reassurance I feel from seeing a familiar name on the sign.