Baltimore’s newest hotel hotspot, Ulysses, is something between a jewelry box and an explosives box. The 112-room luxury hotel, located in a 1912 building in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, is the handiwork of New York hotelier and design studio Ash, a firm whose hospitality projects have become synonymous with a sense of warmth and history.
Odysseus is no different.
“I spent a lot of time in Baltimore alone,” says Ash’s creative director Will Cooper, who has developed and designed hotels in New Orleans, Detroit and Providence, Rhode Island. “There is an undercurrent of different cultures, food, layers of community and so many interesting neighborhoods. It felt like the right time to contribute to the city.”
Ulises, the Roman name for Odysseus, might evoke ancient travel as much as modernist literature, but it’s also a subtle homage to Baltimore. The hotel takes its name from the ship that brought Bavarian immigrants to the city in 1838. It then followed that Ash made reference to seagoing ships (especially the SS). Normandy and SS Île de France) in design, from flashes of Art Deco decor to low, womb-like ceilings.
Each guest room, whether a small twin room or a large suite, feels perfectly in keeping with what the building’s first residents (formerly known as Latrobe) might have bought for themselves when it was completed at the turn of the century 20th (claw-foot tubs are exposed, and most rooms have four-poster beds). But formality doesn’t preclude fun touches like candy dishes filled with peanut M&Ms, a fresh copy of the paper, peonies carefully arranged in pewter cups, and everything from premium olives to fancy Amarena cherries on hand at mini-bar. .
The drama continues under a loose theme of heaven and hell in the battle between Blooms, the hotel’s fiery cocktail lounge, and Ash Bar, the sandstone-clad restaurant just off the low-key reception. The flowers flow with theatrical detail straight out of a John Waters film, from the heavy beaded drapes that Cooper sourced from India to the vaguely Victorian booths draped in red velvet to the mirrored walls and ceilings that tempt you to you celebrate self-obsessed.
Ash Bar is more like a 1920s cruise on the Nile, with the menu perfectly suspended somewhere between comforting and experimental. “I approach design like a director in a mini-movie,” says Cooper. “The staff are characters, the guests are characters… you have to get into the movie and play!”
There is just as much to see outside. Ulysses is located a few blocks from the Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and the Charles Club—a favorite haunt of the Pope of Trash himself. The 178-foot-tall George Washington Monument is a five-minute walk away and, for the brave, offers a view of the city in every direction. With rates starting at $169, the hotel is also affordable for most, with a welcoming staff that reflects the diverse population around it.
“A good hotel should be the core of its neighborhood,” reflects Ash co-founder and CEO Ari Heckman. “An embassy where foreigners meet locals, where cultural, commercial and romantic exchanges take place in public and behind closed doors.”
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