Rich History-The Marquette Hotel looks to the past for its modern aesthetic

After a $25-million renovation, including 282 updated guestrooms and suites as well as a new lobby, food and beverage outlets and public spaces, Minneapolis’ The Marquette Hotel is now part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, the first Curio Collection hotel in Minnesota. The hotel is part of the city’s storied history, built on Marquette Ave., named for the renowned 19th-century French explorer and missionary, Jacques Marquette, who voyaged down the Mississippi River in 1673.

Mark Zeff, founder of MarkZeff Designs, was tapped to modernize and refresh the space while keeping in mind the city’s rich history and the man for which the hotel is named. Marquette’s contributions had a significant impact on the city and serve as a main focus for much of the decor and design. “I made his influence evident in details like an image of the river he mapped on the wall of Jacques, the bar and restaurant I redesigned and rebranded for the hotel,” Zeff said.

Incorporating historical elements into a redesign project can present some challenges, however. Maintaining the integrity of a building and staying true to its traditions, while including fresh interiors, is no easy feat when transforming a space. Zeff explained, “It’s challenging to get the blend of history and innovation just right, so that the space feels new, but doesn’t lose the beloved character that it has built up over the years. This inspired us to elevate the presence of the past with a 21st-century sophistication.”

Zeff was able to incorporate the two creatively, however, to form a warm, inviting space that also told a story. More specifically, guests can enjoy modern furnishings and decor while taking in large-scale portraits of Marquette hanging on the walls beside them.

The reinvented design and emphasis on the city’s history also makes its way into the guestrooms. Framed historic photographs and maps of the city cover the walls, even some painted on twill wallpaper, showcasing the Mississippi River and Minneapolis milling district.

This blend of old and new pays homage to Marquette’s contributions and even parallels his efforts to bridge the gap between cultures through regional discovery.  Zeff noted, “Marquette influenced the city by charting and cataloguing the area for future generations. I also admired the explorer’s drive to become proficient in the indigenous languages of the tribes he met in order to bridge the gap between his culture and theirs, and hoped to bridge the past and present in my own design.”

Zeff also acknowledges that because The Marquette is now a part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, having multiple perspectives on the design is important. “Being the first upscale Curio Collection hotel in the state, we had to meet the standards of both the iconic Marquette name and Curio Collection’s excellence in the industry. Intertwining the past with the present while using my signature clean, sophisticated touch, was a different approach that led to a lot of thought put into every detail of the full renovation, from soft touches of wood and marble in the guestrooms to ambient lighting and cozy seating in the lobby to create relaxing, chic surroundings,” Zeff said.

Guests are encouraged to dive in deeper into the history of the city. The Marquette offers “Explore Concierge Services,” which provides tailored outings to give travelers a taste of Minneapolis history and culture. The outings include personalized shopping services, recreational experiences, distilling trips and more.

In a place that prides itself on tradition and history, it was important for the designer to not only create a captivating design, but one that accurately honored the city. “Being able to work with and transform a building with such prestige is always an honor,” Zeff said. “The most rewarding part is seeing the results of our renovation: an effortless marriage of the city’s history and heritage with thoughtful, contemporary interiors.” HB