WHEN one thinks of hotels, what would usually come into mind are horizontal structures. However, there is one hotel that deviates from the norm – Henry Hotel.

Henry "Hanky" Lee, the owner and founder of Henry Hotels, got the idea of going into the hotel business after starting the Yellow Cab pizza chain with two other partners.

"I traveled from Baguio to Davao, and so on. And for me, it got kind of frustrating because the different hotels that I stayed in were not up to standard—my standard. And during that time with Yellow Cab, I was lucky enough to travel abroad. Those travels abroad also broadened again my perspective of what a hotel should be. What I should expect from a hotel."

The main building of The Henry Hotel Manila, which is a former mansion converted into a combination hotel, restaurant and office.
The main building of The Henry Hotel Manila, which is a former mansion converted into a combination hotel, restaurant and office.

After opening the first Henry Hotel in Cebu, he set his sights in Manila. He was looking for the studio of interior designer Eric Paras who happens to live in the compound where Henry Hotel Manila would be built along F.B. Harrison Street in Pasay City.

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What makes this hotel unique is that this used to be a post-war residential compound built in 1948. The different houses were rented out to an interesting individuals and companies. The main house was rented out to a salvage company who discovered the Galleon San Diego in Batangas. Another house was lived in by a museum curator. Another house was used as an office by a trading company.

After reaching sealing the deal with the owners, it was converted into a hotel in 2014 rather than demolishing it and putting up a new building in its place When one enters the compound, you get a feeling of being transported back in time by looking at the exterior alone.

On explaining the reason to retain the original structures, Lee said, "One of our brand pillars is Sense of Place. It is those houses that give character and soul to the place. Something unique. Something Like No Other."

The hotel area covers not only the white mansion, but also the adjoining cottages (five Liberation-style houses to be exact). Each house is designed with Scala grilles inspired by the Art Deco style and Baldoza tiles common during the 1940s, giving guests the design pulse of the era. The architects contracted were FY Chung and William Gan while Paras was the interior designer.

The mansion is the hotel's center but also houses the restaurant and bar (Apartment 1B), which was originally the dining room of the old house. Each of the rooms were converted to suites. With the desire to maintain the vintage vibe of the hotel, they furnished the rooms with repurposed cabinets and Ambassador chairs, all reminiscent of the design and furnishings of houses of the 1940s.

The Owner's Suite is considered as the best room in the main building, which has all the special amenities such as the ante-room with a designer couch, vintage patio set, and balcony with a stunning view of the garden and pool. There is a walkway that connects the main building to the four cottages.

The cottages were converted into suites, which are located on the ground floor of each house. They feature a separate living area and bedroom. Each interior combines vintage design and contemporary fixtures such an LCD television and modern-style furniture, which gives the semblance of a typical home rather than a hotel.

The bathroom fixtures in each room has an old-style standalone bathtub with lion's paw feet. The shower area is designed in a style common in the early 20th century, which feature white subway tiles on the walls and white hexagonal styles on the floor.

The bedroom area of one of the suites in The Henry Hotel Manila. These suites were originally cottages built in the post-Liberation style. PHOTO FROM THE HENRY HOTEL WEBSITE.
The bedroom area of one of the suites in The Henry Hotel Manila. These suites were originally cottages built in the post-Liberation style. PHOTO FROM THE HENRY HOTEL WEBSITE.

The floors of the bedrooms in the cottages use original hardwood that is polished to give off a high glossy finish.

But the aesthetics do not stop here. It extends outside. The garden area is designed by Ildefonso P. Santos, National Artist for Landscape Architecture. The garden boasts of a plant palette of post-war favorites such as Palmera, Santan, Lantana, and Champaca. The garden serves as the hotel's outdoor event venue for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations.

Henry Hotel Manila lives up to its motto, "Like no other." They dared to be different from other hotels and succeeded. What gives the hotel its appeal is it exudes a rather old world flavor with a blend of modernism while the surrounding area continually evolves as time marches on.