Heights House Hotel a luxury boutique hotel gem in Raleigh, North Carolina

by Sep 20, 2022North Carolina

Heights-House-Raleigh-Boylan-Heights

A former Civil War-era mansion has been recast as the Heights House Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood overlooking downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.


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The Heights House Hotel in Raleigh, North Carolina, sits grandly behind an iron fence surrounded by lawn and giant shade trees in the historic Boylan Heights district of Raleigh, North Carolina. A boutique luxury hotel open since May 2021, Heights House is a lodging for those interested in history, a little luxury, and a walkable location from Raleigh’s downtown while still in a quiet neighborhood.

Behind the grand façade and through the elegant circular foyer, the Heights House came to life in the Italianate-style, 10,000-square-foot mansion built in 1858 by William Montfort Boylan –now a National Historic Landmark. Over the years, it has seen various owners, and at one point even served as a church – the Boylan Heights Baptist Church. But by the 2000s, even though it was a historic landmark and one of only a few remaining pre-Civil War-era houses in Raleigh, the former Montfort Hall was neglected and had fallen into disrepair.

Heights-House-Luxury-Hotel-Foyer

Enter Sarah and Jeff Shepherd. After the couple moved into the Boylan Heights neighborhood, Sarah walked by the former landmark frequently as she headed to her job nearby in downtown Raleigh. Slowly, she began to formulate an idea to renovate the old mansion and turn it into a hotel. In 2018, she and Jeff became the historic building’s new owners.

The couple spent three years working to restore the mansion — preserving the original architecture while also adding modern updates and several new suites but still with just nine total guest rooms and suites in keeping with its status as a luxury boutique hotel.

“As avid travelers, Jeff and I love to stay in independently owned, small, often historic hotels that are unique and special,” Sarah told us by email after our stay. “We love our city of Raleigh, but we were lacking those types of places. We have also always loved historic properties and had a strong pull to bring the house back to life and open it to our community and visitors.”

The Heights House boasts 15-foot ceilings, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, 10 fireplaces, and supremely comfortable common spaces including the library, the parlor (where drinks and small plates are served in the evening since June 2022), the drawing room, the breakfast room, and another  somewhat secretive downstairs lounge with a piano. Throughout the boutique hotel, every item of custom-made furniture, all the antiques, and each piece of artwork (from local artists) was hand-picked by Sarah and Jeff. The result is spectacularly chic and elegant while still maintaining the building’s historic roots. Want to know what it looked like before? Take a look at the small gallery of old photos along the rear staircase.

Historic Photos Heights House Hotel Hallway

A small gallery clues you into the stupendous restoration job at the Heights House.

Heights-House-Pre-restoration-Monica-Slaney

Pre-restoration, this photo offers a look from what became the Library looking into the Breakfast Room (see photo, below, for a look at the change). Photo by Monica Slaney.

Rooms at the Heights House Hotel

We arrived from New Bern for our stay at the Heights House on a sweltering (at least to Californians) July afternoon in 2022. Off-street parking was free and plentiful. Following a warm greeting at the reception desk and a quick check-in, we were offered a glass of bubbly that was a cool, refreshing, and a welcoming touch. Our room was a standard king on the second floor — one of the new, not historic, suites in a wing added onto the rear of the house during renovation.

Heights-House-Standard-King-Raleigh

There is no elevator at Heights House, other than to get from the parking lot to the first floor, reception desk and some common areas like The Parlor, so guests must be prepared to schlepp luggage up a flight of stairs. We’re very used to climbing stairs with suitcases from frequent stays in European hotels where this is the norm, but those not accustomed to international travel may not enjoy this. There is however one accessible ADA room on the first floor.

Our room was supremely comfortable with all the modern and high-tech touches one might expect – including plenty of USB ports on either side of the bed – as well as a few you might not – like a TV disguised slyly as a painting on the wall (choose your preferred style of art). It’s clear the design touches and stylish flair received a ton of thought since the hotel’s décor is phenomenally attractive, combining modern refinements with classic history.

Heights-House-Raleigh-Decor

Elegant but subtle touches are everywhere, like this fireplace mantle with books in The Parlor bar area. But, wait, those are not books to read, but instead have menus hidden inside!

Nevertheless, there were times during our stay that we felt the emphasis on an extremely stylish form took precedence over the function needed to make a guest room truly livable for a traveler: There was no closet to hang anything, just a couple of flattish hooks on the wall with hangers (granted, there was a chest of drawers as well as chairs, if draping clothes is your thing).

In the bathroom, the granite sink was huge — and by that we do mean astoundingly BIG! It was also quite long and shallow with no way to stop the sink drain and with a faucet that was quite close to the sink itself. Meaning travelers who may need to wash an item or two cannot easily do that. There is also no real sink counter space, just a narrow shelf above it that really was not meant to hold much in toiletries, especially for two people. With these comments, we are of course not speaking to the grandeur of the Honeymoon Suite and its space or layout since most travelers will not stay there.

Standard King Bathroom Heights House Hotel

Other touches such as an in-room tea and coffee station with all the supplies was, as expected, gorgeous (i.e., think high design) but still practical.

Now, the key element in any hotel room is its sleep comfort and by that we mean the bed, and our king bed was divine. The room was also quiet with an individually controlled whisper-quiet AC unit.

There was one glitch during our stay, speaking of the AC: We understand that glitches happen; it’s how they are addressed and resolved that makes the difference. Returning to the room late evening after photographing some night scenes, we discovered the room was as hot as it was outside! We thought we had mistakenly turned off the AC, but when Michael inspected the high-tech control panel, there was just a blinking error message. After several failed attempts to reset it, Therese texted the after-hours number – that is the only way to get in touch with the staff after-hours. A response took 11 minutes (OK, not long really, but at 11:15 p.m. in a stifling room, every minute ticks by slowly), and it then took about 30 minutes more for a staff person to arrive – the ever-cheery Mindy dressed in her PJs and full of apologies.

In short order, we were moved to a vacant room, a historic double queen. If the hotel’s nine rooms had been fully occupied, we have no idea what they would have done. A much larger room, the historic queen still reflected the same points mentioned above as our original room (sink, toiletry space, no closet …), as well as the same divine bedding, tech touches, and an in-room beverage station.

Heights-House-Historic-Double-Queen


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We did get a peek into the honeymoon suite and dare we say … oh my! What a luxurious room — actually two large rooms with every luxury element one might imagine. The suite features a spacious king bedroom, a clawfoot soaking tub, walk-in shower, bidet, two fireplaces, a large seating area, and floor-to-ceiling windows. With weddings an important element to the Heights House, a bridal preparation area and honeymoon suite are of course essential.

Honeymoon Suite In The Heights House Hotel

One room in the Honeymoon Suite. The other room, with the bed, is equally luxurious and well-appointed.

Breakfast, cold beverages – and an amazing, albeit complicated coffee machine

The breakfast touted as “European” was good, although not as inspired as other hotels or inns where we’ve stayed, and as frequent European travelers, we weren’t sure what made it European. It was the same each of our three mornings — granola, milk, yogurt, fresh berries, grapefruit slices, hard boiled eggs, a quiche, sweet pastries, and a plate of cheese and salami slices with a fruit chutney (but oddly no bread or crackers to go with that, although we’ve been told those are now added).

Breakfast Buffet At Heights House Hotel

As noted, the coffee – once you figured out the machine – was over-the-top great, but it took all three of our mornings and a regular guest to figure out the Italian coffee machine. It is clearly a top model but comes with no instructions, and the morning staff didn’t know how to operate it either. There were only icons on the dial and if you twirled it wrong (oops, as Therese did one morning), the whole thing went tilt. Fortunately, a frequent guest who told us she was “having an affair” with the machine because she loved the coffee so much, expertly showed us how to make adjustments and choices — and we officially became part of the coffee machine LOVE club.

Heights House Hotel Coffee Machine

One needs a PhD in Quantum Physics to operate the coffee machine in lieu of instructions, but once the operations are figured out, oh my, is the coffee delicious. And of course the beverage counter at breakfast is super elegant, too.

The breakfast room also had a refrigerator stocked with gratis chilled, canned, naturally flavored water that was also a lifesaver at the end of a hot day.

Drinks and charcuterie at The Parlor

Heights House Hotel Library Room View

The Library Room with a view into the breakfast room to the left and the entry to The Parlor to the right.

The Parlor, only opened a couple of weeks before our 2022 visit, is a place for cocktails and beverages as well as a couple of charcuterie boards. Will Bryant, manager of The Parlor and billed as its mixologist, greeted us as we wandered down the stairs late one afternoon. We placed our drink and charcuterie order and found a seat in the drawing room by a window. On a cooler day, the front garden or porch are also popular seating areas. Since you can take your drinks to any of the common spaces, people scatter about, making the Heights House Parlor experience in Raleigh feel like a cozy private house party.

Heights-House-Charcuterie-The-Parlor

Can we say YUM about the charcuterie board and a couple of elegant drinks?

Drinks are Italian-influenced craft cocktails, local beers, and an all-Italian wine list – paying homage to the Italianate style of this historic mansion. Will also makes a few liqueurs including an utterly divine grapefruit version of a limoncello, so be sure to see if he has any available. The Parlor also hosts occasional public events such as chocolate tastings or pop-up dinners, intended to make the Heights House a part of the community, too.

Despite our quibbles and the areas that could be easily improved (while overlooking the failed AC, since that can happen to any hotel), we loved our stay at Raleigh’s historic Heights House. Its proximity to downtown while still located in a quiet neighborhood just can’t be beat. Yes, we would return in a heartbeat.

Heights House Hotel Illuminated At Night



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Disclosure: We were fully hosted at the the Heights House Hotel. The review, opinions and ratings here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by the hotel or Visit Raleigh.

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Rating the Heights House Hotel in Raleigh North Carolina

95%

OUR RATING Our hotel ratings will tell you what we think of an individual property and are not a comparison to other hotels in the area. They are valid at the time of our visit. We frequently pay for our hotel stays and will disclose whenever we receive discounts or comped room nights as a part of a hotel stay. Our ratings are a percent, with 100% being perfect and 0% someplace not even a rat would stay. We rate cleanliness/upkeep (e.g. dust on the windows, dirt under the beds, unclean bathroom fixtures, need of repairs/maintenance, etc.), comfort (e.g. taking into account quiet, how comfy the bed is, if there is a nice robe, a comfy chair, etc.), amenities (e.g. free parking, breakfast included and its quality, free Wi-Fi, free bikes, fitness gear, workout room, pool, etc. -- and we are not fans of hotels that say they include things, but then charge a facilities fee!), location (e.g. how easy is it to get around by foot, bike, and car), and value (e.g. how much we feel we got in return for the amount charged).

Cleanliness / Upkeep
95%
Comfort
92%
Comfort
92%
Amenities
95%
Location
100%
Value
100%

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