Bobby Hotel, a new lifestyle boutique hotel located just a few boot-clad steps from Nashville’s historic downtown haunts, opened in grand style in 2018. The hotel is quirky and eclectic, as evidenced by its most unusual feature: a customized
rooftop bus/lounge that opens to guests using a pair of hydraulic doors from Fairfax, MN-based Schweiss Doors.
Before being converted, the rooftop bus lounge—perched 10-stories high at the hotel's roof edge—was a 1956 Greyhound Scenicruiser. Part of the transformation was to outfit the bus shell with two hydraulic doors from Schweiss Doors, one on the side and the
other at the rear, creating a rooftop haven for customers at the Rooftop Lounge. Each door is powered by a dual-pump hydraulic system and an electric motor. The units were located 60 feet away, inside the swimming pool mechanical room. They operate the hydraulic cylinders to lift and close an 18'-6" x 8' side door and an 8' x 9' rear
bus door. The doors can be opened and closed with handheld remote openers.
In addition to being a focal point of Bobby Hotel's Rooftop Lounge, the unique bus lounge is a landmark for visitors and specialized clientele.
The bus is far from original, having been stripped down and widened to serve its new purpose. And the building it now sits atop is much different than it used to be as well. Prior to its adaptive reuse, Bobby Hotel was the 70's-era Wells
Fargo Plaza building. Castlerock Asset Management, which undertook the building renovation, hired Nashville-based Hemphill Brothers Coach Company to redesign the bus. Hemphill is a well-known producer of custom tour buses, many of which are used by
Nashville recording artists.
Castlerock envisioned Bobby Hotel to be "an immersive hotel that feels like the quintessential Nashville experience and mirrors musicians’ life on the road." Adding the rooftop bus lounge put an exclamation point on that effort.
"We wanted to create a unique experience on our rooftop, different than any other hotel in Nashville,” says Ray Waters, Vice President of Castlerock. To say Castlerock succeeded would be an epic understatement.
Joel and Trent Hemphill started the Hemphill Brothers Coach Company in 1980, with assistance from their father, who had retired from the coach-leasing business. It was their job to give the 1956 bus a magical conversion touch. The fabrication man on the
project was Gary Favinger.
“Bobby Hotel purchased the bus, which was not running when we got it,” Favinger recalls. “They were looking for someone to do the project. We had three months to do the conversion from start to finish; we actually didn’t open the
door until one day before delivery. The other company they had trying to do it wasted four months on the job before we got it – we had to have it done before they took the crane down. A lot of imagination went into Bobby.”
The Hemphill team gutted the whole drive train and interior and had to widen the bus by four feet, bringing the original 8 foot width to 12 feet. The new shell was mounted to a platform created using 5" I-beams. Where it’s now situated, the bus
looks as if it could be driven off the building.
“Bobby wanted the front half of the bus to appear like the original coach,” Favinger says. “The seats were all reupholstered with overhead lighting added. We searched around and ran across Schweiss. The doors are amazing with fail-safes
built into the hydraulics. We cut half the side off the bus and built a structure to support it and rebuilt the back door opening. When I first opened the doors, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go. When it opened up, it was just unbelievable.”
Hemphill Brothers Coach Company operates a maintenance and conversion facility near Nashville and it maintains a fleet of over 90 motor coaches for lease. The company deals in used coaches and new custom conversions.
“A bus looks and feels its best when you use the very best,” Hemphill says. “All of our buses’ interiors are handmade and custom designed. We create our buses with top-of-the-line materials, such as genuine leather, hardwood flooring,
granite, marble and onyx. The combinations of these items produce a gorgeous bus interior. We also go the extra mile with what you don’t see to make a bus more elaborate. On other projects, we have included everything from an upright piano in
the front lounge for Harry Connick Jr. to a treadmill in the back lounge for Taylor Swift to three rolling television studios for ABC News.”
They also do all the wiring, plumbing and electrical work in-house in order to exceed the needs of their clients. They can upgrade sound systems, install televisions and additional video equipment, utilizing top-of-the-line electronics. Heated marble
bathroom floors, Apple TVs, WiFi, powered blinds, air pocket doors and HDTVs are a few of their favorite high-end features. Every little detail is carefully selected to make a bus as elaborate as possible when combined for a finish product.
“We were kind of blown away with the size of the doors,” Favinger says. “The system is awesome. If I ever have any other big projects to do, it will be with no one else other than Schweiss. The people at the Bobby Hotel were blown away
by the whole deal. There’s never been a bus with side and rear doors opening up and on top of a hotel. It’s a one-of-a-kind. We just made it happen.”