A spa that is in a converted carriage house built in a time when guests pitched up in horse-drawn rides. Ballrooms resplendent with historic architectural details such as gold- gilded vaulted ceilings and stained- glass windows. Cottages built in the mid-1900s, boasting illustrious past residents such as US president Gerald Ford.

Indeed, few hotels are as storied as The Langham Huntington, which celebrates its centennial this year. Spread across a sprawling 9ha in the affluent Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, it has welcomed royalty, politicians and religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama. It is today a darling of Hollywood’s biggest names, such as Colin Firth and Oprah Winfrey.

The Spanish Mission Revival landmark, purchased by railroad magnate Henry Huntington in 1911, clearly has evergreen appeal. The property was rebuilt and launched as The Huntington by 1914. Its magic lies in its ability to transport you to a remote European hilltop citadel surrounded by distant mountain ranges – even though downtown LA is just a 15-minute drive away. The property is built to function as a decompression zone for the privileged, but it isn’t just about the hardware.

Now part of The Langham luxury hotel collection, this grande dame has recalibrated her hospitality style. Staff are less formal than was the vogue in days past. Professional and endearingly warm, they are as likely to refill your wine glass at dinner as to debate the best chocolate at a nearby gourmet supermarket, like an old friend catching up. In 2012, the hotel also became animal-friendly, offering in-room dining and massages for dogs.

In March this year, the hotel’s restaurant was also reinvented. Out went the French-accented boite, in came wood-fired steakhouse The Royce, with its glass-walled wine rooms and white-on-white interiors.

Further adding a cosmopolitan touch to this American classic is the Chuan Spa – The Langham’s signature spa grounded in traditional Chinese medicine – slated to open next month. These improvements – timed for the centennial celebrations – boldly announce that this guardian of the past is assiduously preparing for the future.