11.05.2013

Pack Your Bags: A Traveler's Look at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia



Frankly, my dear! The historic Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond, Virginia, makes you feel like a proper Southern belle.



How could you not feel that way going down these steps?




Since 1895, The Jefferson Hotel has been one of the grandest hotels in America.  Debutante after debutante has made her debut down these historic steps.  More than 100 celebrities, including presidents, have graced these steps, and now my family had the honor as well.

I stopped at The Jefferson for a quick overnight this summer on my way to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Boy, was I impressed.

As soon as you drive up, you know big things are in store once you step inside this five-star historic jewel.



From Tiffany-stained glass ceilings to a life-sized marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Hotel is luxury on a grand scale.



But this gem of a hotel has had a storied past.  Major Lewis Ginter, a millionaire and Confederate Army veteran of the Civil War, dreamed of building the finest hotel in America.  He finally opened his $8 million dollar dream hotel in 1895, but died two years later, and his dream nearly died when a fire destroyed three-fifths of the hotel in 1901.  The Thomas Jefferson statue by sculptor Edwin Valentine was saved, by the sculptor himself, but the head broke off in attempts to get it out the door. 



Could that have been a sign that this elegant property would eventually fall on hard times? Even though the sculptor was able to reattach the president’s head, it took several years before the hotel was opened to its full glory again in 1907.  The hotel was the “it” spot for elite travelers to stop on their way to and from Palm Beach.  Strangely, guests even left behind baby alligators in their rooms, which were sold as pets in Florida during this era, and the hotel decided to let the alligators grow to their full size in pools in The Palm Court, which now serves as the current lobby of the hotel. 



World War II and another fire in 1944 put the hotel in a huge state of decline.  The last alligator to live in the marble pools was “Old Pompey,” and he died in 1948.  America’s elite no longer stopped here as it was no longer the type of property they would frequent.



Eventually, The Jefferson Hotel closed its doors in 1980 and remained closed until 1986.  It took more than $34 million to restore this beauty to its former glory.  In 1994, the hotel received five-star status and once again became Ginter’s living dream as of one of the finest hotels in America.

Our Suite in the Jefferson Hotel

There are currently 261 luxurious guest rooms and suites at The Jefferson Hotel. The theme here is richly residential.  It’s plush, elegant, and fits the image of a historic hotel.



We had a one-bedroom suite with a pull-out sofa.  It was a great space for our family.

The hotel made our children feel right at home with special gifts of soft, plush alligators.  The alligator is the mascot for the hotel, and is another way the hotel remembers its glorious past and the memory of “Old Pompey.” My daughter continues to sleep with her pink alligator at home, and it’s a perfect memento of our stay.



This hotel is five-star, but it’s not too stuffy for children. I never once felt that my children were out of place.

The beds are luxurious, and the room has up-to-date modern conveniences, including complimentary Wi-Fi.



The bathroom was gorgeous, extremely spacious, stocked with Molton Brown bath products,  a wall-mounted television, and everything else you expect in a luxury property.



Turn-down service is always a treat, and I especially love it when housekeeping at luxury hotels takes extra care to get old friends and new friends ready for bed.  The Jefferson Hotel passed my “luvie” turndown test with flying colors.



The Indoor Pool




When we were in Richmond, it rained most of the evening.  The Jefferson Hotel has a lovely indoor pool, and, of course, my two tested it out during the storm before dinner in town.

This is a great space in the hotel, and, in nicer weather, there is also a beautiful terrace for guests to use.



Afternoon Tea is a Delight at Jefferson Hotel




Afternoon tea was part of my hotel stay as I was on assignment for Skimbaco.  Afternoon tea at The Jefferson is a Southern culinary gem. I was so impressed.  You can read about my tea experience at The Jefferson on Skimbaco. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Richmond area.




Dining in Richmond

While in Virginia’s state capital, I had the opportunity to meet the lovely blogger behind Sundresses and Smiles. I’ve been corresponding with Allie since we first started blogging and wanted to meet her while in town during our short stay.  We met her and her boyfriend Bryce at the locally owned Tarrant’s Cafe, which is located a few short blocks away from The Jefferson Hotel.




Tarrant’s is housed in an old Richmond downtown drugstore, and the food was delicious.  It prides itself on upscale food at an affordable price. I really wanted something light after that huge afternoon tea, and the menu at Tarrant’s had something for everyone, as well as local Virginia craft brews.  The kids also had a lot of great options, too.  I’m glad Allie suggested it.



Unfortunately, my stay was too short to have dinner at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Lemaire, so I’ll have to save that for another time.  Lemaire showcases a farm-to-table menu in a fun and casual atmosphere with small plates starting a $5 and no entrĂ©e above $30.  It’s one of Richmond’s top-ranked restaurants.

TJ’s Bar and Lounge, also in The Jefferson Hotel, would have been another great option for a lighter meal that evening, but you all know I like to combine my hotels with a little bit of the city I’m visiting, too.  I had no time to sightsee on this trip in Richmond since my final destination was Williamsburg, and I really wanted to make some time to visit with Allie.

I will definitely have to head back to Richmond to see more.  Richmond, Virginia, is about two-and-a-half hours from Raleigh.

In HinesSight on my Stay

I definitely recommend The Jefferson Hotel as a place to stay while in Richmond.  I think it would be extra special during the holidays, too.  My Mom told me that Richmond used to be the place that Southerners would go to shop every holiday at the five-story Miller and Rhoads department store. That building is now an apartment building, but The Jefferson is still a popular spot to celebrate the holidays, during the hotel’s busiest time of the year.




My only disappointment about the hotel is that it currently does not offer in-room coffee aside from room service. They, do, however, offer complimentary tea and coffee in the lobby every morning, but I missed that detail at check-in. A pot of coffee for two for room service is $10.75 plus tip and room service charge.  The hotel says it is currently evaluating its in-room coffee services, but it has not yet found a product that rivals the taste of the coffee in the lobby.  If you do stay, do make note that there is complimentary coffee and tea each morning.  Not sure if robes are welcomed there, though.




Regular room rates begin at $365 per night. Suites range from $435 to $2,100 per night.  The hotel does offer special rates quite regularly, though, and you can find a package for the holiday season for $245 with a $50 resort credit.  The hotel was renovating some rooms while I was there, and I did stay in a freshly updated room. As with any historic properties, rooms constantly need to be enhanced.




The Jefferson is a member of the Preferred Hotel and Resorts and Historic Hotels of America.  The hotel is locally owned by the Keswick group, which has some great Southern hotels in its portfolio. The Jefferson is one of only a handful of hotels in North America to hold both the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Awards. 

Want to Go:
The Jefferson Hotel
101 West Franklin Street
Richmond, Virginia 


Disclosure:  This Pack Your Bags feature was made possible by a media visit.  I did have my own expenses, and my experiences and opinions are my own, as always. 

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