Historic Structures

Jefferson Hotel, Richmond Virginia

Date added: September 14, 2016 Categories: Virginia Hotel

Throughout its early history the Jefferson Hotel was the only place to stay for any important person visiting Richmond. Notable guests included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, General John J. Pershing, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles A. Lindbergh, William McKinley, and Calvin Coolidge. The Jefferson Hotel has also been the scene of many important Richmond social events.

The Jefferson Hotel is one of the nation's outstanding examples of late-nineteenth century eclectic architecture and was designed "by the well-known firm of Carrere and Hastings, architects of the Ponce De Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. In many ways it fulfilled the command of its patron, Major Lewis Ginter, to the architects to provide Richmond with the finest hotel in America. Aside from its architectural merit, the hotel as originally completed contained many advanced technological devices such as service telephones, complete electrical lighting, complete central steam heating, and both hot and cold running water for each of its 342 guest rooms. It should be noted that among the fine appointments still contained in the building are an exceptional collection of late-nineteenth century academic paintings as well as the famous life size marble statue of Thomas Jefferson by Richmond sculptor Edward V. Valentine. The planning and circulation of the hotel were well thought out to serve the hotel's various functions. There were three principal entrances: the Franklin Street entrance, known as the "Ladies Entrance", for those attending social functions; the - covered side entrance used by carriages; and the Main Street entrance quite properly meant for businessmen. The Carrere and Hastings-designed pulic rooms in the upper or north end, now part of the private Rotunda Club, survive generally intact and display a diverse range of styles.

Although partially destroyed by fire in 1901, the Jefferson's original flavor as seen on the north (Franklin Street facade) gains in its eclectic feeling by the Edwardian "grandeur" of architect John Peebles' rebuilding of the south two-thirds of the structure in 1905.

The Colony Club in the basement on the Franklin Street side, the Rotunda Club above it, and the Engineers Club in the Main Street wing have altered and re-arranged their areas, but the Rotunda Club, in the northern or upper end of the interior, which includes the Palm Room with its fiamcus statue of Mr. Jefferson, retains its 1890's flavor. The Rotunda or main lobby on the south or lower half, however, was radically altered in style by Peebles after the fire. Originally, a large skylight supported by slender iron columns illuminated the Rotunda,providing a contrast to the broad arcade directly behind the ironwork. Peebles retained the mezzanine format around the large open space but handled it differently by using massive columns papered to imitate marble; it made the skylight (now blocked) smaller. The long north-south axis, created originally by placing a stair in the north end, of the lobby which led into the Palm Room, was enhanced after the 1901 fire by making it much wider. Unfortunately the opening between the upper and lower parts of the hotel was closed when the Rotunda Club leased the upper portion, and the only remaining link between the two areas is a long hall, lined with meeting rooms along the west (Jefferson Street) side.