Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, January 15, 2016

Revisiting Hotels to Remember, The Jefferson

Over the years, I have visited many fabulous, fascinating, and often historic hotels that were unforgettable to me. In 2002, I created a book about 20 of these special destinations. That coffee table book, Hotels to Remember, became a snapshot in time because, as many of those people I interviewed for the project told me, hotels are constantly undergoing change. Recently, I realized how true that statement was when we visited the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia for lunch.

As we neared the Main Street entrance to the Jefferson, I saw lots of orange highway cones and scaffolding going
Jefferson historic staircase ©Mary Montague Sikes
up a side of the building. I worried the entry would be closed, but it wasn't. Although the historic lower lobby with its dramatic staircase was January subdued, it impressed me as it always does. The comfortable sofa and chairs were completely empty with no one waiting a turn to dine at TJs. It was quiet and a little sad. Gator's, the gift shop right off the lobby, seemed smaller than I remembered. It was no longer filled with bright stuffed alligators that reminded visitors of the live creatures that once lived in the upper lobby and sometimes lounged about on the furniture there.

Alligators in the lobby is one of my favorite stories about the old hotel that opened in 1895. The alligators first appeared around the time of the Grand Reopening of the hotel (following a terrible fire in 1901) between 1905 and 1907. Old Pompey, the last alligator, died in 1948. He is now immortalized by an impressive bronze statue situated at the hotel entrance located by the driveway off Franklin Street.
Old Pompey decked out for Christmas ©MM Sikes

As we dined in TJs, enjoying the view of the Grand Staircase, I learned from our waiter that only about 62 of the hotel's guestrooms are now open. The hotel is undergoing a renovation to create more lavish and larger rooms.

As always, hotels are changing. I am happy to see that the historic Jefferson continues to improve. Some of the other hotels I chose to include in Hotels to Remember no longer exist. I am sad about that but very proud to have the Jefferson Hotel as part of my book.

 Please contact me to order a specially-priced autographed copy of Hotels to Remember.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least it's not closing down. That would be sad.
Glad I wasn't a guest when live alligators roamed around the lobby.

Birgit said...

I am not sure I would want to be there when alligators roamed about. I want to have lunch there not be lunch:) This is a beautiful lobby and glad it is still there. It looks much more inviting than those modern hotels that keep springing up.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Monti - things do change don't they ... that decor is certainly different. While the alligator gives it status - wonderful statue in the foyer. Now you'll need to go back once the refurbishment is finished ... cheers Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hotels need to renovate if they are to remain competitive. Just think what it will look like when they're done.

Misha Gericke said...

I love places with so much history. :-)

Mary Montague Sikes said...

ALex, you are so right. It would be really sad for the Jefferson to close. Times change; no alligators now!

Birgit, the lobbies, both upstairs and down, possess a lot of character. Very interesting place to visit, especially when it's all decked out for Christmas!

Hilary, the Jefferson is the kind of place your would really love!!!

Diane, the guest rooms will be much nicer and larger when the project is finished. You are right, they have to renovate to compete.

Misha, thanks for visiting. Richmond is a very historic city, and the Jefferson is a big part of that history!