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“Hower ya’ll?!?!” That’s how everyone at The Jefferson Hotel Richmond greeted us – a combination of southern charm, formality and familiarity. This greeting was so deeply friendly and fitting in this capital of the South.
Since Lewis Ginter opened The Jefferson in 1895, the hotel has been providing the finest in southern hospitality. Designed in the same grand fashion (and by the same architectural firm) as the Public Library and the Frick Museum in New York, The Jefferson features the same white/cream cold facade. Inspired by great Renaissance architecture, the hotel’s bell tower is reminiscent of St. Mark’s Campanile towering over Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Inside the hotel, the stoic Renaissance style is abandoned for a more creative (i.e., assortment and range of architectural styles) approach. Every room is awash in light from stained glass windows and surfaces are cloaked in deep colors. The hotel’s two-tiered, 36-step grand staircase is said to have inspired the staircase sequence in the film Gone With The Wind. The bar in the Lemaire restaurant features Greco-Roman columns.
But this mix of architectural styles is actually much more than a hodgepodge of elements – it’s called Beaux Arts and was extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century when The Jefferson Hotel was constructed. In fact, there is arguably no finer example of Beaux Arts architecture in America than The Jefferson. The result for guests is some of the most inviting public spaces of any hotel anywhere.
Over the years, The Jefferson Hotel Richmond has played host to the famous and infamous. Perhaps none are more infamous than the alligators living in the lobby. Yes, you heard us correctly.
The Jefferson Hotel has many pools and fountains. In the main lobby, right under the watchful eye of the Mr. Thomas Jefferson’s statue, were several live alligators. It seems Richmonders would drop off their unwanted pet alligators that they picked up in Florida at the hotel.
Many of the pools (and all of the alligators) are now gone (the hotel’s last alligator died in 1948), only to be replaced by several bronze alligator statues throughout the hotel lobby.
The Jefferson Hotel has also played host to human celebrities. The hotel has welcomed 13 sitting and former Presidents and so many celebrities that there is a special page on the website devoted to famous guests. We’re waiting to see how long it takes them to add us to the list!
In keeping with the Jefferson’s reputation as the place for celebrities in Richmond, we actually spied a CNN personality having breakfast one morning at the table next to us.
The Jefferson Hotel does all of the things you would expect from a large, full-service hotel, but they do it with a southern flair and great kindness. For us, one of the highlights of the Jefferson Hotel was chocolate full high tea.
On the third Saturday of the month, the normal tea service in the lobby is supplemented with delicious chocolate treats. We enjoyed The Richmond tea – a black tea with cinnamon, cloves and orange peels (it’s like Christmas in a cup!). And we enjoyed numerous chocolate treats. This is like a meal in itself!
During our stay at The Jefferson, we used the hotel as a base to explore the local craft breweries in Richmond (there are about a dozen serious craft breweries and cideries in the area) and also local Central Virginia wineries on the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.
So why not visit The Jefferson Hotel and raise a glass to southern hospitality?
The Restaurant(s): The Jefferson Hotel Richmond has two restaurants – the casual café TJs and the fine dining Lemaire. TJs is located on the back of the hotel and is a good place for a light lunch or a breakfast (the Shrimp and Grits or “The Richmonder” are not to be missed!). Lemaire is a more formal restaurant based around locally sourced ingredients combined with southern flair. Lemaire also has a great bar space for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.
The Lounge: Enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail in the Lemaire bar or in the lobby under the domed ceiling. I love a good glass of port wine and found their list to be extensive. We enjoyed a chocolate cheesecake sandwich and glass of port wine here one evening.
The Concierge: The hotel has a lobby concierge during the day until about 10:00pm. The evening concierge, a woman named Hannah, was extremely helpful in giving local tips and working with us to shape our Richmond itinerary.
The Spa and Recreational Facilities: The Jefferson Hotel has a spacious 3,400 square foot fitness center, which features plenty of cardio equipment as well as free weights. There is an indoor pool and outdoor sun deck on the second floor of the hotel. Massages can be arranged either in-room or in the fitness center.
The Room: We stayed in room 362, a studio suite room which had a nice king-sized bed, a small sitting area and a wet bar area. The H-shaped configuration of the hotel helps keep the rooms incredibly quiet.
The Bed: The king-sized bed had the perfect balance of softness and support. It was one of the best night’s sleep we’d had in a long time!
The WiFi: The hotel had wifi throughout the property.
The Television: There is a large-screen, flat-panel TV across from the bed.
The Safe: The room had a safe for valuables.
The Bathroom: The bathroom was just as splendid as the bedroom and had a giant shower with a rain showerhead and a standard jet showerhead. The dual sinks were helpful for getting ready in the morning. But the bathroom highlight was a giant soaker jacuzzi tub.
The Bathroom Amenities: The Jefferson Hotel Richmond features a full range of bathroom amenities from Molton Brown.
The Cost: Deluxe king rooms at The Jefferson Hotel are $315 per night.
The Location: The hotel is situated between Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia State Capitol in downtown Richmond. Richmond is a compact city and you’re never more than 15 minutes from anywhere.
The Transportation: The hotel can arrange transportation for guests, but the valet parking option is extremely efficient. Having a car provides easy access to explore the region.
The Airport Transfer: The Richmond International Airport (RIC) is located just east of Richmond and is 10 miles from The Jefferson Hotel. Guests should allow about 15 minutes to get to the airport from the hotel.
The Website: http://www.jeffersonhotel.com/
The Final Verdict
The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia is one of the grandest of old hotels in America. It is a place to relax in luxury, while being doted on in a fine southern fashion. The Jefferson is both luxurious and relaxed, and we can’t think of a better home in Central Virginia.
Special thanks to The Jefferson Hotel Richmond. As always, all views are our own.