The Jefferson describes its historic five-star hotel in Richmond, VA as “authentically opulent” and “eternally relevant.” Built in 1895 by Lewis Ginter, a wealthy businessman who spent millions planning, constructing and furnishing the hotel, it is no surprise that The Jefferson earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
As a guest of The Jefferson, I discovered it is opulent and relevant, and so much more. Its stately grandeur and luxurious amenities offer plenty of wow moments, almost around every corner.
A Dream Made Reality at The Jefferson
In the 1890s Lewis Ginter had a dream, and that dream was The Jefferson. A well-traveled and cultured man, Ginter had an affinity for the arts and architecture and the hotel is a mix of Renaissance, Italian and Beaux Arts. When it opened, the hotel had 308 rooms and offered guests luxurious amenities like electric elevators and lights, hot and cold running water in every room, and an early room service telephone called a Teleseme.
Today, after a 3-year renovation, which included scaling down the rooms to make them larger, The Jefferson has 181 guest rooms. Guests may choose between Premier Rooms, Grand Premier Rooms, Richmond Suites, Ginter Suites and the Presidential Suite. All rooms have entry foyers, dressing rooms, spacious bedrooms with stately furniture, rich fabrics and chandeliers. Roomy bathrooms offer a separate water closet, shower, and soaking tub, which feels more like a high-end apartment than a hotel room.
There is also an onsite spa, salon, exercise room, an indoor heated pool with an outdoor sundeck and a gift shop. Guests can dine onsite at Lemaire and TJ’s. And there are complimentary bicycles to explore Richmond at a more leisurely pace.
First Impressions of The Jefferson
From the moment I saw The Jefferson’s Italian-style clock tower on the Richmond city horizon, I knew a stay at this grand hotel would make an impression. In fact, it made dozens of impressions from the moment I pulled into the porte-corchère until the moment I departed.
The Palm Court
Not only is the outside of The Jefferson magnificent, so is the inside. The Palm Court lobby is a feast for the eyes with floor to ceiling classical columns, original Tiffany stained glass windows and a life-sized statue of Thomas Jefferson. Since I was there during the holidays, Santa and a sleigh with brightly lit reindeer, evergreen boughs, and bright red bows adorned the Palm Court. Before checking in, I couldn’t help but wander around the room and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Later, I discovered the Palm Court originally had lush exotic palm trees and plants, as well as two marble pools where alligators—donated to the hotel by guests and residents—made their home. There are even some tales of one wandering into the nearby library to browse the book titles or more likely nibble on toes.
Before heading up to my room, I decided to check out the Rotunda. The room compliments the Palm Court, but on a more palatial scale. To take it all in, I walked down the long carpeted staircase and gazed up at a Christmas tree reaching toward the painted and stained glass ceiling.
In its heyday, this room hosted many a debutant ball. And the staircase, which some believe was the model for the movie classic Gone With the Wind, certainly provided that grand entrance.
I also discovered a small museum tucked into the corner of the Rotunda, which displayed old menus, tableware, photos and other historical items from The Jefferson’s past. There were interesting news clippings of the fire in 1901 that burned three-fifths of the hotel.
Virginia Elegance at The Jefferson
I had the pleasure of staying in an elegant corner Premier Room, which had an entry foray with a doorbell, a king bed with exquisite bedding, a cozy sitting area for two, a Nespresso machine, and views of downtown Richmond.
The colors were a mix of soothing yellows, deep blues, and bright whites. I found the decor very tasteful.
The room also had a separate dressing room with a make-up dresser and mirror, and a large bathroom with a double sink, a walk-in stone shower, and a television inside the mirror which was in the perfect spot to watch from the soaking tub. Right then, I decided after dinner at Lemaire, I’d enjoy a soak.
Virginian Cuisine at The Jefferson
There are three dining options at The Jefferson—Lemaire, TJ’s and afternoon tea served in Palm Court. The first evening, I was off to dinner at Lemaire.
Lemaire is classy and posh with marble walls and columns, dark wood floors, contemporary furniture and vibrant earthy colors. The bar is the centerpiece of the room, and behind it, is the conservatory dining room with street and patio views, as well as side dining rooms, and the library. Originally, this had been the ladies salon, and the men had their Cigar Room on the second floor of the Rotunda.
The menu at Lemaire changes seasonally and highlights Virginia farmers and produce. A few of the savory dishes that caught my attention were the Cider-brined Pork Chop, Lemaire’s “Barnyard” Burger, and Wildflower Honey Glazed Duck Breast.
I sat in the lounge on a plush semi-circle couch and started with a glass of Hardywood Pils, a Virginian beer that was on $3.
I love a good pimento dip, popular in the South, so I ordered the Southern Style Pimento Cheese Dip.
Later, two family members joined me, and we ordered The Conservatory Platter with craft sausage, pork paté, artisanal cheese, mustard, pickles, and bread.
My new favorite, however, were Crispy Fried Deviled Eggs with country ham, cornichons and red pepper preserves.
For dessert, we had the Tres Leches Pumpkin Cake with caramel and pumpkin seed brittle.
For breakfast and lunch, guests may dine at TJ’s in the Rotunda. The following morning I had the Richmonder scramble with bacon, potatoes, cheddar and apple butter toast. A perfect way to start the day.
Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court
Another way to experience The Jefferson is at Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court, which starts in June 2017, Friday through Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Guests can choose between Teddy Bear Tea, which is perfect for children, Chocolate Lover’s Tea and a traditional Afternoon Tea. As a tea lover, it made me wish I could return to indulge in a cup of warm tea and nibble on savory and sweet pastries under the intricate Tiffany stained glass ceiling.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.