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.

The Jefferson hotel

The Jefferson opened on October 31, 1985, and was soon called “The Bell of the '90s.” Photo by Lara Dunning

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.

The Jefferson Richmond

The indoor heated pool has an outdoor sundeck. Photo courtesy of The Jefferson.

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.

The Jefferson

The Jefferson has had many distinguished guests, including thirteen Presidents. Photo courtesy of The Jefferson.

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 Jefferson

The statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Palm Court took two years to complete and cost $12,000. Photo courtesy of The Jefferson.

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.

The Jefferson Alligator

During the holidays, even the alligators have the holiday spirit. Photo by Lara Dunning

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.

The Jefferson Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree in the Rotunda almost touches the ceiling. Photo by Lara Dunning

The Rotunda

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.

The Jefferson Rotunda

When the hotel housed military personnel during WWII, they removed all of the Tiffany stained glass skylights. Photo courtesy of The Jefferson.

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.

The Jefferson

The Jefferson had two fires, one in 1901 and one in 1944. Photo by Lara Dunning

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 Jefferson

My corner room had views of Franklin Street. Photo by Lara Dunning

The colors were a mix of soothing yellows, deep blues, and bright whites. I found the decor very tasteful.

The Jefferson

The elegant rooms are spacious and relaxing. Photo by Lara Dunning

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.

The televisions inside the mirror are in the perfect spot to watch while soaking in the tub.

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.

Lemaire is classic and contemporary. Photo courtesy of The Jefferson.

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.

The Jefferson

Lemaire supports local farmers and brewers. Photo by Lara Dunning

I love a good pimento dip, popular in the South, so I ordered the Southern Style Pimento Cheese Dip.

The Jefferson

A classic Southern-style pimiento dip. Photo by Lara Dunning

Later, two family members joined me, and we ordered The Conservatory Platter with craft sausage, pork paté, artisanal cheese, mustard, pickles, and bread.

The Jefferson

The Conservatory Platter. Photo by Lara Dunning

My new favorite, however, were Crispy Fried Deviled Eggs with country ham, cornichons and red pepper preserves.

The Jefferson

Crispy Fried Deviled Eggs are a new favorite. Photo by Lara Dunning

For dessert, we had the Tres Leches Pumpkin Cake with caramel and pumpkin seed brittle.

The Jefferson

Tres Leches Pumpkin Cake finished out the evening's meal. Photo by Lara Dunning


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.

For more information about the hotel and things to see and do in Richmond, visit The Jefferson and Visit Richmond.

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.

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