The historic Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond
|Location||101 W Franklin St., Richmond, Virginia, USA, 23220|
|Opening||October 31, 1895|
|Location||104 W. Main St., Richmond, Virginia|
|Area||1.5 acres (0.61 ha)|
|Architectural style||Late 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements|
|NRHP reference #||69000351|
|Added to NRHP||June 4, 1969|
|Designated VLR||November 5, 1968|
Fully restored and upgraded, the Jefferson is one of 27 American hotels with Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel ratings. The Jefferson Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. On site is "Lemaire," a AAA "Five Diamond" restaurant, named after Etienne Lemaire, who served as maitre d'hotel to Thomas Jefferson from 1794 through the end of his presidency.
Tobacco baron Lewis Ginter planned the development of the hotel as a premier property in the city of Richmond, capital of the state. It was designed in the Spanish Baroque Style by Carrère and Hastings, noted national architects based in New York, who later designed the New York Public Library. Construction began in 1892 and the hotel opened for business on October 31, 1895. After a fire gutted the interior of the hotel in 1901, it had a lengthy restoration. It reopened in 1907. It has received restorations and upgrades of systems through the years.
Patrons have included presidents (William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin D. Roosevelt), writers, and celebrities, including Henry James, Charles Lindbergh, The Rolling Stones, Dolly Parton, and Elvis Presley. For many decades, the hotel was the home of Historic Garden Week.
In his autobiography The Moon's A Balloon (1972), Academy Award-winning actor David Niven described a trip from New York to Florida in the late 1930s, during which he decided to spend the night at the Jefferson Hotel. Niven said that, as he was signing the guest registry in the lobby, his eyes snapped open with amazement when he noticed a full-sized alligator swimming in a small pool located six feet from the reception desk. The alligators at the Jefferson became world famous. Old Pompey, the last alligator living in the marble pools of the Jefferson's Palm Court, survived until 1948. Bronze statues of the alligators now decorate the hotel. Its restaurant, Lemaire, has a theme of alligator motifs.
Local urban legend has it that tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who became a national sensation, was discovered while working as a bellhop at the hotel. This is not likely. When the Jefferson Hotel opened in 1895, Robinson (then 16) was already touring with traveling shows on the black theater circuit.
Another urban legend is that the grand staircase was featured in the film Gone with the Wind (1939). This is not true. But, according to the hotel's concierge, author Margaret Mitchell stayed at the Jefferson during the time she was writing the novel. Her description of the staircase is said[by whom?] to be inspired by the one in the hotel.