Built in 1885, Lewis Ginter put in funds to build The Jefferson hotel so that Richmond could have a Five Star hotel. Obviously, Ginter would consider the hotel a success considering twelve US Presidents, including Harrison, McKinley, Wilson, Coolidge, Taft, both Roosevelts (Theodore and Franklin Delano), Truman and Reagan, both Bushes (George H. W. and George W.) and Obama have been guests at The Jefferson Hotel. Other celebrities includes Elvis have stayed at the hotel. When Elvis stayed in 1956, he brought his own television and the hotel manager was shocked that Elvis ate his bacon with his fingers. There is even a legend that Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was discovered by his life-long agent while dancing across the dining room at The Jefferson Hotel.
Yesterday, my life-long friend, Babushka, and I went to The Jefferson for a Christmas lunch. The hotel is lovely any ol' day of the year but during the Christmas season it is beautifully decorated with hundreds of flowers, thousands of Christmas lights, and a large Christmas tree. The hotel becomes that much more festive with an entire agenda of performances.
We enjoyed such delicacies as sweet potato soup with roasted marshmallow croutons, and pumpkin ginger ale. She even tried the egg nog crème brûlée but since I’m not a fan of mushy food I went with the chocolate cake.
The decorations included the whimsical gingerbread display that included 300 pounds of gingerbread, 400 pounds of royal icing, 75 pounds of fondant, 20 pounds of rock candy, 40 pounds of marshmallows for snow. There are several more ingredients that were added to this list but oy! my teeth hurt just thinking about all of this.
The hotel is quite popular today but it also has an interesting history. While The Jefferson hotel was supposed to open on November 1, 1895, at the last minute it was realized that November 1 was a Friday, and it was considered bad luck to start anything on a Friday. Instead, the hotel was opened on Halloween :p
In 1901 there was a fire in which the statue of Thomas Jefferson was rescued from the building only to have his head bumped on the cobblestones. He was taken to Edward Valentine’s art studio where his head was reattached.
Alligators once resided in marble pools in the Palm Court Lobby. Richmonders would vacation in Florida and bring the baby alligators home as pets. As they outgrew sinks and bathtubs, residents would bring them to live at The Jefferson. The last alligator died in 1948. There is still a great deal of alligator motifs throughout the hotel.