Historic Places

The Jefferson Hotel, Where Gators Once Roamed

Jefferson Hotel lobby
The elaborate lobby of the Jefferson Hotel, an Historic Hotel of America in Richmond, VA.

After my visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I spent the night at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond before the final leg of my trip. The hotel is only a few miles from the museum. The area of town isn’t great, but the hotel is really luxurious. It was originally built in 1895, designed by Carriere and Hastings in a Beaux-Arts style. However, it’s suffered two fires since then, so it’s been renovated and repaired several times by different people. That’s probably why it’s such an interesting mixture of styles. In fact, I’m really not sure how to describe everything that’s going on in it. Therefore, I will trust the Historic Hotels of America website, which describes it as Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Revival on the exterior and “an eclectic mix of Spanish Revival, Italianate, Palladian, and Classical Revival” on the interior. The guest rooms are decorated in a more modern style than the public spaces, but they are also very nice and high end.

The hotel has beautiful stained glass; at least some of it is by Tiffany, though I have been unable to confirm that all of it is. The lobby and Palm Court both have spectacular stained glass ceilings, one round and one rectangular, as well as a series of stained glass lunettes. There’s a large statue of Thomas Jefferson, as well as several other paintings of him and a few other U.S. Presidents. There are other paintings in the hotel, too, and display cases of hotel memorabilia.

Jefferson Hotel
Statue of Thomas Jefferson by Edward V. Valentine, c. 1895, at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA.

One funny little story about the Jefferson Hotel is the alligators. The hotel was home to live alligators until the late 1940s. Apparently, people would visit Florida and bring baby alligators home with them as pets. But eventually, they would realize that they couldn’t keep full-grown alligators in their homes. (You would think that they would have realized this sooner!) So, they would drop off their unwanted alligators at the Jefferson, and the gaters would live out the rest of their lives there. To be honest, I would not have felt comfortable staying at the hotel if alligators still lived there, but I did enjoy the alligator statues that how stand outside the front doors and in the outdoor fountain.

The Jefferson Hotel is one of the Historic Hotels of America. I try to stay at historic hotels as often as I can, because they’re way more interesting (at least to me) than modern hotels.

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