There are grand hotels, and there are grand hotels: The Jefferson in Richmond, and The Queensbury in Glens Falls, NY

There’s nothing like a little contrast.

Two weekends ago, our family flew to the town where I grew up, Glens Falls, NY. We’d arranged to meet friends up there, and John wanted the girls to try alpine skiing.

Girls skiing wearing helmets

We stayed in Glens Falls’s best hotel, The Queensbury.

The Queensbury Hotel entrance, Glens Falls, NY

I love The Queensbury Hotel. It’s the fanciest place in town for weddings and parties…I went to my first bar mitzvah there when I was 11.

Lobby of The Queensbury Hotel, Glens Falls, NY

Built in 1922, The Queensbury Hotel’s grandest days are likely behind it. Like most other towns in America, Glens Falls has not escaped the recession…even when I lived there, it wasn’t the thriving mill town it once was.

But The Queensbury remains a dignified monument to the past, even if it’s a little worn around the edges. It’s clean, the people are friendly, it has an indoor pool that the girls LOVE, and we were in a 1.5-bath suite that would have been out-of-reach-expensive anywhere else.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 7.38.22 AM

I also love the little sparks of awesomeness that older hotels in not-so-fancy places have. Parking is free and plentiful. The elevator is fast, since there aren’t that many stories. There’s no line at breakfast — and the breakfast is actually quite good. (Ask the girls about the waffles if you have 15 minutes to kill.)

If you ever find yourself in Glens Falls, The Queensbury Hotel is the place to stay.

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The very next weekend, John and I went in the other direction, literally and figuratively. John has cousins outside Richmond, so we dropped the girls there to be spoiled silly, and he and I carried on to The Jefferson Hotel downtown. (“Porter, send my bags to The Jefferson!”)

The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

Have you been to Richmond? I hadn’t. But you must go, and you must – MUST – stay at The Jefferson if you can possibly manage it.

This is an award-winning hotel. Every fancy, multi-diamond-star-whatever rating you can get, it has. I don’t really care about that. What *I* care about is this:

Lobby/rotunda of The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

And this:

Grand staircase in the lobby of The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

I mean, HOLY COW. This is a drop-dead gorgeous, Beaux Arts masterpiece. There’s glorious stained glass, marble floors,

Floor of The Jefferson Hotel

and attention to every space. This is the elevator lobby on our floor:

Elevator lobby, The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

Naturally, there’s a statue of Mr. Jefferson smack dab in the middle of the lobby.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson in the lobby of The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

(Mr. Jefferson wrote his own epitaph, by the way. See what’s missing? “Third President of the United States?” He makes his priorities pretty clear.)

Thomas Jefferson's epitaph

It’s all grand, grand, grand. Magnificent, actually.

What made The Jefferson especially fabulous is that it was bustling. I saw at least four groups there for tea — and they weren’t thousand-year-old biddies tucked away in some remote corner of the restaurant. They were families and groups of friends, right there in the lobby area, laughing with their cheery servers and ACTUALLY DRINKING TEA.

Lobby of The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

When John and I had a drink in the lobby before dinner on Saturday night (Gimlets: the anti-tea), the lobby was busy enough to feel full, but not so crowded that we didn’t score an awesome sofa where we could lounge and people-watch.

And we could listen to the wedding going on upstairs, which contributed to the festive air. (Note to wedding bands everywhere: it would seem that the Black-Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night/I Got a Feeling” is more difficult to play than one would expect. No one will fault you for skipping it.)

In the rooms, there were crisply ironed sheets, framed botanical prints and maps of Richmond of yore, and ultra-thick towels.

Room at The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

As for amenities, the pool was fancy-schmancy and the workout room excellent (so John reported; I had better things to do, like nap).

Pool at The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond VA

It’s not fair to compare The Queensbury Hotel and The Jefferson. But it is interesting to see how two historic hotels have survived into the 21st century, each in its own charming way.

Quoted in publications from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Real Simple magazine, Annie Elliott is considered an expert in color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible. Her interior design firm, bossy color, has been serving residents in the greater Washington, D.C. area since 2004.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    OOO -you know I love an old hotel! I stayed in the Jefferson just this fall when I visited Richmond -such a treat – really beautiful and great restaurant! I didn’t LOVE my room but it was tasteful, comfortable and clean. A little on the small side but they typically are in old hotels unless you’re going BIG.
    Hope to run into you guys again soon!

  2. says

    Hi Annie! I had no idea you were from Glens Falls. I’ve actually been there. I helped a single friend survive a wedding on a boat in the the middle of Lake George many years ago. I loved the faded glamour of the whole area. Out-of-favor tourist spots are so much fun to visit.

    And we were just in Richmond for the Dale Chihuly show at the VMFA. We have a longer stay planned soon and The Jefferson was already on our list so thanks for the good recommendation!

  3. says

    The Jefferson is beautiful! Reminds me of The Palmer House in Chicago — have you ever stayed there? I love the grand old hotels much more than the glitzy modern places, even if the rooms are typically smaller. So much more atmosphere.

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