Did You Know?
The Jefferson Hotel was supposed to open on November 1, 1895, but 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. So the hotel was opened on Halloween instead.
From the time the hotel opened until 1937, rooms were just $1.50 per night. A room with a private bath was $1 more per night.
The Thanksgiving Day Dinner at the hotel in 1949 cost $2.50.
When Elvis stayed at the hotel in 1956, he brought his own television and the hotel manager was shocked that Elvis ate his bacon with his fingers.
In the mid 1950s, the hotel had a pink limousine to drive guests throughout the city.
The Jefferson has been in several movies including My Dinner with Andre (1981), First Kid (1996), HBO's Ironed Jawed Angels (2004), The American President (1995) and the recently discovered Rock and Roll Hotel (early 1980's).
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. Tour the hotel’s public area and see how many alligators you can find today!
Thirteen 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.), Clinton and Obama have been guests at The Jefferson Hotel.
Legend says that Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was discovered by his life-long agent while dancing across the dining room at The Jefferson Hotel.
Frank Sinatra once entertained guests in Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel with an impromptu performance after enjoying his dinner.
Artifacts from over a century of the hotel’s history are housed in a museum at the bottom of The Grand Staircase, including a photo of Elvis at the hotel's old lunch counter.
The priceless statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands watch over the Palm Court lobby has only left his post on one occasion. In the 1902 hotel fire, he was rescued from the building only to have his head bumped on the cobblestones. He took a brief vacation to Edward Valentine’s art studio where his head was reattached.
The Grand Staircase at The Jefferson Hotel has long been rumored to be the staircase featured in the iconic film, Gone with the Wind.
The Jefferson Hotel is often cited as one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture still in existence today.
Step Closer to Gone With the Wind
The Jefferson Hotel’s grand staircase has been rumored to be the model for the famed staircase in Gone With the Wind. Richmonders still encourage the rumor since the likeness between the two staircases is, quite frankly, hauntingly similar.
Gators in the Fountain
From 1901 until 1948, live alligators lived in the hotel’s Palm Court fountains. It is rumored that the alligators were left in the hotel by travelers, who originally purchased the gators as pets while on vacation in Florida. However, before leaving, the vacationers decided to leave the alligators to the hotel.
The alligators did not always stay in the fountains. They often sought alternative lounging locations. In the early 1900s, bellmen would enter The Jefferson in the morning to find the alligators reclining on the hotel’s fine furniture. The bellmen’s daily morning routine sometime included chasing the alligators off the furniture and back into the water of the fountains.
Bojangles Discovered at The Jefferson
Born a few blocks from The Jefferson, Bill Bojangles Robinson was raised in the Richmond area. As a young boy, he tap danced on street corners and stairs for coins. Eventually, Bojangles was performing regionally with a dance partner.
However in 1907, he and his partner split, and Bojangles returned to Richmond. In Richmond, Bojangles obtained a position at The Jefferson with the expectation of meeting influential people to forward his career. As Bojangles had anticipated, a producer, Mr. Fortner, stayed at The Jefferson. Fortunately, Bojangles was Fortner’s server in the dining room. After Bojangles “accidentally” spilled soup on Fortner’s white suit, he danced all the way to the kitchen to retrieve a towel.
The following day, Fortner saw Bojangles dancing on the street corner and gave him money so they could meet in New York to discuss business. The two had a lasting relationship and Fortner was Bojangles manager until the day he died.
The Breakfast of Kings: Ice Cream & Cantaloupe
While staying in The Jefferson Hotel’s presidential suite, “The King of Rock & Roll”, Elvis Presley, ordered ice cream and cantaloupe for breakfast.
Charles Kuralt Extols The Jefferson
During a visit in the late 1980s, Charles Kuralt developed a strong fondness for The Jefferson. In a televised segment for CBS, Mr. Kuralt described The Rotunda at The Jefferson as “ . . . arguably the most beautiful public room of any hotel in the country . . .”
Major Newspaper Headlines Across America During The Jefferson’s Inaugural Year
- Patent Issued to Allow Motorized Wagon With Carriage Body" (a.k.a.-the automobile)
- The X-Ray Was Discovered by German Scientist"
- Supreme Court Rules Income Tax Illegal"
- It is Not A Boy" (referring to the birth of President Cleveland’s third daughter)
A Southern Belle Marries at The Jefferson’s Opening
During the Civil War, many men were killed or wounded. With such a decline in suitors, young southern girls knew they needed to be beautiful, witty and charming if they were to marry. By the late 1890s, women spent a lot of time trying to attract a husband, coining the phrase Southern Belle.
During this time period, The Jefferson Hotel appropriately opened with the wedding of one of the most renowned Southern Belles, Irene Langhorne. Langhorne was one of the last belles. Presented in four or five cities, Langhorne was known all along the East Coast, despite the fact that proper young ladies did not have their pictures in magazines or newspapers.