Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thomas Jefferson Stands Vigil in the Jefferson Hotel Lobby

While visiting Richmond Virginia, Terry and I stayed in the Jefferson Hotel (101 West Franklin St, Richmond, Virginia). The place is lavish and luxurious so it's five star rating is well deserved. While I slept one night, Terry got up because she smelled smoke. She complained and had staff come up to the room to smell for themselves. She suspects it was marijuana smoke. We suspect that the air ducts are interconnected between rooms on each floor. If someone lights up in the next room, the smoke spreads out and is piped into all the rooms via the ducts. Anyway I slept through the whole ordeal. The good news is that one nights accommodations were subtracted from the bill.

The hotel was opened in 1885 by Lewis Gunter who was Richmond's wealthiest citizen at the time.  His millions came from the tobacco business.
It is estimated that between $5 and $10 million went into planning, building and furnishing the hotel, with nearly $2 million of this amount spent on construction. Unfortunately, Gunter's enjoyment of his accomplishment was short-lived, he died less than two years after the hotel's grand opening.

In 1901 the hotel itself came close to absolute destruction. A defective wire started a fire that demolished three-fifths of the building. There were no fatalities, however, there was a narrow escape for one famous occupant of the hotel, the statue of Thomas Jefferson. A rescue crew, including the sculptor himself, was hurriedly summoned to help. The men pushed the statue onto strategically placed mattresses and carried it outside. They accidentally dropped it, and the head struck the ground and broke off. For a while, the headless statue stood in the front yard of a neighboring home. The head was kept in the secure vault of Henry Valentine, a relative of the sculptor, and a member of the rescue crew. Eventually the pieces were  taken back to the sculptor’s studio, where repairs were made. The hotel reopened in grand style in May 1902 with Thomas Jefferson restored and intact.


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