Meetings & Conventions: Coming Of Age December
Coming Of Age
Experience the grandeur of bygone days at these historic
BY CHERYL-ANNE STURKEN
Seventeenth-century opulence: The Castle Suite at Le Pavilion
Hotel, New Orleans.
In the hospitality business, older can be better. New properties
certainly have their appeal, but a true sense of grandeur only
comes with time. Across the country, from bustling cities to
colonial hamlets, are historic hotels -- carefully renovated,
faithfully restored, and sometimes renamed. The following
properties, all members of Historic Hotels of America, offer groups
something more than just room, lodging and meeting space -- they
let guests experience a slice of an earlier America.
The Admiral Fell Inn
Guest rooms: 80
Meeting space: Six meeting rooms
Phone: (410) 522-7377; (800) 292-INNS
Fax: (410) 522-0707
If the eight different buildings that make up the Admiral Fell
Inn could talk, they would speak volumes. Named for Quaker Edward
Fell, who arrived in Baltimore in 1726, the inn's historic
buildings, some dating to the 1780s, are a composite of the area's
rich port history. At various times they operated as a boarding
house for sailors, distilling plant and YMCA hotel.
Each guest room is individually decorated in elegant Federal
period furnishings. The English-style pub harkens to the town's
early watering holes, with brass candleholders and port scenes
adorning the walls.
The inn's elegant Sea Witch restaurant has a 200-year-old legend
of its own. Here, a raven-haired lass named Emil sold herbs and
fortunes until she died of a broken heart when her young sailor
husband was lost at sea.
To capture the essence of historic Fell's Point, groups can take
part in the inn's weekly two-hour walking tours, which amble past
tug boats, docks, antique shops, galleries and pubs. Or, for a
glimpse of modern history, visitors might opt for the Homicide
tour. The popular TV show, filmed entirely on location in
Baltimore, is headquartered in Fell's Point.
Manchester Village, Vt.
Guest rooms: 183
Meeting space: 10 meeting rooms
Phone: (802) 362-4700; (800) 362-4747
Fax: (802) 362-1595
In 1769, The Equinox was a simple, two-story wooden building
known as the Marsh Tavern, and the secret meeting place of a local
group of American revolutionaries known as the Green Mountain Boys.
More than 200 years and several expansions later, meetings are
still being held here -- just not secretly.
Set on 2,300 acres, 900 of which are protected lands, The
Equinox, now a National Historic Landmark, is an oasis of New
England tradition and hospitality. The main house is furnished with
antiques, Audubon prints, period wallpaper designs and canopied
four-poster beds. Guests choose from four restaurants, including
the original Marsh Tavern, now the main dining room.
Small groups can take over the 1812 Charles Orvis Inn, the
former home of Charles F. Orvis, the fly-fishing entrepenuer. This
carefully restored New England home features nine one- and
two-bedroom suites (each with a fireplace, kitchen and dining
room), private check-in, concierge, butler and valet services, an
oak-paneled billiard room and a boardroom (the original Orvis
library) that seats 15. Each suite is decorated with fly-fishing
paraphernalia, much of it borrowed from the nearby American Museum
of Fly Fishing.
Unique group activities include hands-on lessons at the British
School of Falconry, where participants learn handling and hunting
skills; and off-road, four-wheel driving lessons at the Land Rover
Driving School, the British company's first U.S. school.
More traditional options such as golf, fishing, canoeing,
horseback riding, hiking and skiing are also available. And not to
be missed in historic Manchester Village: the 24-room summer
mansion of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's son.
The Georgian Hotel
Santa Monica, Calif.
Guest rooms: 84
Meeting space: Four meeting rooms
Phone: (310) 395-9945
Fax: (310) 451-3374
When the Georgian Hotel first opened in 1933, hip Santa Monica
was still a little-known seaside community, Prohibition was in full
swing and the Big Screen was big business.
For many movie executives, up-and-coming celebrities and other
characters of the era -- Clark Gable, Fatty Arbuckle, Bugsy Siegel
and Carol Lombard -- the Georgian (then called the Lady Windemere)
was the rendezvous of choice. The hotel's hidden oceanfront
verandah operated as a racy speakeasy.
Today, fresh from a recent $5 million renovation, the turquoise
and gold Art Deco structure dominates Ocean Avenue. But, its spirit
-- that of a classic beach hotel -- remains intact. Guest room
windows still open to catch the ocean breezes, and the atmosphere
is intimate and laid-back. A pink, yellow and green Art Deco decor
hints at the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age, as do nostalgic
touches like the original elevator, complete with an elevator
While the restaurant is only open for breakfast, the hotel will
arrange outside catering for lunch, dinner and all breaks for
groups. Or, groups might opt to dine off-site at area restaurants,
many of which are within walking distance.
Guest rooms: 93
Meeting space: Eight meeting rooms
Phone: (970) 920-1000; (800) 331-7213
Fax: (970) 544-0260
It was 1889 and Colorado was enjoying a silver boom. Local mine
owner Jerome B. Wheeler decided it was high time the town had a
luxury hotel. On Thanksgiving eve of that same year, the Hotel
Jerome debuted to an admiring public. Melodic violin music greeted
guests and smart bellhops in gold-braided uniforms escorted them
through the lobby, with its towering cathedral glass ceiling.
Fifteen bathrooms boasted hot and cold plumbing (a nice change from
the town's icy outhouses), a French chef headed up the kitchen and
a German horticulturist manned the hothouse. All this for $3 to $4
But during the Great Depression and World War II, the property
slipped into the role of frumpy boarding house and eventually fell
into complete neglect. Then, in 1984 a group of investors bought
the property and began an ambitious renovation, painstakingly
restoring every detail.
Today, the Hotel Jerome is a living museum -- a freeze-frame of
Aspen's wealthy mining days, when silver transformed the city's
image from that of a tented frontier town on the edge of
civilization to one of newfound comfort, wealth and prosperity.
No two guest rooms are alike. Period antiques, custom-made
wallpapers, cherry wood doors, paneling, crocheted bed coverings
and ornate fireplaces create an atmosphere of splendor and
elegance. Private dinners or cocktails are held in the opulent
Jerome B. Wheeler Room, where French crystal chandeliers, brocade
chairs and gold leaf detail set the tone. Larger groups can gather
in the Century Room, decorated with Italian tapestries, cloisonné
chandeliers, gilded mirrors and richly upholstered burgundy velvet
For more casual affairs, the sunny Garden Lobby is decorated
with old photographs of legendary Aspenites and mining camps, along
with potted palms, overstuffed Victorian-style sofas and an antique
Steinway baby grand piano.
Le Pavillon Hotel
New Orleans, La.
Guest rooms: 226
Meeting space: Seven meeting rooms
Phone: (504) 581-3111; (800) 535-9095
Fax: (504) 522-5543
Originally named the New Hotel Denechaud, Le Pavillon Hotel
opened to much fanfare and international acclaim on Jan. 14, 1907.
Wealthy socialites, prominent businessmen and politicians crowded
its immense dining room. They feasted on Louisiana delicacies and
champagne and admired the hand-tiled mosaic floor, wall murals,
silk draperies and 24-karat gold leaf overlay on columns and
For decades the hotel enjoyed immense acclaim, until it slowly
fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. In 1970, five
local businessmen rescued the hotel from demolition and launched a
Today, Le Pavillon is an even grander version of its former
self. Much of the original furniture and artwork was retrieved, and
European and American antiques grace hallways, rooms and public
areas. Elaborate hand-cut Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers and
early 20th-century European furnishings and rugs decorate the main
lobby. The ceiling of the dining room, now called the Crystal Room,
sports miniature hand-painted vignettes of American country scenes.
The Board Room is an elegant blend of cherry wood, leather club
chairs and period wallpaper.
VIPs will enjoy the Plantation Suite, an authentic reproduction
of an 18th-century Louisiana plantation master's bedroom. Or, opt
for the undiluted opulence of the 17th-century Castle Suite, where
a handcarved Brazilian rosewood mantle, brought from a 17th-century
Scottish castle, graces the fireplace, and the bathroom sports a
cast-iron tub that once belonged to Napoleon.
The Menger Hotel
San Antonio, Texas
Guest rooms: 318
Meeting space: 13 meeting rooms
Phone: (210) 223-4361; (800) 345-9285
Fax: (210) 223-1328
Twenty-three years after the fall of the Alamo, the Menger Hotel
welcomed its first guests -- politicians, writers, generals, cattle
barons and socialites -- who came from all across America. Oscar
Wilde sipped spiked lemonade in the garden, Teddy Roosevelt
hunkered down at the famous cherry wood bar (an exact replica of
London's House of Lords pub), Sidney Lanier entertained fellow
guests with flute recitals; and General Robert E. Lee rode his
mount, Traveller, through the hotel lobby.
One hundred thirty-eight years later, the hotel is a National
Historic Landmark. Its original 50-room two-story structure has
evolved into a rambling cornerstone of San Antonio history, rich in
architectural detail, antiques and local lore. But some things
remain the same: Mango ice cream, made from mango trees planted in
the hotel's gardens, is still a menu staple, and patrons are still
drawn to the cherry wood bar and the magnificent Victorian lobby,
with its enormous Corinthian columns.
And meetings business goes on. In 1871, General William Sherman
and several other generals celebrated the Union victory here. In
1877, railroad executives gathered to welcome the arrival of the
railroad to San Antonio. And in 1905, Texas patriot Clara Driscoll,
credited with singlehandedly saving the Alamo from demolition,
hosted the season's most magnificent debutante ball.
Groups can meet in some of the same historic rooms: the
Renaissance Room, with its Victorian furnishings and ornate
chandeliers hanging from a decorative, 16-foot plaster ceiling; or
the 1912 Colonial Room Restaurant, with its neoclassic design.
Several guest rooms, too, have been faithfully maintained with
original furnishings. *
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