Building Interior Description Jefferson Hotel, Richmond Virginia

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The upper area of the Jefferson on Franklin Street was not destroyed by fire but apparently has been altered somewhat over the years, especially when the Rotunda Club leased this section on the ground level in 1957. The Marlbe Hall, now a rather narrow cross hall reached through a vestibule on entering from the street, originally was much broader, but rooms have been created by filling in between the rows of marble piers along the molded beams which criss-cross the ceiling. The walls themselves are covered with imitation marble plaster blocks, but the floors are marble. The hall runs east-west along the north side of the Palm Court, a two-story open room whose center of focus is Edward Valentine's magnificent statue of Mr. Jefferson. Twin Roman Ionic columns surround the rectangular room and support a decorated entablature and second-level arcade of window lights and skylight above. The columns frame the wide doorways leading to a large sitting room on the east and the blocked doorways which formerly led to the small parlors on the west, the hallway addition leading to the club from the lower Rotunda lobby having eliminated those. On the north and south ends of the Palm Court the columns screen one-story recesses. The east sitting room walls have pilasters between broad window openings and beams ornamented with dentils and modillions cross the room. The "Grand Salon" to the north and occupying the northeast corner of the hotel is richly decorated in an l890's version of "Louis XVI" style. Unfluted Roman Ionic columns set on pedestals have been placed in the four corners of the rectangular room and alongside the two entrances on the west wall. They support an entablature which projects to meet each column; a heavily decorated modillioned cornice projects completely around the ceiling and the soffit has deep coffering with gilded rosettes in the centers. A chair rail divides the raised panels in the dado from the large plain surfaces framed by strip moldings above. These panels and the windows are surmounted by broad gilded shell motifs. The rather plain mantel is topped by a large mirror with raised leaf patterns at either side and a large decorated panel above. The small rooms which range along the Franklin Street front between it and the Marble Hall serve as parlors and offices for the Rotunda Club. The double parlor at the east end of this range of rooms is in the Rococo style expressed particularly in the carved marble mantel, but the parlor at the west end, which appears to have some alterations in the doorways, is in the French Renaissance style.

The Rotunda dominates the southern half of the structure to which everything on the surrounding two levels is oriented. The Rotunda and the Palm Room of the Rotunda Club form a north-south axis which was weakened with the closing up of the entranceway between them. The broad staircase leading to the mezzanine on the north end of the Rotunda does, however, establish a strong visual axis down the lobby itself. The Rotunda is dominated by the double tiers of mammoth columns covered with paper in imitation marble which support a painted tray ceiling of leaf clusters set in red panels. A large rectangular inset in the center of the ceiling marks the old skylight, which has been filled in. The first-level columns utilize gilt swags on a background of gold rings of varying texture to from a capping typical of the originality of the period. The mezzanine-level columns have a gilded composite order capping with flower swags below. The entablature combines a standard architrave with a frieze of squares alternating with long decorated rectangular panels, and a heavy modillioned cornice above. Most of the walls on the first and mezzanine levels facing the court give the paneled effect by the use of strip moldings in some form. The second south wall is dominated by a series of five arches which mark the northern boundaries of the Empire Room.

A range of hotel offices, luncheon counter, dining room and. elevators surrounds the ground level of the Rotunda; but the mezzanine is flanked by the kitchen on the east, the Empire and Flemish Rooms on the south, and the stair, the Washington and the Monticello Rooms running south to north, respectively, along the west wall. These are, of course, the work of the 1907 rebuilding. Carrying out the heavy classicism of the Rotunda itself is the large banquet and meeting room called the Washington Room. As in the Marble Hall and Grand Salon of the upper end, broad beams crisscross the room being supported at the intersections by gilded Roman Ionic columns with swags and corresponding pilasters along the walls. The green and gold painted room is well-lighted by the row of arched windows on the south, which match the ones seen from the Rotunda lobby on the north, and has a wood parquet floor.

The smaller Flemish Room is handsomely paneled in walnut almost two-thirds of the way up to the high exposed, beam ceiling. Cross beams are supported by square posts whose vertical panels are in two sections divided two-thirds of be way up by medallions with carved rosettes. Half sections of these rosettes appear at the base of the shafts.

The Washington Room on the west range of the mezzanine has a more refined classical image with its low paneled dado, chair rail above and narrow strip moldings defining the broad wall surface above. A narrow band of gold painted carving separates the main wall surface from a cove frieze with a rather simple roll molding cornice. The marble mantel with its architrave framing and central rose-filled urn panel above supports a large framed mirror on the overmantel.

Special note should be given to a small room just east of the Washington Room, whose original function is unknown. The high dado, with its Queen Anne feeling portrayed in tall rectangular panels topped by narrow ones, surrounds the room interrupted by the arch of the Main Street front east front and the blind arch on the north wall. Within the latter has been placed a doorway with a shield above and from this central motif pours carved fruit of every type which runs along the top and continues halfway down the sides. The unusual character of this room is unfortunately rarely seen by the hotel guest.

The Engineers Club occupies the first level on the Main Street wing, but the stair hall and the ballroom on the second level are open to the public. The large stair which leads from the ground level outside entrance up to the ballroom and gallery carries out the design to which practically every stair design in the hotel adheres. The rhythmical pattern of curved end rectangles placed closely together lightens the effect that such broad stairs might create. Here, a dark slate was used on the treaders, but usually white marble was used in other parts of the hotel. Also, as in most of the other stairs, the basic structure is of iron. The ballroom is a heavily decorated room with hardwood floor, tray ceiling with gilded lattice pattern in the cove, molded convex surrounds in a large circle on the ceiling and as a frame for the stage on the north end. Four blind arches run along the east and west walls and a balcony is set on the south wall.

The three hundred and thirty guest rooms vary a great deal but most of them have either been altered or were never of any architectural consequence. Significant, however, are the suites which have sitting rooms, for their mantels and paneling expresses on a small scale the spirit of the Grand Salon and Washington Rooms. Also some "step up" baths have early-twentieth century fixtures. A program of renovation has been started which has considerably brightened the rooms but which has removed most of the original fixtures.