Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Jefferson Hotel
Urban legend has it that the grand staircase at Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel was the inspiration for Margaret Mitchell’s in a crucial scene in her epic Gone with the Wind. Near the end of the story as Rhett and Scarlet are arguing yet again, Scarlet falls down the red staircase and has a miscarriage. The rest of the story is Hollywood history. Whether or not Mitchell was inspired by the staircase at the Jefferson Hotel, it’s still a great story.
Alligators in the lobby are yet another legend of The Jefferson Hotel. But, unlike the staircase, this one is known to be true. The alligators in the Jefferson Hotel lobby were famous around the world. The last alligator living in the marble pools of the Jefferson’s Palm Court was named Old Pompey. He lived there until he died in 1948. Bronze statues of the alligators still adorn the hotel lobby. Stories about of guests who had a little too much celebration wandering into the pools with the alligators.
The Jefferson Hotel first opened up in Richmond in 1895, a grand era in the City of Richmond. It was built by tobacco baron Lewis Ginter. Ginter commissioned the architecture firm of Carrère and Hastings, who had designed the New York Public Library to design the building. Ginter was one of Richmond’s most modest, yet most colorful citizens, in addition to being the wealthiest. He made fortune in the import business before losing it in the Civil War. After serving in the Confederate Army he went to New York, making a second fortune and losing it in a recession. When he was fifty Ginter came back to Richmond and made his third fortune in the tobacco industry. He sold that business and became a land developer.
The Jefferson has an excellent reputation for warm, friendly, southern service and comfort. It represents the excellence and grandeur of times gone by. The Jefferson was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1968 and was considered one of the finest examples of the Beaux Arts style.
By 1980 the hotel was closed with the exception of use by the occasional film crew. Louis Malle filmed My Dinner with Andre in the Jefferson Ballroom. Plans were to raze the property and the federal government was looking at the location for the site of a new Federal Reserve Building. Fortunately a developer gathered a group of investors and the hotel was refurbished and opened again in 1986. The stained-glass windows were retrieved and refurbished. Ceiling carvings and gold leaf were renovated. Brought back to her former beauty, today the Jefferson is again the site for elaborate weddings, banquets and other functions.
The Sunday Champagne Brunch at The Jefferson is a Richmond legend. While it’s popular every Sunday, it’s a particular treat for Mother’s Day and Easter. Guests can enjoy made to order omelets, oysters on the half shell and spoon bread while being serenaded with live music. The Jefferson’s chef creates a menu featuring Virginia’s best seasonal ingredients. Successful Meetings Magazine ranked the Jefferson Champaign Brunch as one of the top ten in the U.S.
Brunch is served in the Rotunda lobby at the base of the grand staircase and on the Mezzanine. Live music is provided each Sunday by the Skip Gailes Trio.
Sunday Brunch is reasonably priced at $42.00 for adults and $19.95 for Children 6-12. Children under 5 are free. Prices are slightly higher for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day. Reservations are recommended.
The Jefferson is one of 27 American hotels with Mobile Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel ratings.
The Jefferson Hotel is located at 101 Franklin Street. Guests can call 804-649-4677 for reservations.