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Richmond's landmark to luxury

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May 4, 2008

RICHMOND - The Jefferson, a massive Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival-style hotel in the heart of this city's historic district, has been called "the best hotel in America" by Forbes magazine.

Opened in 1895 just in time for the wedding reception of artist Charles Dana Gibson and Irene Langhorne, one of the models who posed for his "Gibson Girl" illustrations, its grand staircase is rumored to have been copied for the movie of "Gone With the Wind."

It leads up to the Rotunda, which was called "arguably the most beautiful public room of any hotel in the country" by the late Charles Kuralt, the itinerant CBS News reporter. In its early years, alligators occupied the Palm Court's pool, and the likes of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, President Truman, Gertrude Stein, and Elvis Presley checked in. The Jefferson is where native son Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was discovered after tap dancing through the dining room.

Its Richmond businessmen co-owners spent millions to restore the Jefferson and preserve the best of it, including the Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Besides all the tapestries, stained glass, antique furnishings, and state-of-the-art enormous marble bathrooms, the best part of this establishment is the staff, which welcomes the visitor as only Southerners can: with a gracious, genteel charm, as if you've been away from home for many years.

JULIE HATFIELD

The Jefferson Hotel, 101 West Franklin St., Richmond, Va., 800-424-8014, 804-788-8000, jeffersonhotel.com. $235-$2,100 per night.

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