The Jefferson Hotel
As The Jefferson moves into its second century, we take a reflective look at all that has gone before and salute a building that has, perhaps more than any other, become an integral part of the social and cultural history of Richmond.
The Beginning - Lewis Ginter
Opened in 1895, the hotel symbolized a dream for the man who was, simultaneously, one of Richmond's most modest and most colorful citizens and also Richmond's wealthiest citizen. Lewis Ginter was born in New York of Dutch immigrant parents. He came to Richmond in 1842 at the age of eighteen and made a fortune in the import business before losing it to the Civil War. He served in the Confederate Army, and then returned to New York, where he made a second fortune in the banking industry and lost it to a recession.
At age fifty, Ginter returned to Richmond and entered the tobacco business. He made millions marketing the pre-rolled cigarette and became a civic leader and philanthropist. He then sold his interest in the tobacco company and entered his fourth career, land development.
A classic Jeffersonian, cultured, gifted and widely traveled (he crossed the Atlantic thirty times, and went around the world several times), Ginter was interested in the arts and architecture. He also had a strong, abiding love for his adopted city.
To create this dream, he commissioned Carrere and Hastings, a renowned architectural firm from New York. The firm designed the Fifth Avenue Public Library and Henry Frick House (later the Frick Museum) in New York, as well as portions of the Commonwealth Club in Richmond.
Ginter's wishes were followed and the hotel was built incorporating Renaissance and other forms of architecture that he admired, creating a composite, eclectic style popular at the turn of the century. When The Jefferson was elected in 1969 to the National Register of Historical Places, it was considered to be among the finest examples of Beaux Arts style in existence.