Thursday, May 7, 2009

L'HÔTEL MONTICELLO STILL STANDING

Construction of L'HÔTEL Monticello (L'HÔTEL) at 500 Court Square started in 1924 and opened in 1926. The building was designed by architect Stanhope Johnson of Johnson and Brannan. It was a full-scale five-star hotel hosting many famous guests including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, band leaders Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo, writer Gertrude Stein, and movie stars Robert Taylor, Sterling Hayden, and Joan Blondell. The dining room of the Monticello Hotel was locally renowned until it closed in 1989 and was converted into office space now housing the law firm of Michie Hamlett Lowry Rasmussen & Tweel. Today L'HÔTEL houses luxury condominium apartments (well, sort of luxury) and POG VC, who has resided there for twenty years, can guarantee L'HÔTEL will not go the way of the Landmark 'Luxury' Hotel or the Greenbrier Resort. Why? Because we the people own and operate it, with a frugal Board that sees to it that we stay IN THE BLACK.

On August 2, 1927 a few minutes after 8 p.m. the 'largest searchlight in the world' lit up the sky from on L'HÔTEL's roof, which was claimed to be visible three hundred miles away. The light scanned the heavens over Charlottesville, and was often pointed at distant Monticello at night. A very good article was reprinted in Lighthouse Digest (taken from an old Daily Progress article) in September, 2005.

Built by Sperry for army use in spotting airplanes at night, the searchlight was given to Charlottesville as a gift by the Virginia Public Service Company (now Dominion Power). It was named The Thomas Jefferson Light (what else?) and would be operated by linemen from the power company.

Directly across the street is the historic Albemarle County Courthouse. Construction of the first building was from 1763 and 1781. Additions were made 1803 and 1860, and the building was remodeled and restored in 1938.

The Thomas Jonathan 'Stonewall' Jackson Monument to the west of the courthouse building in Jackson Park was unveiled in 1921. Jackson detested riding and the pony is a bit diminutive. He liked it that way; small and steady (gait). The gardens on the 17,500 square foot are exquisite, planted to rotate with the seasons.

Living in the Historic District has been a wonderful pleasure for the past two decades. Y'ALL COME and see L'HÔTEL, a relative success story in Charlottesville! No Crack Heads, no Meth Heads and no Old White Clubs. Just a beautiful building with stories that would defy the Fawlty Towers scriptwriters. "88" Keys Wilson who worked at L'HÔTEL for five decades, the elderly lady who rode up and down the elevator for hours sitting on a Chippendale bench dead, and a cast of characters one could not make up. One sad note: this Spring we lost our building manager Bill Muller. More than just a manager, Bill was a person who we all miss very much. L'HÔTEL doesn't seem the same without him.

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