Spectrum Design Architecs | Engineers

General Francis Marion Hotel

APVA's Gabriella Page Historic Preservation Award for 2007

Marion, Virginia

The General Francis Marion Hotel was constructed in 1926, with its primary market being business travelers on Lee Highway. The five-story building has three bays in the east-west direction, the middle one of which is set back on the three guest room floors to provide a light and ventilation court. The first and second floors contained lobbies, food service, office and meeting spaces. While very nice in its heyday, the Hotel had undergone very little renovation prior to its renovations in 2005 and 2006. The goal of this project was to create an elegant boutique hotel with the amenities which today's travelers desire while also restoring the original building finishes, millwork, and envelope in a manner true to the original design and consistent with Department of the Interior standards for the rehabilitation of historic structures (the Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980's).

The now General Francis Marion Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Marion, Virginia, the county seat of Smyth County. It is surrounded by buildings of the same period and similar style. The building virtually fills the site except on the rear (north) side, where there is on-site parking for 15 cars. Most of the buildings in the block of Main Street in which the Hotel is located have maintained their original façade appearances.

The intent of the renovation plan was to add all of the building systems needed for the current market and codes ( air-conditioning, communications, circulating domestic hot water, sprinkler, fire alarm, security, vertical transportation) while at the same time keeping the original character of the public as well as guest room spaces to the extent feasible. Where original materials, such as doors, running trim and finishes, were restorable without sacrificing the quality of the finishes project, such restorations were accomplished. Doors and trim were removed, stripped and refinished; the main desk was refurbished; terrazzo and wood floors were ground/sanded and refinished. New elements, such as ductwork, wheelchair lifts, and sprinkler system, were carefully inserted into the building so as not to impact the prominent and more public parts of the hotel.

The first two floors of the Hotel contain all of the food service public spaces. Here small but important changes were made to afford Hotel guests and patrons of the dining room comfortable, accessible, luxuriously decorated spaces: a wheelchair lift enclosed with dark wood wainscoting to match the rest of the Ballroom, ductwork concealed in ancillary spaces or by bulkheads rather than wholesale lowering of ceilings; fan coil units with custom wood cabinets to match the Ballroom woodwork; a technology-rich meeting room for thirty people; a second floor terrace protected by a retractable awning.

The guest rooms received considerable attention, beginning with careful analysis of the mix of room types (finished Hotel has a rich mix of cozy and spacious rooms and suites) and including custom built-in mirrors and period light fixtures and toilet accessories. Because many of the original rooms shared toilet facilities, many of the guest rooms had to be re-configured and all of the guest bathrooms were new or substantially reconfigured. The corridors on the guestroom floors, because of their public nature, were restored to their original appearance; for example, guest room doors no longer functional because of reconfiguration remain visible on the corridor so as to maintain the original rhythm of the door openings.