A hotel for which people have protested to preserve, the Georgian Terrace returns that love with a magnificence, which not many can emulate
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: January 21, 2014
It’s a mix of history and future, heritage and contemporary, stately luxury and affable staff. As soon as our car drove into the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta, I realised that the hotel believes in the traditional meaning of luxury, when I saw a uniformed bellboy coming to take care of our luggage and help with valet parking.
The kind of personal service that is hard to find in an otherwise automated America is what impressed me about Georgian Terrace. If we would call out for something from the room, we would get a follow-up call soon to check if we had received our requested item.
And I assume, after standing ground for more than 100 years, seeing the best and the worst in people and society, the hotel has learned many lessons and learned them well.
First opened in 1911, the Georgian Terrace was called the Grand Dame of Atlanta. One of the first luxury hotels to open in the region, it immediately captured the fancy of socialites, politicians, actors, directors, authors, dancers and many more! What was probably the most enchanting at that time was that the hotel was built on the site of the home of Livingston Mims, a former mayor of Atlanta.
Located on the corner of Peachtree Street (one of the longest connecting roads in Atlanta) and Ponce de Leon Avenue, the hotel is situated in the middle of it all. The historic Fox Theatre, built after the Georgian Terrace, by William Fox, and the Ponce apartments built by the same architect as the hotel, share a common history, the vicinity and a beautiful relationship with each other.
While the Georgian Terrace has seen many luminaries on its threshold, probably the most remarkable one is the premiere of the classic movie Gone with the Wind at the Fox Theatre, and the subsequent party in the ballroom of the hotel. Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh and other crew members are said to have stayed at the hotel after this glittering night. Arthur Murray made people groove in his first solo studio in the hotel. Two American presidents (Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge) have stayed here.
The property changed many hands in the past 40 years, was defunct and stranded for about four years, faced the horror of being demolished, and saw many a legal dramas happening for its possession. But in the end, the love of people, and its importance in the story of Atlanta, saved the property. It was when it reached the hands of Frank Howington that the property was given the care it deserved. A $45 million renovation later, the hotel reopened in 1991, and was soon swept back into the glory and heavy business it was historically used to. Another change of hands and an $11 million renovation in 2009 firmly told everyone to keep their hands off this highly successful hotel. And then, George Clooney was seen in the part of Clark Gable, shooting a martini commercial.
Chandeliers and champagne
As you step into the lobby, the traditional, stone built exterior of the hotel will give way to a contemporary designed lobby, but inspired by its history. The lobby once used to have a mini English garden and fountain right in the center where we were standing. Replacing that are carpets with a floral pattern, and a huge tinted steel-glass artwork of peach trees behind the front desk. Tall juniper trees surround the lobby entrance of their restaurant Livingston and a grand staircase going down to the lower level.
The most fascinating structure in the entire building, according to me, is it’s glass tower in the middle. Providing wonderful views of the city, especially at night, the tower gives a majestic appeal to the exterior of the hotel, adding that one contemporary touch to the otherwise traditional structure. Not many had appreciated this change to the building by Mr Howington, but naysayers accepted that the tower did indeed add another beautiful dimension.
Under Mr Howington again, the Georgian Terrace had re-opened with apartments including a furnished kitchen, dining area, a separate room for washer-dryer and more. But during one of its recent renovation, the apartments were converted back into rooms and suites. The result? Large, spacious rooms with clearly marked areas, and some mysterious locked doors your hands will itch to open.
From all the one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom and suite options, we stayed in the 18th floor Junior Bridal suite and it had more space than two people could ever require. But yes, it is quite apt for a party of eight. A bedroom with generous closet space, a bathroom, a living area, and a separate powder room where the bride can have dedicated space to get ready for the big event constituted the suite. Two televisions (one in the living room and other in the bedroom), a refrigerator to chill the champagne, a work desk with coffee machine and an iPod-docking station kept us company.
Neutral, elegant décor adorned all the rooms. But based on the new room model we saw, some of the rooms are going to get spiffed up with modern ceiling lamps, artwork by local artists, stone vases in varying shades, designer rugs, wooden flooring, marble bathrooms and more.
The two level penthouses, however, are the crowning glory of the property. All of them on the 19th floor, with views that you can only imagine, the penthouses are extremely capacious, with public areas and the kitchen below, and bedrooms above. Elegant décor makes them picture perfect, and approximately $1,500 per night in cost. When I expressed awe for their penthouse, Mr Walter Nemeth, who was showing us around, smiled mysteriously and said, “Wait, you haven’t seen all!” And then we saw their Premier penthouse, with a revamped décor screaming class and daring taste, priced at a sweeping $3,000 per night!
Their restaurant, Livingston, is not only built on the exact spot as the former mayor’s house, but is also an ode to his vivacious, social spirit. Mr Mims, it is said, loved to host parties, and he was quite remembered for that. What better location to create a restaurant? Serving American cuisine with an elegant twist, the ambience of the restaurant is as grand as the hotel itself. On the main street, you’ll also find Mims, their take-away café, powered by Starbucks.
For cocktails that delight, head to Proof & Provision on the lower level of the hotel. Previously a casual dining area where the who’s who of the town used to head to in another era, it was converted into a cocktail place, which with brick pillars and booths, looks straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie! Draft beers, wines, well-formulated cocktails, and its own bourbon casks form the menu, as do sandwiches, French bread pizzas, charcuterie, and other light snacks to accompany your drink.
Frills and functionalities
One thing my husband jumped up and down to do was swim as soon as we reached the hotel. And hearing that the hotel’s pool is located, along with the gym, on the 19th floor, we both could only conjure up images of what the view would be like. However, the weather being chilly, and the pool being outdoor, we couldn’t use it. We wished it was heated, and contented ourselves by using the gym, which included all the basic equipment.
There are many meeting rooms and ballrooms available for MICE purposes, which can be joined or divided in various permutations and combinations as required. Considering Atlanta has quite a corporate culture, I am sure these facilities must be getting used quite frequently. Incredibly, about 200 weddings are hosted at the Georgian Terrace every year. No wonder since the hotel has bridal suites, penthouses, and lovely ballrooms with marble pillars that have seen celebrities swish around.
Located right in the middle of downtown Atlanta, the hotel ensures accessibility to nearly anywhere. A part of the Preferred Hotel Group (and thus offering iPrefer guests all the advantages), Georgian Terrace is a crossover, according to me, between The Ritz in London and The Imperial New Delhi in India. The same elegant, English atmosphere resides in its halls, with the hotel finding a fitting place in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Georgian Terrace is not a brick and mortar palace built to accommodate humans. It has become a living and breathing soul where you can still feel the celebrated events that have happened inside the hotel and outside it too. Rising from its ashes like a phoenix, it’s not the hotel which bows down to its guests. Rather it stands proudly, wearing its age gracefully, as its guests feel privileged to be a part of such a legendary bastion.
Coordinates: 659 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia | Ph: (404) 897-5053