The George Washington named Hotel of the Year
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Even though stars such as Lucille Ball, Tim McGraw, Val Kilmer and the Beach Boys have lain their heads there, Patsy Cline has sung there and it has just been named the Hotel of the Year by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, The George Washington Hotel General Manager David Cavallaro wants locals to know its luxury is within their grasp.
Cavallaro -- himself named Wyndham's General Manager of the Year for 2009 -- and the hotel's owners, Glen and Kim Burke, traveled to Las Vegas last month for the Wyndham Global Conference.
There, they were the recipients of the international hotel chain's top prize.
"To be eligible for the prestigious award, a Wyndham Hotels and Resorts property must have demonstrated positive performance and outstanding characteristics in all areas of hospitality, offering excellence in customer service and quality as well as playing an active and positive role in the local community," a news release from Marshall Hotels & Resorts, which operates the hotel, says.
The hotel has hosted balls for charities, such as Literacy Volunteers, and American Red Cross blood drives, among others, according to the release.
The 1924 hotel had sat vacant for years before the Burkes bought it in 2003 and started a massive -- and expensive -- renovation. It re-opened four years ago.
"Obviously, I pushed real hard for [the award]," Cavallaro said Friday, sitting in The Half Note Lounge off the marble-floored lobby. "It's everybody's award, from every housekeeper, to front-desk clerk, to restaurant server, to banquet server, to maintenance engineer. We're a team and we all pull together."
The George Washington is "the community's hotel," he said.
"We're friendly, we're welcoming," Cavallaro said. "Come in here and enjoy yourself."
Locals might be surprised to learn most aren't priced out of what the historic inn has to offer.
"Definitely, before '09 everyone thought this was very high-end and you couldn't afford to sleep here, you couldn't afford to get a meal here, you had to be in a tuxedo to be in here," Cavallaro said.
None of that is true, at least not these days.
"We're in Winchester, we're not in Washington," Cavallaro said. "Yeah, we're a very high-end hotel. We're a beautiful facility. [But,] the customer's only going to pay so much."
Rooms are in the $119-$169 range, depending on the season and day of the week, with suites going from $250-$400. The government rate for standard rooms is $77, Cavallaro said.
He describes the hotel as a "lodging experience" and a "destination property."
"You can get a bed in a lot of places," Cavallaro said. "If you want an experience, if you want history, live entertainment, great restaurants, obviously, friendly service, the cleanest of the cleanest hotels out there. You can park your car and have a great weekend. No other hotel in this area can say that."
Guests can walk out the lobby doors onto East Piccadilly Street, "hang a left and you're on the walking mall," he said.
From there, they can easily visit restaurants, shops, galleries and museums. The hotel also has a restaurant, The Dancing Goat, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests and non-guests alike.
Off the lobby is the hotel's gift shop, Once Upon a Find, Home of Pewter Pan, and downstairs is the Saumaj Health Spa, which opened last December.
Also new is the wedding chapel, which opened up off of the lobby over the winter. Wedding commissioners are on-site, Cavallaro said.
"If you come in from the courthouse, you could get married just like that," he said.
Brides and grooms can get married in the chapel and enjoy a meal at The Dancing Goat and stay in one of the hotel's 90 rooms and suites, Cavallaro said. There is also a grand ballroom that can accommodate about 225 for a sit-down dinner, he said.
"You will not find a nicer ballroom anywhere around here," Cavallaro said.
By midday Friday, marriage celebrant George Kempf, of Your Winchester Wedding, had married five couples in the chapel. Kempf said he and his wife, marriage commissioner Judy Sue Huyett-Kempf, have done more than 100 weddings at the chapel.
"We do a lot of walk-ins from the courthouse," he said. "Once they see the beautiful chapel, they're very impressed and we end up doing their weddings."
The marble in the lobby and ballroom is original to the hotel's first days, Cavallaro said, as is the mahogany front desk and a letter box and mail chute by the elevators. The architecture, which includes crown molding on the high ceilings, is also original.
There is a small courtyard off of one of the corridors. By the spa, are a Roman bath-style indoor pool and Jacuzzi.
"People are always surprised with [the splendor] once they walk in here for the first time," Cavallaro said.
Cavallaro isn't resting on his laurels. He's not letting his staff do so either.
"We can always do better," he said. "We're No. 1, and we want to stay No. 1. We still want to be No. 1 or top 5 on that ranking table forever."