Sitting atop a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Cavalier Hotel is the last of the grand hotels that graced the Virginia Beach oceanfront in the 1920s.
From the day it opened in 1927 until World War II, the Cavalier Hotel was one of the premier resort locations on the East Coast, hosting all the great names of the Big Band Era as well as dozens of celebrities and U.S. Presidents. Its unusual Y-shaped plan was considered innovative for its time, and the neo-classical design drew heavily on Virginia history. After the war, this icon of Virginia Beach went into a decades-long decline and was put up for auction in 2012. At 85 years of age, the Cavalier Hotel was old, tired, suffering from neglect and demolition seemed inevitable.
Fortunately, the successful bidder was intent on restoring the property, and historic preservation tax credits facilitated this decision. The ensuing four-year project addressed a variety of problems with the exterior masonry and underlying structural frame. Years of deferred maintenance allowed water to penetrate the brick facade, and the steel frame was severely compromised by rust and corrosion. Several innovative solutions to replace, repair or make damaged structural members redundant were implemented from the interior to minimize the disruption to the masonry skin. The brick masonry was then selectively repointed or reconstructed and the cast stone ornament was repaired using a variety of restoration techniques.
The hotel’s historically significant spaces including the Raleigh Room, Pocahontas Room and lobby, were largely intact and retained the majority of their historic materials. Character defining features and materials, such as terrazzo, decorative plaster, ornamental ironwork and wood paneling were retained and meticulously restored using great care and craftsmanship. All restoration work was performed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Two signature spaces, the Ballroom and the indoor saltwater pool, which had been altered over the years, were returned to their 1930s appearance based on photographs and physical evidence found during select demolition.
Now part of the Autograph Collection, a premier Marriott flag, the 117,448-square-foot, seven-story hotel features a fine dining restaurant, the rustic Hunt Room, and its own distillery and tasting room, aptly named “The Tarnished Truth” in homage to the colorful history of the hotel and the many stories captured within its walls. Guests can enjoy the refurbished indoor saltwater pool, the SeaHill Spa featuring a Himalayan Salt Room, and the restored grand ballroom.
Originally designed with 195 guest rooms, the reimagined hotel offers 87 luxury guest rooms, including 23 suites, and retained and restored the historic building core including the stairs and elevators. Six of the suites, dubbed the Heritage Suites, represent the unique personalities of the partners who made the Cavalier Hotel’s revival possible.
It would be hard to picture the Virginia Beach oceanfront without the Cavalier Hotel. This extensive restoration assures this architectural icon will be around for generations, and its legacy as one of the grand hotels of the 1920s will continue.