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a historic Virginia beach hotel that carries on a grand tradition

Some say that The Cavalier Hotel may be what put Virginia Beach on the map. Regardless, no one can dispute the rich history found in the halls of this historic landmark. Construction of the luxurious hotel began in 1926 and continued for 13 months. At times, there were as many as 225 men on the construction site who laid half-million bricks, the largest amount of bricks used on a single building in the state of Virginia. With a private depot, The Cavalier was added as a nonstop train destination from Chicago that hosted mid-westerners from the Norfolk & Western Pullman Coach. With the motto "The Cavalier to the Cavalier," the Virginia Beach grand hotel became a luxurious East Coast destination and kept limousines to usher guests from steamer ships and rail stations. It was named The Cavalier as a result of a local newspaper contest.
Originally, The Cavalier Hotel included 195 guest rooms on 350 acres of land, including a golf course stretching 290 of those acres. The construction of the 6,060 yard golf course was as grand as the hotel with some holes modeled after the Scottish golf holes of North Berwick, St. Andrews and the Fox Chapel Golf Club in Chicago. A sunken garden graced the south side of the hotel, a naturally stunning backdrop for events, whose groves of flowers were used to adorn rooms, dining rooms and the lobby.

Former famous guests

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 -1940

    American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, enjoyed long vacations at The Cavalier. This photo of the "The Great Gatsby" author, his daughter Scottie, and Zelda was taken by the Tidewater photo service at the hotel's swimming pool and published in the Norfolk Ledger Dispatch on July 18, 1927.
  • Will Rogers 1879 - 1935

    Rogers was a stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator.
  • Fatty Arbuckle 1887 -1933

    Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was an American silent film actor, comedian, director, and screenwriter. He mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope.
  • Frank Sinatra 1915 - 1998

    American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.
  • Bob Hope 1903 - 2003

    Bob Hope was an American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author with a career spanning nearly 80 years.
  • Bing Crosby 1903 - 1977

    American singer and actor, Crosby's trademark warm bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, having sold over one billion records, tapes, compact discs and digital downloads around the world.
  • Calvin Coolidge

    30th President (1923-1929)
  • Herbert Hoover

    31st President (1929-1933)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

    32nd President (1933-1945)
  • Harry Truman

    33rd President (1945-1953)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

    34th President (1953-1961)
  • John F. Kennedy

    35th President (1961-1963)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson

    36th President (1963-1969)
  • Richard M. Nixon

    37th President (1969-1974)
  • Gerald Ford

    38th President (1974-1977)
  • Jimmy Carter

    39th President (1977-1981)
  • Muhammad Ali 1942 -2016

    Widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer and activist.
  • Bette Davis 1908 - 1989

    Regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, Bette Davis stared in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies - although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.
  • Judy Garland 1922 - 1969

    American singer, actress, and vaudevillian who was renowned for her contralto vocals and attained international stardom that continued throughout a career spanning more than 40 years as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist, and on concert stages.
  • Elizabeth Taylor 1932 - 2011

    British-American actress, businesswoman and humanitarian, Elizabeth Taylor began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s, and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s. Her career continued into the 1960s and she remained a well-known figure for the rest of her life.
  • Benny Goodman 1909 -1986

    Benny Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader, known as the "King of Swing." In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America which played at The Cavalier's Beach Club.
  • Doris Day 1924 -

    American actress and singer, Day began her career as a big band singer in 1939. Her recording contract spanned 20 years and included more than 650 recordings, making Day one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century. As an actress, she became one of the top-ranking female box-office stars of all time.

Historic elements of The Cavalier

A Rich Virginia Beach legacyCavalier Hotel - A Rich Virginia Beach Legacy

Guest rooms included bathtubs with an extra handle to a draw a seawater bath, an extravagant practice at the time. Each guest bathroom sink has an ice water spigot that originated from a large wooden ice-filled tub on the hotel roof, providing ice cold water to guests at any time. A luxurious indoor pool with diving board was filled with filtered Atlantic Ocean water until the mid-1970s. The hotel also had offices for a doctor, photographer and stockbroker with a live ticker tape from the New York Stock Exchange. The lower lobby had boutiques and shops, an ice cream parlor, a hair salon, and clothing retailers. The hotel also included a broadcast center for radio station WSEA, which broadcast the Norfolk mayor's congratulatory statement to Charles Lindbergh during his legendary flight from New York to Paris.

The Famous Cavalier beach Club

The iconic Cavalier Beach Club was added to the hotel on Memorial Day in 1929 and became a sought after entertainment destination for over three decades. With the help of The Beach Club, the Cavalier became the popular venue for big band entertainment and showcased every major big band leader of the era including Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller and Lawrence Welk.

The End of an Era

The opulence came to a halt when the hotel was surrendered to Uncle Sam during World War II. In October of 1942, the US Navy became a resident and turned the hotel into a site for radar training. It is said that the hotel grounds were so cramped that sailors used the stables as living quarters. In 1973, the sister hotel to the Cavalier opened on the oceanfront and the original "Cavalier on the Hill" was closed. The Cavalier Oceanfront was constructed to be 11 stories overlooking the Atlantic Ocean but was not a replacement for the original Cavalier, which reopened in 1976.

renovation AND restorationLobby of Cavalier Hotel, Virginia

A family feud between The Cavalier Hotel's owners led to a court-ordered sale in 2012. Subsequent inspections revealed significant concerns about the property's structural condition. There were high cost estimates for renovations.  Demolition was planned by every bidder but one group, The Cavalier Associates, a group led by Bruce Thompson, Bart Frye, Larry Goldrich, John Lawson, Frank Reidy and Ed Ruffin. The painstaking remodel brought new life to many of the original neoclassical features that made The Cavalier a visual oceanfront icon. Exterior details - such as the pedestals and finials, the iconic-style pilasters and the portico with classical columns - were meticulously and respectfully restored.

iconic architecture

Typified by exquisite plaster ornamentation atop columns which appear to scrape the sky, The Cavalier's Jeffersonian inspired architecture was designed in the spirit of Monticello, with nods to locations such as Woodlawn, as well as The Lawn at the University of Virginia. Influences derived from notable architects and historical places are, in and of themselves, some of the most remarkable aspects of the architecture of this grand hotel on the hill. James Gibbs, and his work at places such as the Church of St. Mary-Le-Strand at Aldwych in London, inspired the decorative water tower which crowns The Cavalier.