by Robert Benson
Published September 09, 2018
Although it was a contest in a newspaper that gave the Cavalier Hotel its iconic name, it was the hotel’s heritage of hospitality that earned it a spot on the Historic Hotels of America list.
When the Cavalier Hotel opened in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1927, its 195 guest rooms ranged from $4 to $18 per night, the latter including three multicourse meals on “The American Plan.” It had taken 13 months to complete the construction, which included laying more than 800,000 bricks and sealing the structure with fireproof cement-covered steel.
During the span of the 1930s to the 1950s, the hotel was the largest hirer of Big Bands in the world, playing host to Sammy Kaye, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Glen Miller. Ten U.S. presidents have stayed at the Cavalier, along with other celebrity guests, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Fatty Arbuckle, Rosemary Clooney, Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope and Will Rogers. Hank Ketchum drew many of his “Dennis the Menace” cartoons based off his time spent with his family at the Cavalier, and most recently, rapper Pusha T celebrated his nuptials at the hotel.
There was even a brief time during World War II when the U.S. Navy occupied the hotel, using it as a radar training school where sailors conducted classes in the drained swimming pool.
Today, the hotel stands as a reminder of the nation’s glamorous past while giving a look to the future after the remarkable multimillion-dollar restorations it underwent in 2002 and 2018. The Cavalier is now a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. It offers 85 guest rooms, including six distinct heritage suites. Meeting guests love the preserved historic elements of the hotel, where ornately plastered columns and terrazzo flooring guide the way to the showstoppers of the space, like the grand chandeliers, the rich velvet textures and the marble baths. The hotel is an icon, and the timeless elegance of the property makes it a memorable space for meetings and events.
From traditional boardrooms to inspiring outdoor spaces overlooking the ocean, the meeting spaces at the Cavalier are as varied as they are ample. The ballroom boasts a restoration true to the original 1927 blueprint, with a maximum of 228 guests, and the Magnolia Garden’s new design pays homage to the garden’s 100-year-old history, with tiered brick staircases leading to an open-air event space that holds up to 100 guests. The hotel’s two salons can be combined or booked separately: Salon A can accommodate 50 guests, Salon B can accommodate 60 guests, and together, the Salons AB can accommodate 130 guests. The East Loggia and lawn are also available for cocktail hours, dinner stations and even a silent disco.
Along with three full-service restaurants — Becca, the Hunt Room and the Raleigh Room — the Cavalier Hotel is also home to the Tarnished Truth Distilling Company that offers a range of spirits made on-site. What cannot be made in house is sourced locally from the hotel’s Virginia partners: The Cavalier catering team regularly works with local cheese purveyors, farmers and ranchers to bring in the best and freshest ingredients for meetings and events. The catering team specializes in creating custom menus for events and has fun conjuring inspiration for themed menus. Their Taste of the 20s menu features Wee Wellingtons as a passed appetizer course and rich shellfish bisque served tableside before a dessert of Lindy Hop Cheesecake. Alcohol is available.
The hotel’s unique history and location give it an appeal that attracts a wide range of guests, from artists and historians to adventurers and thrill-seekers. The meeting-planning team can arrange experiences both on-site and off-site that cater to each group’s interests. Past favorites have included culinary tours and immersions in the region’s military heritage. Groups never have to leave the property to find adventure though, and many guests prefer to stay on-site to walk the hotel and follow in the steps of Garland, Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Hope, Al Capone and more.
Meeting clients work with a team of seasoned professional event planners at the Cavalier Hotel to execute their visions for events. All spaces feature audiovisual equipment and support, as well as Wi-Fi and catering options. The hotel itself offers additional amenities for meeting guests, with a 6,060-square-foot spa and a 1,500-square-foot fitness and exercise lounge. There is a business center on-site for guests to use during meetings or overnight stays, and for those who do not want to dip into the seawater just beyond the shoreline outside, the hotel offers an indoor saltwater pool.
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Size: 85 rooms
Meeting Space: More than 5,000 square feet
Access: About 20 miles from Norfolk International Airport