Half Note Lounge

History

THE GEORGE WASHINGTON HOTEL

The George Washington Hotel, built in 1924, was named after our first president, who began his association with Winchester as a sixteen year-old surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley.  As Commander of the Virginia Regiment Washington defended Virginia against the French and their Indian allies just west of Winchester.  He established a chain of forts along the frontier and directed the construction of Fort Loudoun from his Winchester Office.  George Washington went on to represent Frederick County, with Winchester as the county seal, in the House of Burgesses.

The George Washington Hotel was developed by the American Hotels Corporation as part of "The Colonial Chain" of hotels.  One of Winchester's tallest buildings, The George Washington Hotel is a prominent 5-story building.  The original 1924 building was L-shaped with a rear one story kitchen wing.  It was one of the first; "fire-proof" hotels to be built with concrete columns, beams, and walls.  When the hotel opened in June of 192'4, it contained 102 rooms and only 45 private baths.  The Lower Level contained a barber shop, cafeteria, candy shop, and men's furnishing shop.  In 1929 the hotel was enlarged with the addition of 50 rooms to the east, giving the hotel its current U-shape.  During the early years many travelers came to the hotel by train.  The Winchester B&O Train Station is still standing only a half block east on Piccadilly Street.  As automobiles became more popular, visitors would begin their scenic tour down the Skyline Drive after a stay at The George Washington Hotel.

The very same year that The George Washington Hotel was constructed, 1200 citizens from the Shenandoah Valley came together to promote tourism in the valley, creating what is now known as the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association.  The city of Winchester was asked by the group to hold a festival celebrating the apple industry.  In 1924 Winchester hosted the very first Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

The George Washington Hotel has had a long partnership with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.  The Apple Blossom Headquarters was originally located in a small room In the Lower Level of the hotel.  This office was often bursting with people during the festival week.  In 1975 when President Ford's daughter was the festival queen, the Secret Service also set up their headquarters inside the hotel.

The George Washington Hotel served as the Apple Blossom Princesses' headquarters for a number of years. The hotel ballroom frequently hosted the Queen's Ball. Many of the festival celebrities would stay as guests or speak at events in the hotel. Betty Crocker held an apple pie baking contest in the hotel and Lucille Ball stayed as a guest in room #314. The hotel received daily travel reports of "Hopalong" Cassidy's horse, which was being driven across the country to join Mr. Cassidy at the hotel.  Colonel Sanders stayed at the hotel and shared the secret source of his "secret recipe" with the night auditor.

The hotel was also the location of the first Apple Blossom Sports Breakfast.  World famous boxing champion.  Jack Dempsey agreed to appear at the Apple Blossom Festival as long as there was a venue to show footage of his championship fights with Gene Tunney and Luis Firpo.  It was decided that a breakfast at The George Washington Hotel ballroom would be the perfect venue for Mr. Dempsey to show the film footage and talk about his fights. The hotel staff rose to the occasion setting up the breakfast only hours after the Queen's Ball ended at 2 a.m. the very same morning.

The property was remodeled in 1950 to include a Howard Johnson's restaurant with a new Cameron Street Lower Level entrance.  During its later years, the hotel served as a resting spot for traveling salesmen and touring groups.  The Vienna Boys Choir stayed while on tour at the hotel and treated hotel guests to a song of grace during dinner service.  In the mid ­1970s, the hotel closed and the building served as the George Washington Home for Adults.  Fortunately, much of the fine architectural details have been preserved and the majority of the public spaces retain their historic Colonial Revival and Neoclassical character and ornamentation.

We have taken great care to preserve the history of this grand hotel.  We hope that during your stay you take a moment to enjoy the historical murals in both the promenade and The Half Note lounge.  Enjoy the architecture and artifacts throughout the property. We would like to give special thanks to Maral Kalbain, Art Jolliffe, David Brill, James Brill, Marie Franklin, Rosemary Lambert, The Winchester Historical Society,  The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Headquarters, and the Handley Regional Library Archives for their assistance in preserving the oral and visual history of this magnificent property.

Specials & Events
June 2017
S
M
T
W
T
F
S
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30

Roll over highlighted dates
to see more information