If you have ever been to downtown Winchester, it is very likely that you have seen the iconic George Washington Hotel. It marks the entrance to a vibrant destination in Winchester, sitting a mere block away from the popular walking mall replete with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It is also right around the corner from George Washington’s 18th century office outfitted with period pieces and history placards telling of times past. The hotel is home to the Christopher Rankin Design Studio, which specializes in unique travel-inspired jewelry. Did you know that The George Washington Hotel is also home to the full-service restaurant, George’s Food and Spirits? Well, it is, and this restaurant is one of Winchester’s best kept secrets.
The George Washington Hotel is in its second iteration as a place to for travelers to rest their heads. The original structure, built in 1924, operated as a hotel for over 70 years, playing host to notable celebrities like comedienne Lucille Ball, heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, and the inimitable Vienna Boys Choir, who serenaded guests one evening during the American leg of their world tour. The hotel’s close proximity to the Winchester B&O railroad station made it a popular choice with travelers using the rail in its heyday, when travel by coach was all the rage and people from all walks of life were starting to venture out and experience different environments from their own. In the late 1970s, the hotel was converted into The George Washington Home for Adults and the space served in this capacity for 18 years. After serving as a sentinel for the charming community, vacant of occupants for 10 years but still a force to be reckoned with, its five-story height acting as a beacon in the Winchester skyline, the revitalization of The George Washington Hotel began anew. After $30 million dollars in renovations, which included private bathrooms in each unit and contemporary amenities like Wi-Fi and entertainment options, and 4.5 years in the making, The George Washington Hotel opened its doors to a new generation of guests in 2008. The décor is an eclectic mix of art deco and contemporary accents, updating the look while maintaining the historic integrity of the establishment. The hotel retained the original molding and marble floor from the early 1920s, but the seating and color palette reflect a more contemporary vibe.
Guests from all over the world come to visit Winchester, VA for the rich history it possesses. The George Washington Hotel is a popular destination with its Roman bath, indoor pool, upbeat lounge called the Half Note, 90 updated rooms (including 10 suites), and proximity to local attractions such as Old Court House Civil War Museum, Handley Regional Library Mount Hebron Cemetery for the history buffs, and the Bright Box Theater for entertainment fans. The hotel also contains a business center, beautiful private rooms for events. The largest space is the stately Grand Ballroom. This transformative space has stunning hardwood floors and aesthetic appeal that artfully includes modern day trimmings and accoutrements from the 1920s. the Grand Ballroom seats up to 250 people and is perfect for weddings, galas, and meetings. But it’s the food at George’s Food and Spirits that keeps hotel guests, visitors, and locals coming back for more night after night. Serving a robust menu of American Bistro fare, George’s Food and Spirits prides itself on bringing fresh food made from scratch to the table. Chef Marvin Swaner, the head chef who designed the menu for the restaurant and is a Virginia native to boot, brings his love of farm fresh food with him to this old town staple. Before joining George’s Food and Spirits, Swaner was a private chef in Fauquier County. He had the opportunity to work with food that was farm to table, bypassing traditional preserving processes and allowing him to work with the freshest ingredients possible. This experience solidified the importance of understanding how foods compliment each other at the base level in Swaner. He honed the skill of ingredient selection to create dishes that are visually appealing, healthy, and delicious at the same time. Swaner partners with local companies such as Audley Farms and Gores Meats to get fresh beef and sausage, championing the concept of farm to table in a restaurant setting.
George’s Food and Spirits offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Signature dishes like The George, which is an entrée salad that has goat cheese croquettes, spicy maple pecans, and dried cranberries over mixed greens; George’s Fried Oysters which consists of breaded Virginia oysters served with fries, kalamata tartar sauce and coleslaw, and; George’s Crab Cake Benedict, which is a jumbo lump crab cake and two poached eggs served on a toasted buttermilk biscuit and topped with Old Bay hollandaise sauce are displayed prominently on their star-studded menu. The restaurant is warm and inviting, outfitted with comfortable seating and subdued lighting, providing the perfect mix of a contemporary and classic interior.
George’s Food and Spirits contributes the entertainment fabric of downtown Winchester by offering seasonal outdoor seating. The establishment entices guests with special activities, such as Friday night oyster roasts, making the most of good weather, good food, and pleasant surroundings.
The George Washington Hotel is the epitome of a community hotel. This historic establishment was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 and continues to operate as a viable contributor to the Winchester, VA community. It is a former headquarters for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival and has served as a hub for local tours and gatherings. The George Washington Hotel continues to partner with non-profit organizations every year to sponsor and/or host fundraising events. In the spirit of community of which it has been a staple for nearly 100 years, The George Washington Hotel sponsors special events such as Breakfast with Santa for both the United way and Healthy Family. The George Washington Hotel and George’s Food and Spirits have a host of special events on their upcoming calendar including participating in restaurant week, sponsoring wine and scotch tasting dinners, and even a traditional English afternoon tea. The George Washington Hotel and George’s Food and Spirits combine to host and cater memorable weddings amidst glittering Swarovski crystal chandeliers hanging from 16-foot ceilings. Couples can collaborate with the chef to create an experience that will be etched in the memory of all those in attendance and will become part of the historic fabric of this amazing venue.
Winchester, VA is a viable destination for travelers and locals alike. The George Washington Hotel shines above the bright lights of the city, providing a contemporary air to the irrefutable feeling of home that stepping inside the historic doors imparts. Just experiencing the enticing sounds of the live entertainment that courses through the Half Note on Friday and Saturday nights; enjoying the relaxing calm that a massage in the spa can provide, and; tasting the succulent meal prepared with local ingredients by a native chef immersed in the flavors inherent to the Shenandoah Valley – just one moment of immersing ones self into everything that is The George Washington Hotel, and you will be hooked.
The George Washington Hotel has proven that it can stand the test of time. Visit the dazzling boutique hotel yourself and enjoy a glimpse into its rich past. The George Washington Hotel, A Wyndham Grand Hotel and George’s Food and Spirits are located on 103 East Picadilly Street in Winchester Va. Contact them at 540-678-4700 for more information.