|By Jeffrey Sheban, The Columbus Dispatch,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 7, 2009 ---In the battle for presidential bragging rights, the Democrats and Republicans have nothing over the Hiltons and Hyatts.
In good times and bad, the finest hotels in town continue to offer presidential suites -- those large, exquisitely appointed rooms fit for a democratically elected head of state.
Or a headliner at the Ohio Theatre.
"All of the Downtown hotels try to outdo the others with our presidential suites," said Bryan Postema, director of sales and marketing at the Westin Columbus. "The competition is pretty fierce."
The ultra-sweet suites in central Ohio are concentrated but not confined to Downtown.
The Blackwell Inn at Ohio State University and the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center are miles from the central business district yet still have their versions of the best room in the house.
Offering space, privacy, comfort and prestige, the suites range in price from $325 to $2,500 a night and are popular with wedding parties, corporate high-rollers, the independently wealthy and visiting dignitaries and entertainers.
Even the occasional president.
The Hyatt on Capitol Square -- across from the Statehouse -- has hosted three sitting presidents, although officials there wouldn't name them.
The term presidential suite gained popularity in the 1920s -- America's version of royal hotel suites found in countries with monarchs, said Bill Fawcett, author of Oval Office Oddities.
"These were always the best of the suites available in a hotel," he said -- "often not because any president stayed there but because the hotel was boasting they were good enough for him to do so."
The Waldorf-Astoria in New York has a presidential suite that does justice to the name: Every president since Herbert Hoover has been a guest. And the space is fit for a king: eight ornate rooms, including four bedrooms and baths, a formal dining room and a living room with a fireplace.
For sheer size, few can top the InterContinental Hong Kong: At 7,000 square feet, the five-bedroom suite features two-story plate-glass windows overlooking Victoria Harbor, a wraparound outdoor terrace, a rooftop swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and a private gym.
At just more than $11,000 a night, the price includes 24-hour butler service and a round-trip ride to the airport by Rolls-Royce, Bentley or Mercedes limousine.
A sampling of the best in town
Holidays are peak seasons for presidential suites, according to hotel managers. More often than not, the elegant getaways aren't advertised online or through travel agents; they must be booked by visiting the front desk or calling the hotel. Here are some of the most notable examples (from most expensive to least expensive) in the Columbus area:
310 S. High St. (614-228-3800)
Square footage: 1,500 Price per night: $2,500
Ohio has been called the mother of presidents, and the Westin can lay claim to the "mother of all presidential suites" in central Ohio.
"It's a gorgeous room with 15-foot ceilings and a really cool bathroom," said Bryan Postema, the hotel's marketing director. "It's a big room with prestige."
The top-of-the-line suite is also the city's most expensive.
The understated but elegant sitting area has armchairs and a sofa, wet bar and dining-room table with service for eight.
"It appeals to a person who's looking for an almost- apartment-style hotel room," Postema said -- perfect for important meetings and tasteful celebrations.
The Columbus Renaissance
50 N. 3rd St. (614-228-5050)
Square footage: 1,050 Price per night: $2,000
The bold, colorful State Suite carries out the presidential duties for the Downtown hotel, formerly the Sheraton.
It boasts flat-panel televisions, Eickholt art glass, two sleeper sofas and a table with seating for eight, all on a hardwood floor. An oversize bedroom leads into a deluxe bathroom with a separate soaking tub and shower.
VIP guests have included presidential and vice-presidential candidates; and media, entertainment and arts celebrities, according to Laura Whitehead, director of sales and marketing.
The suite, she said, has also hosted interviews for several TV shows, including ESPN specials and 20/20.
Hyatt on Capitol Square
75 E. State St. (614-228-1234)
Square footage: 1,200 Price per night: $1,500
Three sitting presidents and foreign dignitaries are among the guests who have enjoyed the view from the 21st floor.
The hotel is conveniently situated for entertainers playing the nearby Ohio Theatre and anyone who wants a bird's-eye view of the Statehouse.
From the parlor with stylish furnishings (baby grand piano and all) to the dining area, wet bar and large work area, much about the suite exudes grace and power. The suite includes access to a semiprivate 20th-floor balcony, said Jeff Donahoe, director of sales and marketing.
A large bedroom with a king-size bed has a spacious marble bath with a Jacuzzi and dry sauna. A connecting room with two double beds completes the package.
Hilton Columbus at Easton
3900 Chagrin Dr. (614-414-5000)
Square footage: 1,750 Price per night: $1,200
One of two full-service Hiltons in Columbus, the stately hotel has the largest presidential suite in town -- about the size of a comfortable three-bedroom house.
The hotel's location lets you shop and eat until you abdicate. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been among the suite's celebrity guests, said Tim Woodhall, director of sales.
The king-size bedroom has a luxurious bathroom with a separate tub and stand-up shower. Through the years, the suite has hosted corporate events and guests of Limited Brands and other central Ohio companies.
"It's usually where the top dog will stay," Woodhall said.
2110 Tuttle Park Place (614-247-4000)
Square footage: 850 Price per night: $600
Only one presidential suite awaits within walking distance of Ohio Stadium or the Schottenstein Center, and the Blackwell has it.
The colorful room displays artwork selected from a gallery in the Short North featuring Ohio artists. The amenities include blown-glass light fixtures, a wet-bar area, a whirlpool tub and an oversize shower.
An adjoining room can be reserved ($259 a night) to provide a second, separate sleeping area.
Brand-name products -- from the Simmons Beautyrest mattress and iHome iPod clock to the Keurig coffee maker and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries -- add class.
Crowne Plaza Hotel
33 E. Nationwide Blvd. (614-461-4100)
Square footage: 800 Price per night: $700
Good things come in threes here: three bathrooms, three flat-screen televisions and three small refrigerators.
Called the Millcreek, the two-bedroom suite is close to the sports, entertainment and dining of the Arena District; and near the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
One bedroom, facing Nationwide Arena, offers views of the Arena District and High Street; it has a king-size bed, full-size couch, sleeper sofa and private bath. The second bedroom has two queen beds and a private bath.
Separating the bedrooms is a parlor with a dining table, kitchenette and living area -- space that's more relaxed than formal, said senior sales manager Mike Moseley.
Doubletree Guest Suites
50 S. Front St. (614-228-4600)
Square footage: 1,140 Price per night: $350 ($800 during Red, White & Boom)
The city's sole two-story presidential suite boasts 17th- and 18th-floor views of the Scioto River.
Because the Downtown hotel rests atop a seven-story parking garage, the Doubletree can be underestimated by passers-by. Inside, though, the unfettered western view from the bilevel presidential suite helps set it apart.
The main floor is for meeting, entertaining and lounging -- featuring a sleeper sofa, table with seating for six, wet bar and half-bath. The upstairs bedroom has a king-size bed, television and full bath.
The hotel is a short walk to entertainment at COSI Columbus and the Palace and Riffe Center theaters.
Hampton Inn & Suites
501 N. High St. (614-559-2000)
Square footage: 700 Price per night: $325
With five presidential suites (no term limits here), the hotel might be considered the city's place for entry-level luxury suites.
The one-bedroom offerings are stacked one per floor, each with semicircular windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of the convention center and the Short North arts-and-entertainment district.
The easy on-off fireplaces add charm, and the separate shower and whirlpool bath offer variety. Each room has a 52-inch and a 42-inch flat-screen television.
Former professional football players Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson and Ronnie Lott, according to general manager Matthew Kolbrich, stayed in separate presidential suites during the weekend of the OSU-USC game.
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