|By Chris Flores, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 1, 2005 - WILLIAMSBURG -- Two new buildings at the Williamsburg Lodge will open to the first guests just in time for a busy Fourth of July weekend.
"If you come here today as a guest or a friend, I hope you have a reservation because we are full when we open tomorrow," said John T. Hallowell, president of hospitality for Colonial Williamsburg at Thursday's unveiling ceremony.
Not only are the 60 new rooms at the CW-owned lodge full this weekend, all five of CW's lodging options are completely booked this weekend.
"We're not always sold out, so it's a very positive sign," said CW spokeswoman Sophie Hart. "It usually indicates the rest of the summer will be good."
The opening of the first brand new buildings at the lodge is an important milestone for a project that is the centerpiece of CW's $100 million effort to generate revenue through lodging. CW also has spent some of that money on recent renovations at the Williamsburg Inn and on a new Woodlands Hotel & Suites hotel in 2001.
The main building of the Lodge, which was built in 1939 and has been closed for renovation since January, will open with 40 rooms along with the new 44,000 square-foot conference center in the fall of 2006.
The north guesthouses will be similar to the two new east houses and will bring another 60 rooms in the fall of 2006. The Tazewell wing's 114 rooms were renovated and opened in April. The 49 rooms in the south wing, which was gutted, will be renovated and open in December.
Besides the lodge, CW owns and operates the Williamsburg Inn, Colonial Houses, Woodlands Hotel & Suites and Governor's Inn. The lodge will be the centerpiece and economic engine of the hospitality operations, said Hallowell.
The two new east buildings, the Custis Guest House and the Ashby Guest House, are named for prominent Williamsburg families. Custis is the maiden name of George Washington's wife, Martha. Matthew Ashby, who was a carter, carpenter and courier for the royal governor, purchased his enslaved wife and children in 1769.
A large contingent of the Ashby family was on hand Wednesday to commemorate the new guest wing. The Ashbys, who now hail from about four states, have huge annual family reunions and plan to meet here in 2008.
Sara Linda Ashby Howard, who works at CW, found out her uncle helped build CW. Another building in New Jersey was named for an Ashby born in Carter's Grove. The new CW Ashby house will present a way for the family to teach future generations, said Ashby Howard.
"Matthew Ashby enabled a whole generation of people to be free," she said. "That to me is so significant because it guaranteed us to have opportunities."
The Rockefeller family originally wanted the lodge to be something middle America can afford. Rooms go for between $130 and $180 a night.
The simple brick guesthouses are meant to be cottage-like and reminiscent of the main building and original east wing that were torn down in 2001.
"The idea was to give overtones of what was the original building," said Susan Winther, the director of design for CW. "We hearkened back to the original design and used that as a beginning."
The entrances of each wing will include memorabilia from the Custis and Ashby families, such as a replica of Martha Washington's needlework. Family trees of the two families will also adorn the entranceway.
The 30 rooms in each of the east houses are divided evenly between two types of rooms. One style has a king bed and the other has two queen beds.
"A large portion of the rooms are connected so families can stay together and that's a change," said CW spokeswoman Sophie Hart, who said there was a limited number before.
The rooms include replicas of artwork found in the CW collections and locally made pottery. Signature CW 18th century designs adorn the couch and pillows and the bed coverlets are 19th century replicas. Furniture from the old building was saved and restored. The bathroom tile is meant to evoke a 1930s style.
To please the 21st century crowd, the rooms are wired for high-speed Internet.
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