Vintage postcard circa 1932.
For as long as I can remember, my Nana would tell me stories of her visits to The Cavalier Hotel. In the early 1940’s during WWII, Granddaddy Ralph was stationed in Virginia Beach with the U.S. Navy. Nana would travel by train from Haverford, Pennsylvania to visit her newlywed husband down the coast. During those visits they would stay at The Cavalier. Nana would never go into great detail about her visits to Virginia Beach, but I can imagine her decked out in beautiful stylish dresses that she had designed herself, madly in love with Granddaddy Ralph while sipping fancy cocktails overlooking the ocean.
My grandparents, Ralph & Helene “Shaver” Hall
Built in 1927, The Cavalier Hotel on the Hill was nicknamed the “Aristocrat of the Virginia Seashore.” During its rich history, this Virginia Beach landmark was “THE place to be”. It hosted several famous guests including several United States’ Presidents. In the 1950’s, The Cavalier’s famed Beach Club, which was directly on the Oceanfront, hosted many big bands including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, and Glen Miller (famous for the song “In the Mood”). It’s also up for discussion if it was the Hotel itself that put Virginia Beach on the map.
The Cavalier Hotel has also been dubbed one of the most haunted places in Virginia (often being compared to the movie “The Shining”). These spooky tales include a waiter who supposedly walks through walls, cold lingering spots on the 6th floor, a cat meowing and scratching to get in, mysterious orbs showing up in guests’ photos, and my personal favorite of a gentleman dressed as a staff member warning guests of ghosts up ahead! As a lover of ghost stories, had I known about these stories prior to the restoration, I might’ve booked a room to do a little ghost hunting on my own!
Besides the one wedding at the Cavalier Oceanfront that I attended, or the wintery walks through the grounds of the Hotel, I really haven’t had much experience inside The Cavalier Hotel. It’s past, present, or even current history has always been a mystery to me. Last summer, after Gold Key | PHR Hotels & Resorts announced that they were taking on the challenge of restoring this historic landmark, the big black and white sign went up in front of big glass windows on the hill, enhancing everyone’s curiosity as what the future would hold.
Over the next few years, a lot will change inside the walls of The Cavalier Hotel on the Hill and down on the Oceanfront property as well. There are several parts to the plan of The Cavalier’s future; To RESTORE the original hotel, “marrying historic grandeur with modern amenities”. Next up is to DEVELOP a surrounding neighborhood on the grounds. And last but certainly not least, an entirely new resort will be built to REPLACE the Cavalier Oceanfront, that will “allow both business and leisure travelers to experience a beach resort like no other”.
Those of us that drive by the Cavalier on a daily basis have seen the restoration of this ionic hotel get under way. The Hotel on the Hill’s windows look to have fresh plastic covering them up, and more recently we’ve had the pleasure of observing the wreaking ball slowly demolish the Oceanfront Cavalier. A few weeks ago, I followed behind a tractor trailer flatbed truck loaded to the brim with huge palm trees ready to be planted on the grounds. Last week, hamptonroads.com reported that “Plans for a bourbon distillery inside the historic Cavalier Hotel moved smoothly through a Planning Commission hearing”. Which is very good news for the local guys who are interested in running the distillery!
Under construction circa December 2014.
Nana always spoke very fondly of those times with Granddaddy Ralph at The Cavalier Hotel. Hearing her stories of their time together here in Virginia Beach has always made me feel a bit closer to a grandfather who I never had the pleasure of meeting. Nana had not visited The Cavalier since those memorable years in the 40’s, and she passed away prior to the restoration announcement last year. Though I’m certain she would’ve approved.
The past 87 years for The Cavalier Hotel has had quite the life, and I’m sure it’s future will not disappoint.