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New Cardinal Hotel revamps Reynolds Building in Downtown Winston-Salem

by Rich Lewis

So many of the nation’s great buildings fell prey to the wave of urban renewal that swept the country in the 1960s and ’70s.

Great architecture and soaring buildings were replaced with what, today, look like drab, uninspired, cookie cutter governmental buildings, lifeless and completely lacking in ambition.

In downtown Winston-Salem, the Reynolds building withstood that test of time, retaining an architectural flair that was actually a proving ground for one of America’s most recognizable sky scrapers — New York City’s Empire State Building. While smaller in scale, a close examination of the Reynolds building will show architectural genetics that the two monuments share.

Originally built to house the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and other businesses, it was completed in 1929. It was a vital part of the growth of Winston-Salem’s downtown, but fell out of the limelight about a dozen years ago after Reynolds moved their corporate operations to a newer facility next door. Things could have gone badly, but two years ago, the building was placed on the Historic Register and a development company began working on restoring it to glory, but with a new usage in mind.

That work is coming to a close and the old Art Deco building will be rechristened as the Cardinal Hotel, part of the Kimpton Hotels chain. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held April 27, which happens to also be the 87th birthday of the building itself.

“It was just great we could work it out to share the ribbon cutting and the building’s birthday,” Cardinal Hotel General Manager John Esainko said. On that day, people can come in and see how the most striking features of the original building have been retained while still modernizing the whole experience.

“We wanted to leave as much of the original as possible,” Cardinal Hotel Direc tor of Sales and Marketing Tina Fullard said. Marble entryways, brass fittings, the original revolving door main entrance and even the gold leaf ceilings in the lobby/ living room areas have been restored. The lobby level elevator doors are one of the ground floor’s most outstanding features, looking like they had just been lifted from an elegant 1920s movie.

The ground floor will also feature Katharine’s, a French brasserie restaurant named after the famed Katharine Reynolds. The restaurant also features a classic bar with additional seating. Other refreshments and entertainments will be offered daily in the living room/lobby area where mornings will see coffee and tea service and evenings will feature a complimentary wine hour for overnight guests from 5 to 6 p.m. The restaurant will open on May 2.

Overall, Fullard said, the hotel offers 174 guest rooms and 15 suites, including one presidential suite that measures out to 1,800 sq. feet of space. The guest rooms are housed on floors up to the sixth, with the floors seven through 19 being converted into permanent one and two bedroom apartments and living spaces.

The 20 th floor features meeting spaces and private dining facilities for a range of events. One meeting room is actually housed in the restored office of Bowman Gray, who was the president of RJ Reynolds Tobacco when the building was completed. The views from the meeting rooms there are spectacular, reaching well into neighboring counties .

Larger functions, like weddings, events and gatherings will be held on the mezzanine level, which has about 6,300 sq. feet of meeting space available for rent. Ballrooms and multi-use rooms abound, and there are even dedicated elevators running to the kitchen downstairs to make catering events a breeze.

This is a boutique hotel, though, so while there are many of the amenities that you’d expect from a grand hotel, there are still many, many personal touches aimed at making a stay at the Cardinal. Fullard explained that they have partnered with the NC School of the Arts to provide entertainment opportunities for guests regularly in the living room area, everything from music to artwork done on site to light theater. The Reynolda House archivist may also visit regularly to provide talks and stories of the history of the building and Winston-Salem.

And then, there’s the rec room. Actually, it should be capitalized as The Rec Room. This isn’t just some little room with an elliptical machine and a stationary bicycle. It is a serious place for having fun. How about a bowling alley? Half-court for basketball? Two-story spiral slide big enough for adults? How about some big screen TVs, card tables, billiards tables and foosball? There’s also table tennis, a jukebox, plenty of places to talk and relax, all in a modern-industrial style.

Construction and remodeling on the project began in February of 2015 and it has come a long way. They had a good building and a great history to work with, and from all appearances, the Cardinal Hotel looks like they’ve done it right.

Want to learn more? The Cardinal Hotel is located at 51 East 4 th Street, Winston- Salem, NC 27101. You can also check out their website at www.thecardinalhotel. com. !

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