Welcome back, St. James

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 9, 2007


Those are the words of Bill Ezell, general manager of the St. James Hotel, on when exactly the opening day of the hotel’s recently renovated restaurant and bar will be.

The ballroom is still under renovation, while the restaurant, called the &8220;Troup House,&8221; and bar is mostly complete. Chairs in both places have been restored and refinished, making them look brand new. In the lounge/bar area, aptly called &8220;The Drinking Room,&8221; a flat panel television has been mounted on the wall, putting a modern touch on antique style.

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In the kitchen, new appliances have been added including two new refrigeration units, grill, 10-burner stove, griddle, and full-size banquet warmers for hot dishes being carried out to guests.

Ezell said the addition of 10 burners-before, the hotel had six-enables staff to prepare more food at once, meaning fresher dishes for guests. Instead of cooking some items and storing them in the food holder until the other dishes are ready, most things can be prepared and ready at the same time.

Renovating the reception area was quite a project, Ezell said. Furniture had to be catalogued and stored while the floors and baseboards were done.

The lobby and lounge floor took four weeks to complete. For the renovation, the 150-year-old wood was sanded down and restored to the look achieved during the 1997 renovation.

In the restaurant, care was taken to keep everything in its place. Ezell said he photographed the walls, panel by panel, to ensure that as the walls were painted and wallpapered, the ornaments were replaced exactly as they were.

Baseboards were restored last. Additionally, the St. James Hotel lettering above the reception desk has been updated, since it sustained water damage over time, Ezell said.

In the courtyard, Ezell said master gardener Kathi Needham is responsible for the holiday decorations and outdoor landscaping, which includes seasonal blooms for color splashes all year long.

It took nearly three weeks to pull up all the weeds in the courtyard area, Ezell said. Now, lights and music provide ambiance for the area.

The lobby’s Christmas tree and the indoor greenery was decorated by Fred Williams of Fred’s Flowers on Broad Street.

The hotel’s ballroom can currently entertain up to 200 guests. Now, following the renovation, the hotel will be able to entertain up to 500 guests using the reception and back patio area with a tent extension. The area will function as an extension of the ballroom, with air conditioning and heat.

The entrance to the hotel-which faces Washington Street, not Water Avenue, has also been upgraded, making what is called a &8220;dedicated&8221; enhanced ballroom entrance for guests to come and go easily. New shutters cover the windows and broken tiles have been replaced.

Optimally, the St. James will be able to comfortably handle large parties of 300-500 people, but also provide hotel guests with the intimacy of an eight-room bed and breakfast, Ezell said. Flat-panel televisions are being installed in all rooms and they currently have wireless Internet access.