Photo Credit: Scott Chester

The Samuel Elbert Hotel and Conference Center

Project Description

This project was originally constructed in 1925 as one of the first fireproof hotels in the south, but by the time the historic structure was purchased by the City of Elberton, Georgia, from a private owner in 2009, it was in desperate need of repair. After sitting unoccupied for more than a decade, the City awarded a design and programming contract and after extensive work and reinvention, the concrete and masonry structure was resurrected as a 25 room boutique hotel. The building had been repeatedly repurposed over the years as low-rent housing, office, and storage before the City finally took ownership. An initial feasibility study looked at a variety of uses including office, retail, housing, hotel and restaurant, and considered the potential impact of each on the town square and patterns of life and business within the town. Input from City staff and the Chamber of Commerce guided a more in depth study of the hotel and restaurant program before the final design direction was chosen. The designers then moved forward with creating a unique experience that preserved the building’s historic character while infusing the interior with a hotel environment that is unparalleled in North Georgia.

Design Challenge

The designers sought to celebrate the history of the building as well as the culture of the community through the overall design concept. The City of Elberton is internationally known for its granite production; thus, granite is featured heavily throughout the design. The use of local materials is important not only because it highlights the city’s heritage, but also because it promotes sustainable design. This is especially meaningful when used to showcase the local economy to out-of-town guests. Preserving the character of the existing building was paramount. Specific details like original terrazzo flooring, trim work, and the massive stone fire place were preserved. Careful effort was given to avoid glaring inconsistencies between the old and the new through curated built-in elements, fixtures, and furnishings. Additions and insertions like the bar and reception desk, were designed to both complement and contrast the existing building’s architectural language. Ultimately, the architectural details are subdued, consisting of salvaged woods, antiqued mirrors, and a monochromatic palette of blacks and whites. This restraint allowed the furnishings to be primarily responsible for introducing color into each space. They also establish a more modern influence within the building, orchestrating a measured contrast between the old and the new.

Physical Context

The mass amount of previous building renovations left the interior fractured and jumbled. Opening up the tall first floor was a primary concern for both the city and the design team. This main level of the hotel was in greatest need of reorganization and held the greatest spatial potentials. The result is a carefully considered entry sequence, allowing both functional and visual access to the new restaurant’s amenities for hotel guests and the public alike. Situating the meeting room and the board room around the kitchen allows for easy conversion of these spaces into a private dining room and a banquet hall, respectively. At the guestroom levels, there is a variety of choices between double and single rooms. There is also a mix of family oriented suites and smaller suites for individual use. This blend was crucial to the City’s desire that the hotel appeal to a broad range of clientele. Recently opened, the hotel is a thoughtful blend of past and present. A synthesis of erstwhile architectural detailing and selective modern insertions creates a combination of welcoming and unique spaces, cultivating a new energy within the city center.