by Mike Corrigan
Even as the history of the place is being rewritten, the progress of the Davenport Hotel renovation project continues unabated, moving forward with obvious, significant alterations to the form and function of the structure occurring almost daily. The Davenport is alive, undergoing a metamorphosis before our eyes. That has something to do with the 150 or so artisans, craftsmen, general contractors and restoration experts who can be found working here at any given time.
And if the current spate of interest in the hotel is any indication (there's a book, a video, a CD -- and the new Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is even mounting a Davenport Hotel exhibit to kick off its grand reopening in December), people can hardly wait to see how things are going.
During a recent tour of the hotel, Project Coordinator Lura Sheahan unveiled a few of Walt Worthy's more recent accomplishments and teased us with more still yet to come. Work on two of the hotel's most spectacular spaces, the Isabella and Marie Antoinette rooms, is almost completed. And as work continues on the replacement for the demolished section along Post Street (which will ultimately house the valet parking and the 6,300-square-foot Grand Pennington Ballroom) the renovation team is preparing to re-insert the Hall of Doges -- dramatically lifted out via crane from the old structure prior to its demolition.
But the real question on everyone's mind of course is, "When?"
"We're hoping to be open by the first of May," says Sheahan. "That will be the soft opening. The other parts of the hotel probably won't be completed till mid-summer, so we're hoping to have a grand opening in August."
Elsewhere in the hotel, the lobby restoration is nearing completion, as is the new kitchen behind the fireplace that will eventually accommodate a 120-seat restaurant in the northwest corner of the ground floor, the adjoining lounge and several small private dining rooms. Downstairs, the old barbershop will house a spa. Nearby will be a fitness center and a new indoor pool.
"We're right on the cusp," Sheahan says. "Within the next couple of weeks, we'll have so many more things done."
Upstairs, plans are being finalized for the guestrooms. When the Worthys purchased the hotel, it contained 400 guestrooms, the majority of which were small and unremarkable, a striking departure from the unique and luxurious features lavished on the rest of the hotel. The restoration plan called for the complete gutting of the upper floors and the construction of 281 large and well-appointed guest rooms in their place.
"They're going to be fabulous," says Sheahan, "with step-in marble showers and deep soaking tubs. The furniture will include big fourposter beds with big headboards. Once all the decisions are made, Walt thinks we can complete one guest floor every two weeks."
For Sheahan, the Worthys and the rest of the Davenport Hotel family, the clock is ticking.
"We'll be working through Thanksgiving because we've booked all of these ballrooms and lobbies and meeting rooms for Christmas parties starting the first of December. We booked them back in March thinking we'd be even further than we are now. So it will be done.
"Walt always says, 'Proceed with vigor' and 'Failure is no option,' " she adds with obvious admiration for her employer. "It's like having Patton for a boss."