What was the most challenging part of the 2003 restoration?
The most challenging part was working on the historic building’s restoration in a delicate way so as to ensure that the façade looked like we hadn’t been there at all. The goal of the project was not to completely rebuild a then-90 year old building, but to enhance its best attributes and ensure its preservation.
Tell us about the interior restoration.
About five or six people from the architecture firm worked on site daily. They put in thousands of hours of work. Everything that a guest sees and touches was worked on by the firm and restored in a very careful manner.
In the ceiling of the lobby there are 28 separate paint colors that were meticulously chosen by an entire team to best enhance the architectural features of the space while remaining as faithful to its history as possible. We brought in a lighting consultant from Washington to consult on how to light what was essentially a very dark, huge space. All the fixtures were custom made. A lot of restoration work went on in the ballroom. We carefully stripped away the old, dark finish and revealed the gleaming burled walnut that you see today.
The central floor is made of three Tennessee marbles found in Knox, Blount and Sevier counties in East Tennessee. The pink marble in the entryway that leads up the stairs to the lobby could never be replicated. Even if it was harvested from the same quarry, 90 years have passed and the marble is different now than it was then. We harvested the Tennessee marble from what materials we could find and then rearranged the existing marble until we found a pattern that we all liked.
The result of the months of hard and dedicated work was magnificent. We remained true to the hotel’s historic Beaux Arts style and were able to restore many of the hotel’s original features.
Additional information about the 2003 restoration can be found in Ridley Wills’ book “The Hermitage at 100.” Interviews with Ron Gobbell can be arranged by contacting the Bradford Group at 615-515-4888.