Written by Andrea McVeigh Friday, November 19 2010
Virginia is for lovers, according to its marketing slogan, but a lot of women will fall head over heels for a shoe-themed boutique hotel in Lynchburg, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The gorgeous Craddock Terry hotel was created from two former factory buildings – the Craddock-Terry Shoe Corp. and a tobacco warehouse – in the charming City of Seven Hills.
Named after the corporation that was once the fifth largest shoe company in the world, the hotel taps into – and lovingly pays tribute to – the city's manufacturing and industrial heritage.
The footwear theme carries through from the key cards that open the door to your room to the individual shoe designs on each of the guest room doors, the arty prints in the bathrooms, and even goodies in the gift shop.
In each nook and cranny it seems that there's either an artifact from the glory days of the former factory, or else a shoe-themed decoration.
And just to reinforce the point that this hotel has a shoe fetish, a giant red court shoe adorns the outside of the building.
The only place we didn’t see footwear was on Buster Brown, the hotel dog, a cute wirehaired fox terrier and a great official greeter. Who needs a doorman when there’s Buster?
Even breakfast comes with a quirky touch – you don't go down to breakfast in this hotel. Instead, you fill out a form in the evening and leave it in an old wooden shoebox outside the door. The next morning, a continental breakfast arrives at your door.
Another bonus of these big old warehouses is that they offer spacious accommodations. Each of the 44 rooms and suites comes with quirky original architectural touches such as exposed brickwork, high ceilings, and large windows, as well as views of the scenic James River, the historic downtown area, and, if you're lucky, the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Not only does the hotel pay tribute to footwear, it also illustrates how the formerly neglected downtown and riverfront warehouse areas of many cities can be transformed into hip destinations.
In the mid-1800s Lynchburg was a thriving industrial center built around manufacturing, shipping, and various other industries, including tobacco, iron, and steel. Right up until the late 19th century, it was one of the richest towns, per capita, in the whole of the United States. These days, the pedestrian-friendly walkways of the downtown district heave with antique shops, fancy boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and bars.
There are Civil War sites – Lynchburg boasts 11 sites on the Civil War Trails – plus walking tours. Don’t miss the fantastic and well-named Amazement Square, The Rightmire Children’s Museum, with its four floors of interactive exhibits, workshops, and educational programming.
Not far from the railway station, the hotel sits in a perfect location for an overnight or weekend break. Amtrak Virginia last year launched improvements to its service on two routes in the state's heartland, Lynchburg and Richmond.
During the first six months since its launch in October last year, the Amtrak Virginia service on the Lynchburg route, stopping at Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas, Burke Centre (Fairfax), Alexandria, and Washington D.C., has proved to be a roaring success.
The Craddock Terry hotel is a real find. Many hotels may offer a shoeshine, but none that we know of embrace footwear as a theme. Guests at this place are walking all over tradition and having a lot of fun as they step out in style.
For more on Lynchburg, go to www.discoverlynchburg.org. Visit AmtrakVirginia.com for information on routes and prices.
Andrea McVeigh is a freelance journalist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. With 20 years experience in journalism, taking in everything from hard news to celebrity interviews, she now specializes in travel and lifestyle features. This year alone, she has traveled to Barbados, Asia, United Arab Emirates, throughout Europe, and has taken several road trips in the United States. With a high profile in her home city, she also works in broadcasting and is a regular commentator on BBC radio in the U.K. She writes for Irish online magazine for women www.sugahfix.com as well as for Escape travel magazine (U.K.), Ulster Bride magazine, and the Belfast Telegraph newspaper.