The Pinnacle of Hospitality
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, the Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Gratz Park Inn.
The following is an excerpt from an an article in the February 2016 issue.
Horses. History. Hospitality.
Recently I had the pleasure of re-visiting Lexington, Kentucky, a charming city with an abundance of attractions and an easy drive to horse country. I had not been to Lexington in a decade or so. Much has changed since then, especially downtown with an ice skating rink and several popular eateries including Sawyer’s which “Southern Living” claims has THE best hamburger! I wanted more time to explore the city, but I was torn because I had an instant love affair with my host hotel—the Gratz Park Inn.
The weather was dismal—rainy and chilly, typical of many Thanksgiving weekends, and I was in the perfect place to relax, read, sip coffee from the coffee bar with lots of Irish crèam, play “My Funny Valentine” on the baby grand piano in the intimate lobby, and visit with the staff to learn more about the hotel and the city’s attractions.
The staff is friendly, accommodating and efficient. They are called Certified Southern Ambassadors, hospitality professionals who have been schooled about the hotel’s past. (Each employee must know at least one historical fact about the hotel.)
I have always been a fan of historic hotels and inns. When I arrived, I saw a tall, energetic woman whom I correctly surmised was the General Manager. She has an air of authority, yet she is so approachable and hospitable. Zedtta S. Wellman is the General Manager and Innkeeper of The Gratz Hotel. She was busy supervising the decorating of the hotel for the Christmas holidays, but she was not too busy to stop and welcome me to the hotel. She goes above and beyond to please the hotel guests as does her staff. It is obvious that she likes to accommodate her guests’ needs and she has a love affair with the inn and with Lexington, Kentucky.
Cozy conversation groupings are in the sitting area at the inn to ensure patrons enjoy the lobby’s fireplace and baby grand piano. Nearby is a small Business Center with complimentary Internet and library and a coffee bar with a nice variety of coffees and teas. Other offerings include a 24-hour Fitness Center and complimentary parking.
Zeddta has a gift of knowing what her guests like. Shortly after my arrival and our conversation, she sent a lovely gift box to my room filled with some of my favorite things: a cookbook from The Glitz (more on this later); a miniature pink poinsettia; attractive snowmen mugs; and a variety of coffees, teas and chocolates. I was ready to move in!
History of the Gratz Park Inn
Gratz Park, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, is named for Lexington businessman and attorney Benjamin Gratz, who bought a home in 1824 on Mill Street in Lexington. He was a Transylvania University trustee, a City Council member, and a founder of Lexington’s first public library and the Lexington Ohio Railway. He was one of four gentlemen who purchased the land for the Lexington Cemetery. Gratz, who lived near the inn, took daily walks in darkness (due to his blindness) and he was instrumental in improving and preserving the green space which is now Gratz Park. His home is now a private residence.
The renowned hotel, a pet-friendly hotel, has been awarded “Best Hotel in Lexington” for seven consecutive years by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Guests from across the nation stay at the hotel. Horse racing enthusiasts, business travelers, and tourists return each year. Some stay for a month to several months at a time.
The inn participates in the annual October Ghost Tours. It seems that a little girl named Lizzy has been heard by guests and housekeepers playing and running up and down the hallways.
There are 41 rooms including 6 suites at the Gratz Hotel. One is a Presidential Suite which some guests reserve for a month or longer. Such was the case when I was a guest next door to this suite, which has a Ralph Lauren look. One female guest from California, a horse lover, is a regular who stays three months every year. She arrives in the evening and requests tea in her room, and she loves fresh flowers. She requests that the temperature in her room be set on 66˚ no matter what the outside temperature is. She leaves early in the morning.
The rooms are individually decorated. I stayed in a cozy room with barrel windows and shutters and a Weightless Sleep Bed. The French room has an iron bed and blue is the prominent color scheme. Sumptuous fabrics, antique-reproduction furniture and an array of Italian toiletries give the guest rooms a European flair, while equine-themed art work reflects the city’s reputation as the Horse Capital of the World. This year the guest rooms are being refreshed with new carpets, furniture and bathrooms.
Distilled Restaurant and Bourbon Bar
Upscale farm-to-table menus re-imagine classic Southern favorites for modern palates. Chef/Owner Mark Wombles presents what he calls contemporary Southern cuisine. He likes to source ingredients close to home and keeps over 100,000 bees on the hotel’s roof, using their honey for sweetening signature dishes and drinks. His honey topped my delicious homemade breakfast yogurt-fresh fruit parfait served with coconut almond granola and a croissant.
A Sunday brunch is offered from 9am until1 pm. An Aww Shucks Monday special dinner focuses on shellfish and is served on the patio in the spring and summer. Every Thursday night the theme is Fried Chicken and Champagne. “I brought this concept back to Mark from Europe,” Zeddta told me. “In Europe I was served Bubbles and Bangers.”
The bar in Distilled offers an extensive selection of “America’s Native Spirit.” Mark’s employees are trained to introduce bourbon to the guests and take them on a journey to bourbon.
What to Know
Gratz Park Inn
120 West Second Street, Lexington, KY 40507
Phone: 859.231.1777 (inn); 859.255.0002 (Distilled Restaurant & Bourbon Bar)
Toll Free: 800.752.4166
Websites: www.gratzparkinn.com and www.DistilledAtGratzParkInn.com
Social Media: Facebook and Pinterest