It even smells luxurious in here. A mix of spice, leather, smoke and floral, all notes found within a custom scent called “Metallic” that boutique hotel 106 Jefferson commissioned for its lobby. Eyeroll if you must. But the scent adds a little something to the experience as one enters this elegant hotel.
A project years in the making, 106 Jefferson, part of Hilton’s “Curio Collection” brand, opened in August on the same block as local fusion restaurant Phat Sammy’s. It’s just off the courthouse square. The seven-story hotel, with an address the same as its name, is comprised of 115 rooms and 12 suites.
The hotel’s classic exterior has been a striking addition to downtown Huntsville. And once you walk inside, past the valet, into the high-ceilinged (and yes, scented) lobby that vibe only heightens. Lobby furnishings include a curvy custom couch and large scale abstract art prints. There’s a tasteful array of earth tones, blacks, whites and splashes of color. Echoes of art deco abound.
106 Jefferson is built on the former site of Hale Brothers Furniture and the Huntsville Hotel, the latter a premier stay here in the 1850s before burning down in the 1910s. “It was the epitome of hotels back in the day,” Mary Beth Lewis, 106 Jefferson’s sales and marketing director, says.
The new hotel has repurposed some materials for the site’s past. For example, wood from Hale Brothers was used in flooring for The Revivalist, the restaurant inside 106 Jefferson. Bricks from the Huntsville Hotel were incorporated too.
106 Jefferson’s look includes many nods to Huntsville’s aerospace legacy, from do-not-disturb doorknob tags that read “ON A MISSION,” to “monkeynaut”-depicting wallpaper outside the rooftop bar’s elevator. Chandeliers in the lobby were made from semi-conductors. Designers on the project include Dallas firm Looney & Associates and New York based consultant Indiewalls. The hotel’s gift shop is stocked with products from Huntsville business, including handmade jewelry, leather goods and locally roasted coffee.
Average prices for rooms at the hotel range from $238, for two queen-sized beds or one king-sized bed, to $777, for a suite with a king-sized bed. Rates are dependent though on length of stay and time of year. (More info at 106jefferson.com.)
The rooms have a classic yet contemporary look. The color palette includes maize, navy and cream. The result is a posh yet comfy aesthetic. A bit like the bedroom in that end scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey” but way cozier and more Southern.
The bathrooms are luxe and light and open with sliding barndoor-type entrances. Hope you like showers though because there are only around 10 bathtubs in the entire hotel. “Most people don’t want to be in someone else’s tub,” Lewis explains.
Technology is fully integrated. Things you can control from your smartphone, via an app, at 106 Jefferson include: unlocking your room’s door; adjusting the thermostat; summon the valet; tipping the valet; selecting your room from an online floorplan; checking in; and paying for your room. If you prefer interacting with humans, the hotel is staffed with about 70 of those.
106′s concierge is called a “guest experience manager,” who can help guide a traveler to local must-do’s that match their interest – whether that be live music, craft beer, hiking, visual art, etc. “Everything we do is experiential,” Lewis says. “And what that means is your experience would be different than what my experience would be. It’s not cookie cutter. Traveling is a lonely thing but we become like their family.”
106 Jefferson has welcomed guests from as far as Australia and the U.K., Lewis says, in addition to domestic travelers from places like Washington, D.C. and Nashville. The staff has international flavor too. The hotel’s general manager is from Spain and the catering manager is from Bulgaria, Lewis says.
You don’t need to actually stay there to enjoy 106 though. “We want this to be a place for locals to come in, enjoy, relax and refresh,” Lewis says. There’s a rooftop bar – named Baker & Able after the two monkeys NASA used to test space travel’s biomedical effects – with indoor and outdoor seating and a view Monte Sano mountain in the distance. They have local beers on tap. For cocktails, they make all their own juices and bitters from scratch.
Back down on the floor-level, The Revivalist restaurant is accessible from inside the hotel or straight off the street. I’ve had lunch there a couple times and it’s an affordable way to enjoy the atmosphere at 106.
They do a $16 pork sandwich that’s basically an upscale barbecue remix. A solid hunk of tender pig that’s more pork roast than pulled pork. The sauce, tangy with a hint of exotic fresh herbs. Pickled onions add zing while shaved carrot adds intermittent delicate crunch. The brioche bun is daydream-soft, but not so puffy it takes up too much bandwidth from the pork.
And the steak fries that come with it, oh man. Piping hot crispy golden planks of potato awesomeness. If you’re not into fries or trying to cut down on fun, you can opt for a house salad or cup of soup. I’ve also had a catfish sandwich at Revivalist, but it appears to longer be on the menu (as of the filing of this article) and that’s too bad. The catfish was a fresh tasting and footprint sized filet tricked out with pickled jalapenos and tangy sauce. A posh po-boy. R.I.P.
The Revivalist lunch menu also gets into burger, club and Reuben territory. They’re each around 15 bucks, including side. There are entrees like mushroom-ravioli and shrimp-and-grits for about the same price. They also do breakfast (pancakes, omelets, French toast, etc., $13 – $15) and dinner (steak, seafood, pasta, etc., $20 – $43). Adult beverages range from a pint of locally made Yellowhammer Belgian White beer ($7) to wines by the glass or bottle ($9/$40 and up) to cocktails such as a “perfect Manhattan ($16).
The Revivalist dining room has a warm welcoming feel to it. Hardwoods, paneled walls, exposed beam ceilings, soft and natural light. Seats at the handsome wooden bar offer a view of Jefferson Street passersby.
The service at Revivalist is thoughtful and on-it. They close daily between 2 and 5 p.m., and my first time dining there I arrived at like 1:50 and the server still happily served me. Besides that midday closing, the restaurant’s hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays.
Given its glamour, 106 Jefferson seems like the kind of place, say, a touring entertainer performing at the nearby Von Braun Center or upcoming Orion Amphitheater would stay. The hotel is equipped with a private back entrance to accommodate celebs and such. And specific floors can be electronically blocked off for additional privacy.
Lewis says 106 Jefferson is working with the VBC, Orion, Broadway Theatre League and other local arts entities. “They’re bringing in people from all over the world and they want a place for people to stay that maybe matches where they’re coming from. This is a different type of experience and I feel it helps elevate our city in the sight of others who are looking to work here, move here, live here, whatever the case may be.”
Whether you’re a famous rocker who can afford a $777 suite or just an average local like me who’s more the $16 sandwich type, 106 Jefferson has some escape for you. And who couldn’t use a little more escape these days?