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Cavalier Hotel

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1925–1927, Neff and Thompson. 1976 to present, renovation. 42nd St. and Atlantic Ave.
  • Cavalier Hotel (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • Cavalier Hotel (Jason R. Waicunas)
  • Cavalier Hotel (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • Cavalier Hotel (Richard Guy Wilson)

The seven-story Cavalier Hotel is Virginia Beach's most prominent landmark and an opulent reminder of luxury travel in the first half of the twentieth century. Constructed during the boom years of the 1920s with funds raised by public subscription, the hotel was evidently positioned to compete with other, more established resorts in the commonwealth and along the Atlantic Seaboard. What set the Cavalier Hotel apart from its competitors was the distinct beauty of its oceanfront setting, which at the time of its construction was sparsely developed. Even today the hotel maintains a commanding, isolated position on a large, beautifully landscaped hill that slopes gently down to the beach across Atlantic Avenue. Designed by the Norfolk firm of Neff and Thompson, the building is distinguished by the use of Jeffersonian details on its exterior, tying it visually to some of Virginia's most esteemed architectural landmarks. The approach to the hotel's northern entrance is framed by serpentine walls that mimic the enclosed gardens of the University of Virginia, and the entrance pavilion is a variation on the east portico of Monticello. The three wings of the Y-shaped building, crowned at their juncture by an ornamental cupola, provide guest rooms with maximum exposure to the ocean. Among the generously appointed public spaces are an oval, Adamesque outer lobby; an indoor swimming pool; and long sun porches.

Until the end of World War II the Cavalier Hotel was Virginia Beach's premier hostelry, attracting such luminaries as Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Pickford, and Will Rogers. After the war, however, competition from motels that catered more effectively to middleclass families diminished the business of older hotels. In response, a modern hotel, the Cavalier Oceanfront (1974, Shriver and Holland and Associates), was constructed across Atlantic Avenue, next to the site of the hotel's beach club, and the old building was closed for several seasons. The historic structure has since reopened, and renovations are ongoing.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Cavalier Hotel", [Virginia Beach, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 456-457.

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