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Colonial Days: Williamsburg’s Kingsmill Resort [Business Life magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Business Life magazine
July 1998

When President Clinton arrived at Kingsmill Resort near Williamsburg on Saturday, May 9, he huddled in the owner’s mansion with Senate Democrats before playing 18 holes of golf.

After he finished the round, he made his way to a small reception in the conference area where he shook hands with Kingsmill executives. Executive chef Joseph Durante, however, he embraced. “Now this is the man who I want to meet,” the President said.

Clinton has good taste. Not only is the food at Kingsmill rich and sumptuous, but also it is one of only 108 resorts worldwide listed in the 1998 “Standards of Excellence” guide, published annually by the prestigious Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. From the moment you drive up the grand flower-lined driveway into the Kingsmill Resort, you know you will dissolve into the luxury awaiting you.

LAY OF THE LAND

Your first stop is the registration desk in the main building. Called the Resort Center, it is decorated with fine woods and colonial brass fixtures and overlooks the James River. It is home to a large conference center ‘ a fancy dining room called Bray, and Moody’s Tavern—a good place to have a nightcap.

To the right of the Resort Center is the Golf Clubhouse. To the left, a 9 1 -slip marina, 13 tennis courts, and a full-service spa and health club.

Set inside gray and white cement buildings along the James River and the four golf courses are 400 guestrooms and suites. Most are one-bedroom units with a king-size bed, small bathroom, a living room area with a queen size sleeper sofa, and a dining room table and chairs.

The rooms are not impeccably clean, but that seems less due to the housekeeping staff and more to the fact that they are 10 years old. What is quite tidy, though, is the full kitchen, which comes stocked with a refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave and dishwasher.

Just one thing about that full kitchen: A coffee maker is provided, as are complimentary prepackaged coffee bags. But bring your own coffee, especially if you like it strong. And don’t forget a carton of milk, unless you prefer the powdered stuff.

FOOD

In addition to a bag of good coffee, you might also want to pick up a few bagels and a tub of cream cheese at the nearby Food Lion. Although it is easy—and tempting—to romp over to one of the resort’s three restaurants to grab breakfast, lunch and dinner, it can be a little pricey.

Management estimates food for a family of four runs about $135 per day. You could probably munch for less if you want to travel five minutes from Kingsmill to Route 60, where dozens of cheap eateries line both sides of the street.

If money is not an object, then do indulge in all that Kingsmill has to offer—including the Regatta Restaurant in the health club. Perfect for a light dinner or full lunch, it is best known for its brick-oven pizza, salads, and sandwiches that are entree size. Breakfast at the Eagle Restaurant, in the golf club house, is also worth a try. The view of the River Course is particularly nice with a plate of pancakes and a mug of steaming coffee.

For at least one meal, you should eat in the formal Bray Dining Room. From tables set with white linen, crystal and silver, you have a spectacular view of the James River. As would be expected, the food is as delicious as the room is beautiful. All this splendor doesn’t come cheap, however. A candlelight dinner is served a la carte and entrees range from $23 to $35 per plate. Breakfast is more affordable, at $10 per person, for the prix fixe buffet.

The lunch buffet runs $13 per person. And every Friday night, there is a $22 per person seafood buffet, which draws resort guests, locals, and tourists from the entire region—so make your reservations early.

CONFERENCE FACILITIES

While vacationers generate much of Kingsmill’s business, a good portion of income comes from hundreds of business meetings held there annually. Fifteen meeting rooms come in a variety of sizes and can accommodate meetings for two or 550 people.

Audiovisual capabilities, a fax machine, copier, and Macintosh are available. The best part about the conference center is that each meeting room has a view. Big windows—with shades that can be drawn so attendees don’t get distracted outdoor swimming pool and the stocked game room—complete with a ping pong table and a dozen video games, they’ll want to stay for a month.

You might actually want to spend time with your children; so sign up for a package deal including two-day passes to Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, or Colonial Williamsburg and take in the sites that surround the resort. If, however, you want to golf for the afternoon or pamper yourself at the Spa, from June 16 to September 1 you can enroll the kids in the Kingsmill Kampers program. Children 5 to 12 play golf, tennis, and swim, do arts and crafts, and get lunch and a snack.

PIECE OF THE PAST
The food, rooms, and amenities are sure to entertain even the choosiest of guests. But that’s the case of any world-class resort worth its bedside chocolate mints. What makes Kingsmill unique is its history.

Richard Kingsmill first settled the land in 1619 when, along with famous Colonists such as William Fairfax and John Jefferson, he was one of the first company members to receive grants of 50 acres of land.

Kingsmill’s plantation grew to several thousand acres over the next few decades. Complete with a manor house, sheds and bams, fenced gardens, orchards and a river landing, it was the grandest of the dozen along the James River. The land fell into disrepair by the end of the Civil War, and sat abandoned until 1950 when the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation bought it.

In 1969, Anheuser-Busch purchased the 3,000-acre tract. The St. Louis beer barons began developing it, turning 2,500 acres into high-priced gated community that today is home to about 1,500 families. The remaining 500 acres became the resort, which in addition to being a hot spot for Democrats, is also home to hundreds of business meetings annually, and a great place to take the kids for a family vacation.

The Colonists who set up the plantation may have come to the new world to escape the monarchy, but hundreds of years later the Kingsmill estate remains fit for a king, or at least, a President.

For more information visit: www.kingsmill.com.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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