Originating with hand-drawn sketches by ESa’s founder, this beloved venue was inspired by a concept of the hotel’s first and legendary general manager Jack Vaughn. Over a 20-year period and three expansions, the hotel has grown from its original 600 guest rooms to more than quadruple that amount, becoming a convention destination known the world over for its lush environments under glass, and as the largest non-gambling hotel in the country.
The graceful Georgian-influenced architecture of the initial resort and convention center referenced the venue’s southern locale and featured a two-acre courtyard with a meandering reflection pool linking a fountain and swimming pool. The Conservatory addition six years later represented more than an expansion, unveiling a Presidential Lobby with a massive, vaulted skylight and a European-inspired indoor garden centerpiece that helped transform the hotel into a national meeting and convention destination.
Phase III, The Cascades, introduced a unique-to-the-world facility for convention and resort activities, with a two-acre under-glass garden notable for its flowing streams, splashing waterfalls, serpentine walkways, and dancing waters fountain and laser light display. The Delta, Phase IV, encompasses 4.1 acres with its climate-controlled Southern “city” and one-third-mile river equipped with six 20-person boats. A 15-story glass dome soars above full-grown trees, flowers, and other foliage.
After all of its additions, the complex now has over 2.1 million square feet of total space; 1,891 guest rooms; three ballrooms of 18,000, 20,000 and 30,000 square feet with a combined seating capacity of 7,000; 44 meeting rooms; and a 145,000-square-foot exhibit hall. Not bad for a little hotel in the South.
Phase 1 Photos © Gordon Schencks; Phase 3 Cascades Photos © Timothy Hursley; Phase 4 Delta Photos © Jonathan Hillyer Photography, Inc.