ABINGDON, Va. — Once upon a time, Ian Lloyd-Jones operated a dozen hotels — elegant and fabulously furnished — from New York to Alabama.
Now 72, Lloyd-Jones has gradually sought a respite from the hospitality business from his home in Atlanta.
He sold off his properties.
But he kept one — the Martha Washington Inn & Spa at the center of Abingdon, Virginia.
“And there is a reason why it’s the only one I have now,” Lloyd-Jones said. “I just love this place. When I came here, I just fell in love with it. It just oozes charm and personality.”
Lloyd-Jones acquired the property 24 years ago.
“It was a good strategic investment at the time,” he said. “It fit in with what our model was, which was old, historic properties.”
Lloyd-Jones has since added a spa and a swimming pool to “The Martha.”
“We tweak it,” he said. “We’re always doing something.”
Dating to the early 1830s, the hotel property was once a private home for the clan of Gen. Francis Preston. “The family lived here for a few years,” Lloyd-Jones said, “and then they sold it.”
It then became known as a college for young women. Among its students, during the late 1800s, was Edith Bolling, later to become the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson.
The college closed during the Great Depression, and the property became a hotel in the 1930s.
These days, “The Martha” remains the grand dame of Abingdon — and an elegant showplace of Southwest Virginia.
“This region is known for its music, Barter Theatre and the Creeper Trail. And ‘The Martha’ has its place,” Lloyd-Jones said. “We’re just happy to be the proud stewards and hope we do things right for the community.”
Lloyd-Jones says he knows the 63-room hotel has a role to play.
“We’re no more important than the individual retailers who have invested their flock,” Lloyd-Jones said. “Everybody has a role to play, and we have a very clear understanding of what our role is. We’re rather like a window on the community. And if you have a pleasant experience as you’re looking in the light of the window, it’s a reflection of the entire community.”