LEXINGTON, Va – One of the oldest and tallest buildings in Lexington is renaming itself.
The historic Robert E. Lee Hotel announced it will be removing the controversial namesake of the building. The site has been named after the Confederate general since it opened nearly 100 years ago.
“The building was built in the 1920s as the Robert E. Lee Hotel and it immediately fell on hard times with the Great Depression,” explained Francesco Benincasa, whose family owns the hotel.
Benincasa and his family bought the hotel about six years ago and they completely renovated the building, transforming it from an apartment complex back to a hotel.
“Being a place where we want people to enjoy themselves, relax, have a drink, spend the night, it’s hard to tie that with generals of war,” Benincasa said.
Benincasa said the decision comes as the rest of Lexington discusses the future of places named after historical figures, including Washington and Lee University, which is just up the street.
“This seemed like a time where a lot of the town is trying to kind of move forward and envision a future that’s not based completely in the past,” Benincasa said.
Benincassa said the decision process hasn’t always easy for his family, but they hope the new name will serve as an opportunity to expand business.
“There’s always been a push and pull between the historic name of the building, Robert E. Lee Hotel that people have known it as around here for 100 years now, and also wanting to move forward and have your own brand,” Benincasa said.
Over the next couple of weeks, the hotel will work to rebrand after its new name ‘The Gin’.