By Hope S. Philbrick
Once upon a time in Atlanta, Georgia’s Buckhead neighborhood, a hotel called The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead was a destination for well-to-do overnight guests seeking Southern-style pampering as well as locals craving some of the city’s finest fine dining. The economy crashed, dining habits slacked, and even after making a series of tweaks and changes to the place’s longstanding traditions, Marriott decided to re-brand and re-do the legendary place.
But fear not, there’s a happy ending: The place is now The Whitley Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel owned by Host Hotels & Resorts.
The owners began multi-million-dollar renovations on the building in Fall 2018. The new design was revealed in grand fashion in June 2019 with a party that featured a live band, a gal pouring champagne into a hoop skirt of coupe glasses, two gals posing for photos with their heads completely covered in floral bouquets (mimicking portraits near the entry, shown above), multiple buffet tables loaded with food, open bars, and lots of gawking visitors.
Not all traces of The Ritz-Carlton have vanished: Some framed works of art are recognizable. Guestroom windows still offer sweeping city views. Valets stand ready at the entrance. And the hotel is still a Marriott member. But overall, old has been kicked out to make way for new.
As part of the renovation, all 507 guestrooms (including 56 suites) have been remodeled. Guestrooms and suites range in size from 720 to 1,800 square feet. According to press materials, the “multi-million-dollar transformation [aims] to reclaim the hotel’s standing amongst the most luxurious hotels in the country.” So all the guestrooms and suites boast elegant finishes including mahogany floors, Italian marble vanities, luxury Frette linens, and feather beds with 400-thread-count linens. They also offer seating areas and marble bathrooms. The color scheme, artwork, and finishes lend the rooms a fresh feeling.
Renovations touched all parts of the hotel. The remodeled reception and lobby area “attempts to capture the feeling of a Southern front porch”—I didn’t pick up on that, but it has a white color scheme and an open, airy feeling even when the fireplace is raging. A 5,000-square-foot Legacy Ballroom has been added with space for 300 guests. Trade Root Restaurant and Lounge has been renovated; its menu features Southern-inspired dishes and handcrafted cocktails. A Himalayan salt room and expanded dressing areas have been added to The Spa. (Take a peek at the hotel’s new look video here.)
Even before renovations, the hotel opened in late 2017 as The Whitley. The official word is that the name is an “homage to Buckhead’s legendary founder and trailblazer, John Whitley, a farmer, hunter, and tradesman who migrated to the area in the 1800s seeking a place for gathering, conducting business, and sharing ideas. Whitley settled on the side of the Chattahoochee River where he mounted the area’s namesake ‘buck’s head.’”
The Whitley is located near Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza. Come for the convenient location, stay for the comfortable bed.
21 Point Inspection
1. Adults Only/Odds of Encountering Children—Lower than the average Marriott; the location of this hotel is most likely to lure business travelers. For the best odds of an adult experience, visit during the workweek when school is in session.
2. Parking—Valet parking is available for $44/day with in/out privileges or self-park for $18/day with no in/out privileges.
3. Clean—Renovations leave the hotel feeling crisp and clean. 100% non-smoking rooms and facilities.
4. Space—Ample closet space. Small dresser.
5. Kitchen(ette)—An auto-charge refrigerated mini-bar is in the room, along with a basket of snacks. A wine opener and a “silver” ice bucket are provided.
6. Coffee/Tea—Serve yourself at a refreshment station in the lobby.
7. Glassware/Ice—A variety of glassware is provided in the guestroom—mine had 8 Spiegelau glasses: 2 stemmed wines, 2 highballs, and 4 rocks glasses!
8. Tub/Shower—Walk-in shower has both rainshower and handheld heads; toggle between them or use both at once. Good water pressure.
9. Temperature—It’s possible to adjust the room temperature to suit personal preferences.
10. Linens/Mattress—Linens were in excellent condition and the bed was very comfortable.
11. Hooks—There are two hooks and one towel bar in the bathroom.
12. Hair Dryer—Provided in each guestroom. So, too, are plush robes.
13. Window Treatments—Draperies help darken the room and offer privacy.
14. Seating—My king guestroom had a desk chair plus a two-seat sofa. A padded coffee table could serve as a bench for extra seating.
15. Work-Friendly—High-speed wireless Internet (for an additional charge of $13+/day; complimentary in public areas). The guestroom’s desk is big enough to hold a laptop plus a mousepad and papers.
16. Outlets—Recharge with ease. Rooms offer an iPod clock radio.
17. Pet-Friendly—Up to two pets allowed with a non-refundable $150 fee. Max 50 pounds. You must alert your intention to bring your pet(s) when making a room reservation. Pets must be kept on a leash when outside the guestroom.
18. Service—Staff members are friendly and helpful.
19. Pool/Hut Tub—Indoor heated swimming pool.
20. On-Site Amenities—Enjoy Internet TV, concierge services, dry cleaning service, bell stand/porters, luggage storage, business center, club level with club lounge, fitness center, on-site spa and more.
21. Accessibility—Accessible rooms available with roll-in showers, bathtubs with grab bars and/or at least 32-inch clear door width. Portable communications kits with visual alarms and notification devices are available as are TTY devices and TVs with closed captioning.
Rates from $141/night.
The Whitley Hotel
3434 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
- Read more about Buckhead in Simply Buckhead magazine.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to The Whitley Hotel for hosting my visit.