Craddock Terry’s Journey from the World’s Fifth Largest Shoe Factory to Lynchburg’s Only Boutique Hotel

There is something inherently magical about historic buildings that have been repurposed and given another chance to make history again. Many such projects entail restoration of some physical elements but a marked departure from the building’s original purpose. At Craddock Terry Hotel and Event Center, however, the past plays a central and honored role in the present.

Although Craddock Terry is celebrating 10 years as Lynchburg’s only boutique hotel, its history dates back to the 19th century. In 1888, John W. Craddock founded The Craddock Terry Shoe Factory. The factory had locations throughout Central Virginia, Ohio, and Missouri and an office in the Empire State Building. At its peak, the factory produced nearly 100,000 pairs of shoes of all types per day and thus became the fifth largest shoe factory in the world. The Craddock Terry Southland Annex in Lynchburg produced over 2,500 pairs of women’s shoes per day.

In 2007, architect and John W. Craddock’s great-grandson Hal Craddock and his business partner Lynn Cunningham spearheaded a renovation project to turn The Craddock Terry Shoe Factory, along with the neighboring historic William King Jr. Tobacco Warehouse, into a luxury hotel.

My recent stay at Craddock Terry was luxurious indeed. The room was spacious and modern but also cozy and filled with charming mementos of the hotel’s former existence as a shoe factory. Hand-painted wooden cutouts depicting different types of women’s shoes hang outside each room, a vintage shoe shine box in each room serves as a vehicle for breakfast, and the iconic Craddock Terry red pump makes several appearances. High ceilings and exposed brick and wood beams throughout the rooms and lobby imbue the hotel with modern elegance, while the attentive and helpful staff members provide exemplary old-fashioned customer service.

It comes as no surprise that Condé Nast Traveler recently ranked Craddock Terry as #18 in its “Top Hotels of the South” category in their prestigious annual Readers’ Choice Awards issue.

Of course, the original renovation process was not quite so glamorous. “The King building [formerly the William King Jr. Tobacco Warehouse] was in very bad shape,” says Christin Gregores, Deputy Hotel Manager of Craddock Terry. “The roof was very damaged by termites, and therefore so was everything else underneath. Working on that building was a labor of love due to its historic nature: you start to do this, and then that happens! There are also things like tax credits that you can’t change but so much, but you still have to adhere to modern-day rules and regulations. It was definitely a big undertaking!”

Ironically, the thoroughly modern soaring ceilings and wooden beams are original to the building, as are the granite walls in the event spaces downstairs. Amenities including a bellman, turn-down service, and bike rentals have been added and other small updates have been made over the past 10 years, and a large-scale update is planned for next year.

“We are hoping in 2018 to break ground and build a new building from the Waterstone patio all the way up,” Gregores says. “It will be six or seven stories. There will be a rooftop bar area, a beer garden, and balconies for everybody, and it will bring us up to about 100 rooms.”

An additional renovation of the event spaces, which are used for corporate meetings, weddings, and other events, began this November. “We’re changing the carpets, getting new chairs and light fixtures, upgrading our AV, and more,” Gregores says.

Although downtown Lynchburg is thriving now, such was not the case a decade ago; Craddock Terry played a central role in that change.

“When we first started in 2007, the downtown area was
still kind of a ghost land,” Gregores recalls.

“There weren’t many restaurants or things to do, and it was not seen as a favorable place. We really had to try to change that idea. The sales team did a great job going out and reaching out to local businesses. Parents of college kids started staying here and word got out about us, and being so small at that time allowed us to get to know our guests very well. Because guests were staying here and looking for things to do, it became more attractive to businesses to come down here. It’s been really nice to watch and be a part of that progress.”

Shoemakers American Grille and Waterstone Pizza, both of which have been attached to the hotel for the past decade, have played a large role in the hotel’s success and vice-versa. “Steve Parry [owner of Shoemakers] was initially involved in the operational side, but then he realized that he was more interested in the restaurant and banquet side of things,” Gregores notes. “Shoemakers has won all sorts of awards, and the steak is delicious! And Waterstone is also incredible and always has a line out the door. Both restaurants have grown with us, and we attribute a lot of our success to one another.”

As Craddock Terry forges ahead into its second decade of operation as a top-rated boutique hotel, Gregores hopes that it will continue to grow and evolve while still honoring its rich history. “We want to be the respectable historic hotel, not the old, run-down historic hotel,” she says with a laugh. “We always try to stay fresh and new. We want to continue to be seen as one of the best hotels in the market and to show people the wonder that is Lynchburg.”

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