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BANKING ON HISTORY | Roanoke’s newest boutique hotel pays homage to the Liberty Trust Building’s celebrated architecture

BANKING ON HISTORY | Roanoke’s newest boutique hotel pays homage to the Liberty Trust Building’s celebrated architecture

Step through the bronze doors of The Liberty Trust hotel and you enter a lofted lobby anchored by stately marble columns and featuring an ornate vault door, propped wide open. What once served as the main vault at a historic bank building in downtown Roanoke is now the breakfast nook and tasting room of the city’s newest boutique hotel.

Commissioned by Norfolk & Western Railway president Frederick J. Kimball, the building opened in 1910 as First National Bank. The seven-story structure, dubbed “a temple of finance” by the Roanoke Times, was designed by prominent Virginia architect John Kevan Peebles, a University of Virginia graduate.

“It was a statement to the success of the railroad to build a building as tall as this and as opulent as this,” says Alison Blanton, vice president of Hill Studio, a landscape architecture firm in Roanoke.

The building was at the time considered a testament to Roanoke’s burgeoning prosperity, so it is fitting that its rebirth is something of a nod to the city’s growing popularity as a tourist destination.

Fairfax’s Savara Hospitality purchased the property in 2018 with a goal of making it a destination hotel. Hill Studio worked in tandem with architects from Balzer and Associates to ensure plans met the historic preservation requirements while also allowing for necessary improvements for its adaptive reuse as a hotel.

Savara tapped Black Dog Salvage to assist with the initial demolition and salvage work. The team found and carefully removed several elements, including vintage bathroom and lighting fixtures and a 600-pound vault door that was repurposed into a custom console table for the hotel’s lobby.

This approach offered a framework for the design revamp, too, overseen by the Richmond-based firm Glavé & Holmes Architecture. While this worked well throughout the building, there were some challenging areas.

Senior designer Veronica Ledford says one such spot was the lobby, where massive columns divide the space physically, but not spatially. So, they created distinct spaces within the lobby while still respecting its clean lines. The middle, flanked by the columns, is anchored by a standing communal table and carpet that depicts an enlarged canvas leaf motif reflective of the space’s neo-classical style.

To the right, the marble half-walls that used to house bank teller booths now serve to mark off intimate seating nooks and lounge areas furnished with plush velvet high wingback chairs and love seats. To the left is a bar, minted with a gleaming marble top and a line of sleek faux leather stools.

The color palate was inspired by the lobby’s abundance of brass and marble, which contained various shades of yellow, pink, and green. The cool pinks of the seating area’s upholstery were chosen as a counterpoint to the warm brass and copper tones found on the elevator, vault, and pocket doors. And the green marble is echoed in the bar’s backsplash, which is composed of emerald tiles in a shape that calls to mind gold bricks.

“Respecting the context of the building is the most important way to connect the past of a building to its present form,” Ledford says. “So, in our case, we had a lot of great elements to work with.”

That approach extended to the hotel’s 54 guest rooms, where the designers preserved the copper sheeting on the wood doors but added a frosted film to the glass paneling to create privacy. Verdigris, a greenish patina that forms on copper over time, inspired the bedding’s color scheme.

Design touches nod to a banker motif, with rich, wood tones, tweed suiting, houndstooth-esque carpets, and accessories such as brass-and-green-glass banker’s lamps and retro rotary phones. There are modern amenities too, including an espresso machine, chocolates from local gift shop Chocolatepaper, and a keepsake tote bag and slippers.

In addition to hosting visitors, which it began doing in earnest in May 2022, Savara Hospitality hopes that locals will treat The Liberty Trust as a gathering space.


Eat at: Bloom, a Roanoke gem with a cozy Scandi-chic vibe and an eclectic menu that synthesizes disparate influences, including the American South and Southeast Asia.

Visit: The Taubman Museum of Art, which offers 11 galleries and hosts 15 to 20 exhibitions a year. Featured artists have included Kehinde Wiley, John James Audubon, Sally Mann, and Norman Rockwell.

Hike: The Roanoke Star at Mill Mountain Park, and see the iconic 88-foot man-made star along with a beautifully landscaped city park, that boasts hiking and biking trails, as well as a zoo.

Check out: Black Dog Salvage, home of the DIY Network’s popular show, “Salvage Dawgs.” The company has two warehouses of architectural salvage, vintage home décor, and a shop with unique gifts and souvenirs.

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