Hotel Review: O. Henry Hotel & Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, NC
BY RON BERNTHAL
During a recent visit to Greensboro, North Carolina, I stayed at the O. Henry Hotel, a locally owned property that opened in 1998. The original O. Henry Hotel was built in downtown Greensboro in 1919, and was a city landmark until it was demolished in the 1970′s. The new O. Henry has also become a city landmark in much the same way, by using local materials in its construction (incorporating various design cues from its historic predecessor) and becoming a gathering spot for Greensboro’s business and artistic community. It would be impossible, however, to write about the O. Henry without also including the Proximity Hotel, its sister property down the road which opened in late 2007. Both hotels were designed, built and owned by the same local firm, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels. The 131-room O. Henry and the 147-room Proximity are AAA Four Diamond hotels, with the Proximity being the first hotel property in America to be certified LEED Platinum.
The O. Henry is more traditional in style and ambience, and reflects Greensboro and North Carolina’s history throughout the property (the author O. Henry was born in Greensboro as William Sydney Porter in 1862). My room was extremely comfortable with nice carpeting, artist-in-residence Chip Holton prints on the walls, a microwave and fridge hidden behind dark wood cabinet doors, a large work desk, two Queen bed’s and two lovely upholstered sitting chairs. The room windows, with real awnings, offered city views, and actually opened for outside air, a nice room feature rarely seen in hotels these days.
Other room details included a very large, glass shower stall, two granite vanities, an attractive black & white checkered tile bathroom floor, and a seersucker blanket cover that was laundered daily, instead of the usual never-washed bed spread. Some of the complimentary room amenities included gourmet coffee, with real half-and-half, bottled water and custom-made pillows. Breakfast, included in the room rate, was served in the hotel’s Pavilion garden room, with traditional North Carolina favorites (homemade biscuits, sausage gravy, and stone milled grits from the historic Old Mill of Guilford) as well as the usual array of breakfast buffet items.The O. Henry’s on-site restaurant is Green Valley Grill, an attractive space with a 30-foot ceiling, European-inspired artwork, and a wide selection of lunch and dinner entrees. Both the restaurant and the adjacent bar area, with its eclectic styling, are popular for business luncheons and after-work drinks and dinner.
For guests arriving by air into Piedmont Triad International Airport, both the O. Henry and Proximity hotel’s provide complimentary airport transfers using the hotels’ roomy London Taxis or restored Checker Cabs. These eye-catching vehicles are also available to shuttle guests between the two properties, although it’s only an eight-minute walk in nice weather.
The Proximity Hotel is newer than the O. Henry, and designed with an industrial/textile mill look that works really well in Greensboro, a former textile hub where historic mills still dot the countryside in all directions. During my visit to the O. Henry I walked over to the Proximity (only quarter-mile away) and toured the property.
The guest rooms and public areas are artsy and modern. I liked the industrial piping that line the hallway ceilings and in some of the rooms, as well as the innovative “guest living rooms” located near the elevators on floors 3-8, where guests can congregate for snacks or drinks, or to use the computer terminal and printer in each “living room.” This is a novel way of offering a convenient mini-business and social center on each floor.
Guest room furnishings are custom-designed, ceilings are ten-feet high with huge windows, and lots of commissioned artwork can be found in the rooms and public areas of the property. Like its sister property, the Proximity seems to be an attractive meetings venue with lots of flexible event space that include natural light, state-of-the art sound and lighting, and complimentary high-speed internet throughout the property. A fully-equipped fitness center is located near the outdoor pool, and nearby jogging and biking trails are part of the city’s Greenway, an ongoing project linking parks and trails that will eventually comprise 90 miles. The fitness center has a limited number of bicycles available for guest use.
The hotel’s signature dining venue is Print Works Bistro, adjacent to the hotel and extremely popular with guests and local residents. With a dining area featuring three walls of windows, and an outdoor patio overlooking a stream, Print Works offers an extensive wine selection and menu items like pan seared sea scallops, North Carolina mountain trout, Angus beef filet mignon, and lots of small plates and salads. As part of the hotel’s sustainability practices, the Bistro’s bar is made of salvaged, solid walnut from trees that came down in storms.
Sustainability at Proximity is seriously practiced here. While most hotels ask guests to refrain from having their towels washed every day, this property goes a lot further than that. There are 100 solar panels on the hotel’s roof, heating most of the water for the hotel and restaurant, and by using more energy efficient materials and technology during the construction process the hotel claims it uses about 40 percent less energy than more conventional hotels. The stream and 2.5-acre natural terrain adjacent to the property was restored during construction, and a green, vegetated rooftop will be planted atop the restaurant.
For guests staying at either hotel, dining charges at O. Henry’s Green Valley Grill, or Proximity’s Print Works Bistro, can be charged to your room. Another dining option would be Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, a casual Greensboro restaurant opened by the hotels’ owners, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels, about 20 years ago and still extremely popular. Try the cornmeal crusted Carolina catfish for lunch. Guests at either hotel can also charge meal purchases at Lucky 32 to their room.
O. Henry Hotel
624 Green Valley Road
Greensboro, NC 27408
704 Green Valley Road
Greensboro, NC 27408