Councilmember seeks plan for fire-ravaged International Hotel property

Councilmember seeks plan for fire-ravaged International Hotel property
Image of the fire-ravaged International Hotel courtesy of Richmond Firefighters Local 188.

Richmond Councilmember Doria Robinson is planning to hold a community meeting in the next few weeks to discuss possible plans for the fire-ravaged International Hotel property.

The historic hotel at 396 Ethel Dotson St., which once housed Black porters who had been barred from staying at a nearby, since-demolished white-only hotel, was destroyed in a three-alarm fire in April.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilmember Robinson expressed a desire to preserve the rich Black history that arose from the privately-owned property.

“We still want to create something in that location,” she said. “I’ve been gathering information about what might be possible, who are the owners, what they’re willing to do. We want to have a community meeting in the next few weeks with Councilmember [Gayle] McLaughlin and folks from the southside to really bring together those ideas, so we can come up with a proposal and not forget about that really poweful Black history…in Richmond.”

Robinson said the community should look for upcoming notices about a meeting with the Pullman Neighborhood Council on this matter. Check the Councilmember’s website for updates.

According to city and the Pullman Neighborhood Council, A. Phillip Randolph built the International Hotel to house the black Pullman Porters who weren’t allowed to stay at the Pullman Hotel during the layovers while the Pullman railcars were being serviced. The International Hotel would also serve as an after-hours joint and night club, where celebrities would gather to entertain porters during the WWII era. It was also a site for much organizing and socializing that eventually led to the establishment of the national Brotherhood of Black Sleeping Car Railroad Porters Union.

For more on the hotel’s history, read Standard reporter Mike Kinney’s article here.