Discover nine new settings for your next unforgettable eventby Carolyn S. Baragona | Published in September 2009 Features | event sites | venues
Discover nine new settings for your next unforgettable event
A venue is more than just a place to hold your event. It reflects the goals and emotional appeal for all the event holds for your guests. This is especially true of landmark venues — spaces that stand out for their unique aesthetic appeal or rich history. These varied buildings set the tone for your event and lend an air of excitement to it from the moment the invitation is received.
To find some of the top landmark venues for events — whether they’re well-known settings or hidden gems — ES searched from the nation’s capital to our northernmost state. Here are nine spectacular spaces that just may help make your next affair a landmark event.
1. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library
Simi Valley, Calif.
Capacity: 10 – 1,400+
Even the winding road on the approach to the Reagan Library sets the tone of excitement and significance for your event. This landmark venue offers a variety of event spaces and services to accommodate a wide range of events. The Reagan Library Courtyard provides a panorama of California hills and valleys and a sunset view that is an event in itself. Events at the Air Force One Pavilion give guests the unique opportunity to dine on fine cuisine beneath the wings of the historic presidential aircraft, surrounded by a motorcade of presidential vehicles and memorabilia of the Reagan administration’s historic years. Guests are invited to tour Air Force One and enjoy yet another spectacular California vista.
Diane Williams, an independent meeting planner involved with Meeting Professionals International of Southern California, says the venue went above and beyond the group’s expectations. “The Air Force One Pavilion venue is elegant and exciting,” she adds. “There was so much energy in the room just by having our event at such a beautiful and historic site.”
2. Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Capacity: 10 – 1,000
This 982-acre estate of Henry Francis du Pont is the greatest surviving example of a country estate. The original 12-room mansion, built in 1837, has expanded to a museum and numerous buildings for education and events. More than 14 event spaces are available in the 60 acres of lush gardens or in the beautiful interior rooms. The museum displays over 85,000 objects, an unparalleled collection of antiques and American decorative arts that define our heritage.
The estate is approximately 100 acres filled with naturalized gardens, antiques and unique locations for events, including the reflecting pool, museum and galleries, reception area, and the conservatory with its spectacular views.
You may also offer your guests a garden tram tour, private tour of the museum, or a talk by the museum’s renowned experts, according to Nicole Bailey, general manager and catering director with Restaurant Associates for the estate.
Kendall Brown, owner of Philadelphia-based Eclatante Event Design, adds, “The soul of Winterthur is based 100 percent on the spirit of grace and hospitality. Everything is steeped in a culture of graciousness and creating a beautiful experience.”
3. Harrigan Centennial Hall
At Alaska’s first fully functional conference and convention center, guests are treated to spectacular views of the mountains and the water as they enjoy symposiums and educational sessions. Located on the water’s edge of southeast Alaska’s pristine Sitka Sound, the Harrigan Centennial Hall offers meeting delegates a unique perspective. Behind the stage, you’ll find an array of enormous windows overlooking the crescent-shaped sound. The hall has up to seven breakout rooms, full multimedia capabilities and an excellent view from its main auditorium. At a recent Heritage and Cultural Tourism Conference, the view was used to create a dramatic effect when it was revealed following an inspiring keynote speech. Those in attendance gasped and applauded as the curtains parted and the scene was unveiled. Harrigan Centennial Hall is also home to the Sitka Historical Museum. Sitka’s rich history of diverse cultures, economic growth, conflict and conquest is on display throughout the town.
4. Broad Street Ballroom
New York City
Capacity: 300 (banquet), 500 (theater), 630 (cocktail)
When asked what makes a ‘landmark venue,’ Daniel Koffler, managing director of the Broad Street Ballroom, said, “I see it as two definitions — both of which apply to Broad Street Ballroom. One, the literal [definition]: We are, as a space and a building, recognized by the National Historic Landmarks Program. Figuratively, and potentially more important as it pertains to events, would be a venue that you not merely feel comfortable at — but must hold your landmark event at.”
The venue, built in 1928-29 originally as a bank in classical Revival-style architecture, retains the strength and history of the design. In 2003 it began its incarnation as a private school. What was once the Banking Hall is now the elegant Broad Street Ballroom. The art and architectural details have been fully restored to their former glory. An eight-panel frieze, murals and artwork by renowned American artists complement the venue’s Broadway-quality A/V production system. Guests will enjoy the event and the artistry in the ballroom, which is surrounded by the 30-foot mosaic columns, that create an ambiance of historical proportion and return guests to a period of sumptuous elegance.
5. Nationals Park
What could be more American than baseball? In 2008 Washington, D.C., unveiled its crown jewel of baseball: Nationals Park (left). This is a landmark venue because of its symbolism, the location in our nation’s capital, and because it meets the standards of a world-class venue.
From the Papal Mass recently held there to smaller meetings and social events, the park offers a variety of spaces and activities, including a personal appearance by the team’s mascot, Screech. Nationals Park also offers event planners and producers state-of-the-art technology, including programmable LED banners and an eye-catching scoreboard for messaging of the clients’ choice. The subway provides easy access to the landmark venue.“
Our event [at Nationals Park] was fantastic,” reports Megan L. Cumming of D.C.-based Linder & Associates Inc. “Nationals Park provided our client such a unique opportunity to host their fundraising event. Having a batting practice session right on the field was an experience their guests will never forget. Who else can say they were able to bat at a Major League ballpark? This was certainly the one-of-a-kind event our client was looking for and the sole reason they were able to exceed their financial goal for the evening. I’m thrilled that we have a venue in our backyard that can host such exciting and distinctive events!”
6. The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building
Capacity: 40 – 1,200
A National Register of Historic Places landmark, The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building (right) in Miami first opened as a bank headquarters in 1939. Housed in South Florida’s only Art Deco skyscraper, the venue is enveloped by the understated opulence characteristic of its Depression Moderne styling. Fully restored in 1993 and opened as a special event venue in 2003, the property provides a step back in time for guests. Gleaming Tennessee marble floors and a grand entrance welcome attendees via a historic brass-lined escalator or the one-of-a-kind bas relief elevator doors. The mezzanine level offers two ballrooms, both with hand-painted Cypress ceilings, impeccably crafted wrought-iron gates and highly detailed brass filigree. Other notable details include five bank-teller windows, which now serve as a bar; two massive vault doors leading into the former safe-deposit and cash vaults, now utilized as distinct and unique event spaces; as well as multistoried marble and limestone columns stretching to the ceilings.
“The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building is truly one of our favorite venues in Miami,” says John McPhee of A Joy Wallace Catering Production in Miami. “It has so much to offer our clients — 25-foot open ceilings, great location downtown near dozens of high-end hotels, separate spaces for cocktails and dinner, and large enough to seat 400 comfortably. But what really sets it apart is the management’s commitment to remain true to its history and architecture. The 1939 marble floors are gorgeous, the Art Deco features are stunning, and the restored bank teller windows and original bank vaults give it a unique character unlike any other venue.”
Regularly utilized for filming of movies, television and print, the building’s grandeur and elegance are lost on no one.
7. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Capacity: 250 (seated), 750 (reception)
By reviving the historic Monroe School, originally designed and built in 1913, this venue’s dedicated group of founders not only continued the legacy of educating children, but also developed an innovative landmark event site with a variety of spaces that charm adults and youngsters alike.
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix has hosted a wide range of events from meetings to proms and weddings. “Our Book of Lists party, one of the highlights on our calendar every year, was a smash hit at the museum,” Don Henninger, publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, says. “It was a perfect venue for networking and for enjoying all the museum offers. The feedback we received from business leaders afterwards indicates it was a valuable and memorable experience for everyone.”
In its first year of operation, the museum has attracted over 300,000 visitors and been awarded “Best Museum for Kids,” “Best Museum” and the “Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award.”
Deb Gilpin, president and CEO of the museum, describes the experience of attending a museum party: “The huge 60-foot-high façade is just gorgeous, wrapping museum’s contents in architectural detail nearly a hundred years old,” she says. “Inside the true fun is revealed: a creative playland that awakens the child in all of us.”
8. The Queen Mary
Long Beach, Calif.
Capacity: 800 (Grand Salon)
When the Queen Mary was restored, it was considered a relaunch of the historical superliner first launched in 1934. The ship served not only as an opulent ocean liner, but as a troop carrier and transport for the wounded in World War II. The Queen Mary retired from service and arrived in Long Beach in 1967. Besides the 14 Art Deco salons, the Queen Mary offers exhibit space, hotel accommodations and its Grand Salon. Originally the first-class dining room, this space retains the style of the day, with towering 33-foot columns and ceilings and gleaming woodwork. A subsequent restoration embraced the existing original paintings, murals and accoutrements of the elegant voyage experience of the 1920s and 30s.
“It is our sincere hope that … efforts to preserve the Queen Mary and to operate her in such a successful manner continue,” says Edward Kamida, president of the Titanic Historical Society, which recently held an event held there. “This prize of maritime history will continue to represent herself, her staff and crew, and the citizens of Long Beach.”
9. The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
New York City
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are unparalleled in history and symbolism as both tourist destinations and event sites. The Statue of Liberty, given by the French to America in 1892, rises above a 12-acre island, laced with woods, lawns and scenic paths that provide the ultimate opportunities for a memorable event. Our symbol of freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty was designated a National Monument in 1924. In 1986, restoration was completed.
Ellis Island offers a vast indoor event space, surrounded by the memories of 25 million immigrants, passengers and crewmembers who entered America via Elllis Island from 1892 to 1924.
“The museum is an extraordinary venue with rich interiors and sweeping views of Manhattan,” says Ellen Federico, president of New York-based The Event Group Inc. “There’s only one Ellis Island. It belongs to all of us.”