Behind the Bardo

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The revamped urban resort on Forsyth Park beckons as equal parts social club and stylish stay


THE MINDS BEHIND THE REVITALIZATION of the iconic 19th-century mansion overlooking Forsyth Park imagined more than just a hotel. 

“Since day one, we were obsessed with creating a space where locals will mingle with hotel guests,” says Pritpal Singh, chief operating officer of LEFT LANE, the New York-based development and hospitality firm. “When you open a hotel, you have visitors coming from all over the world. But what’s extremely important to us is that Savannahians feel they are a part of it.”

With its grand debut in February 2024, Hotel Bardo toasted this fait accompli. The highly anticipated urban resort welcomed jet-setters seeking an effortlessly luxurious experience and Savannah natives into its exclusive members-only Club Bardo.  

Woman holing a drink in front of a fireplace mantle in a hotel dining room
Jess Berkin, chief brand officer of LEFT LANE, inside Saint Bibiana at Hotel Bardo

After acquiring the red-brick Romanesque Revival building in 2022, LEFT LANE transformed the historic property while paying homage to its past. 

The name “Bardo” alludes to the Tibetan word, which loosely translates to an in-between state — perhaps an interval between death and rebirth, not unlike the former Mansion on Forsyth undergoing a total makeover to become Hotel Bardo, or simply the feeling of suspending one’s reality by checking into a resort for a life-changing weekend. 

The design draws inspiration from the mixing of traditional styles with contemporary touches seen across Savannah’s architecture and interiors, in an aesthetic the firm calls “riot clash.” In other words, the experience you’ll find behind the imposing facade is less Southern Gothic and more free-spirited. The guiding light for Hotel Bardo’s vibe? The 1960s glamor era of travel as encapsulated by breezy resorts on the Mediterranean Coast. Coastal Italian influences illuminate both the in-house Saint Bibiana restaurant, which opened ahead of the larger property in September, to the tiled 25-meter pool.

A pink crystal chandelier hangs over a small round dining table and round upholstered booth
Saint Bibiana
Red-brick exterior of Hotel Bardo
Hotel Bardo exterior

The soothing textures and soft tones in the 149 spacious guest rooms and suites prize serenity, with linens by Italian textile company Frette, custom amenities specially blended for the resort by health-minded skin-care brand Corpus Naturals and a thoughtfully curated mini bar. Elsewhere, attention-grabbing moments announce there’s a new cool kid in town. Saunter through the Drayton Street entrance, for example, to the oasis-like courtyard, where a Juliana “JULU” Lupacchino mural above Bar Bibi packs a punch — or perhaps more of a spritz, served cabana-side. Or wander up the Saint Bibiana staircase bedecked with Kelly Boehmer soft sculptures to a sumptuous private club, where members and travelers can lounge in velvet banquettes beneath pink-glass chandeliers and a large-scale painting installation incorporating stenciled motifs of Savannah flora by Vanessa Platacis

The curation of local artists within its walls was one avenue for Hotel Bardo to reflect the surrounding community, says LEFT LANE’S Chief Brand Officer Jess Berkin. Meanwhile, the membership platform literally invites them in, giving city dwellers access to resort amenities, including the pool, private lounges, fitness offerings, preferred room rates, priority booking for event spaces and more. 

“Being part of Club Bardo feels like having the ultimate insider pass,” says Emily Bargeron, owner of Mamie Ruth and East & Up and a founding member of Club Bardo, who cited connecting with like-minded Savannah creatives as another perk.

man leaning against a hotel bar
Pritpal Singh, chief operating officer of LEFT LANE, at Saint Bibiana

And with Hotel Bardo envisioned as a flagship property for the brand, club members may soon be able to hop around LEFT LANE’s forthcoming portfolio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; and Phoenix, Arizona. But first: A renovation of the Manger building on Bay Street into a luxury lifestyle hotel including food and beverage outlets, co-working spaces and a wellness club, which LEFT LANE recently announced to debut in 2025. 

Purposefully blending visitors from around the world with locals fosters a sense of unity that cannot easily be found elsewhere, says Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. “That truly is what ‘hospitality’ is all about,” he says. 

Don your oversized sunglasses and sense of discovery for this insiders’ tour of Hotel Bardo. 

Make an Entrance

Tucked within the Drayton Street entrance of the hotel, a low-key glam lobby bar is clad in the resort’s signature green, selected to bring in the color of Forsyth Park just outside its doors. The Green Room also takes its name from the room in a theater where performers relax offstage and offers guests the chance to recharge. Hotel guests can begin the day with coffee and pastry and, later, imbibe cocktails like the Spy vs. Spy (tequila, elderflower and celery) and Least of Your Worries (rum, kumquat and makrut lime) paired with the salt cod and fried capers crostini or black truffle arancini.

White pool chairs lined up at the edge of an in-ground pool and covered by open white-and-pink umbrellas
The pool at Hotel Bardo

Splash Out

Past the lobby, a private oasis awaits. The convivial courtyard features a verdant green pavilion whose curtains camouflage patio seating and graphic green-and-white patterned tile. Follow it to the hotel pool and Bar Bibi, where Club Bardo members and travelers alike can book cabanas, sip spritzes and nibble on salads, seasonal crudo or pizzettas from the exposed brick oven — or flag down refreshment from the cheerful gelato cart. 

“All of the food and beverage concepts at Bardo, from Saint Bibiana to our pool bar, Bar Bibi, were created with playful intent,” says Derek Simcik, Hotel Bardo’s executive chef and culinary director. “We want our guests to feel looked-after and at home with endless opportunities to uncover
something new.” 

Case in point: Servers snap Polaroids of guests and deliver the result along with the check in a waterproof pouch as a souvenir of a sun-kissed experience. Mementos and moments like that are designed to make every member and guest feel like both a regular and a VIP, Berkin says. 

Newly constructed guest suites flanking the pool feature outdoor seating areas and direct pool access. Guests can also book The Carriage House, a new light-filled event space located on the lawn with its own Abercorn Street entrance.

Poloroid photos scattered on an orange tablecloth
With lavender-colored Polaroid cameras, servers at Hotel Bardo’s Bar Bibi snap a photo memento of guests that is delivered with the check. Thoughtful touches like this underscore the LEFT LANE ethos to make every guest feel like a VIP.

Check It Out

Take a glimpse inside a guest suite, where 1960s glamor meets breezy Mediterranean coastal resorts. Soothing textures and soft tones are found throughout the hotel’s 149 spacious guest rooms and suites.

A headboard and nightstand in an upscale hotel
Sitting area in an upscale hotel suite
A soaking tub and vanity in an upscale hotel bathroom

Party On

Behind three sets of French doors on the courtyard lies the resort’s show-stopping ballroom offering 3,500 square feet of space for weddings and events for up to 200 people.

Guests and Club Bardo members can also rub elbows and clink stemware by booking a series of high-design spaces above Saint Bibiana. Beyond the private rooms, the main lounge features a patio overlooking Forsyth Park and, when not booked for private events, hosts entertainment and programming that keep evenings lively. The Club Bardo beverage program features 19th-century classics like punches and juleps with contemporary ingredients.

pink upholstered booths in pink room with pink chandelier
Club Bardo

Glow Getters

Fitness is a major focus for the Hotel Bardo squad, Berkin says. Enter Saltgrass, a holistic gym and wellness spa. Along with massages and facial and body treatments, a dynamic athletics program led by director of fitness and activities Cameron Scott extends beyond its indoor fitness facility with personal training and small group classes across the resort grounds and in Forsyth Park. Members and guests can break a sweat with yoga and Pilates classes as well as Bardo Bootcamp before unwinding with body treatment modalities including wood therapy and heat-based experiences. 

As for additional options on the Hotel Bardo calendar, The Cooking School features hands-on workshops — some making use of farmers’ market hauls on Saturdays in Forsyth Park — classes and a guest chef series. Shop Bardo offers a curated selection of global goods and, for younger guests, Camp Bardo brings the fun. The kids club for children ages 5 to 12 includes options like a treasure chest at check-in, a canvas play tent in the room upon arrival, and milk and cookies at turndown. Activities are designed to inspire exploration, like scavenger hunt cards that guide the whole family through Forsyth Park — with the prize of a complimentary gelato at the gelato cart.  

“We want our guests and our visitors to find these moments of discovery and adventure, so they always feel there is something to return to,” Berkin says. 

Find this feature and much more in the March/April issue of Savannah magazine. Get your copy today!