Walking Washington’s Halls of History
Preface - Historic Hotels
Location and access often determined
prominence and stature of a particular
Hotels have and will always be places to make, live, be a part of history. This chapter does not
hotel, sometimes it was planned, other
include all hotels in Washington DC of historical significance – there are many, and more that will times it was pure luck! The Mayflower
make history in the future. Some of the hotels that follow are examples of the variety and richness Hotel was built in a Grand Style -- with
that Washington DC has to offer to those walking their halls of history. There will always be those wider lobbies than its rival the Willard Hotel.
And the Mayflower Hotel became a central
hotels where history is yet to be made... what follows is where history has occurred - where the
meeting place, in part, because Franklin
whispers of Jacqueline Kennedy, Mamie Eisenhower, and, Pearl Mesta can still be heard. Delano Roosevelt’s affliction of polio was
little known when FDR rose to prominence
in the 1920’s and 30’s. Suddenly large
entryways were not just for show, pomp and
Hotelier Bob Sieralta Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington
regal needs...they were necessary for a
very public person to exit and enter a build-
ing quickly and with stealth – in this case
it just happened to be a crippled President
that desired to conceal from the public at
large his very severe affliction and still enjoy
some amount of social interaction.
Those that sought power knew which
hotels would bring them closer to history
and nearer to those that meant a pos-
sible power route. Hotels, truly a modern
invention, took on more and more value as
barometers of one’s social consciousness,
status and desired status. If one wanted to
be among the left or right, the hotel where
one socialized and met was a reflection of
one’s social status or desire of a certain
social status. It is no coincidence that
President Ulysses Grant routinely walked
from the White House to the Lobby of the
Willard Hotel night after night to enjoy the
“grand” lobby (hence, was born the term
“lobbyist” - for those that would seek his
patronage and favor); as it was no less
telling that J. Edgar Hoover had the same
lunch at the same table for twenty years at
the Mayflower Hotel.
Hotels began to mean more as
America and the nation began to represent
more. If one wanted to make a statement
in society in the early part of the twentieth
century and was going, to, say, Paris...well,
then they would stay at the Ritz (not to be
mistaken with the Ritz Carlton Chain of
today). If a celebrity wanted to exert star
“power,” there was the “Zebra Room” in Af-
Promenade of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
rica where Bogie and Bacall could be found
downing Scotch in between movie takes
T here is something special to celebrate history a nod to the other great entertainers who had and kisses. Therefore, if a politico wanted
– be it at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel appeared at the Omni during its rich past. The to be among the ‘power brokers’, hotels
where Lincoln spent several nervous nights before Omni Shoreham Hotel had hosted Rudy Vallee on were an accessible way to be identified as
entering the White House before his first term, its opening night in 1930; later it was host to the a member of the elite, the learned or the
the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel once the home likes of Judy Garland, Peggy Lee & Bill Cosby to trailblazing kind.
(and this is a limited list) of Dwight D. Eisenhower, name a few. If there is one man who towers above Hotels became more than places to
John Foster Dulles, Clare Booth Luce and Lyndon all others in influencing Washington’s hotels, it is sleep. Particularly in Washington, DC, they
Johnson or the St. , it is little noted that when Harry Wardman. Harry Wardman was a pioneer were reflections of those that chose to stay
the Beatles made their first public appearance in hotelier and a lover of design; his Hay-Adams in a location that was an extension of them-
Washington, DC it was rumored that they selected Hotel -- to this day -- boasts what is the finest hotel selves, their status and their politics.
the Omni Shoreham for its many exits to escape roof-top view of the White House grounds from its
- Bob Sierralta
from overzealous fans; others said that it was elegant terrace.
Best of DC Best of DC 12
Club Lounge, Mandarin Oriental)
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