The hotel provides the public with little information about its history. Our team researches the hotel's past, from the very beginning, verifying its exact opening date and providing an overview of its history up to the present day.?If you have any useful information and would like to share it, please send it to archives@famoushotels.org.?Thank you This is what we know so far (attention: unverified history!): A grand historic landmark hotel, the Willard InterContinental Washington combines heritage and luxury with contemporary comfort and modern technologies. The hotel offers 341 newly renovated guest rooms, including 42 suites, 19,891 square feet of function space, the elegant Willard Room restaurant, Café 1401, the Round Robin Bar, and 24-hour Private Dining, Laundry, Business and Fitness Centers. Located in the heart of Washington DC, the hotel is near government and business offices, within walking distance to several Washington theater districts, as well as many sightseeing attractions. The White House is just two blocks away and the National Mall, with its diverse museums, is within walking distance. From its inception in 1850, to this day, the Willard hotel has been a favorite choice of US and international travelers. Known as the "Crown Jewel of Pennsylvania Avenue", or the "Grand Dame of American Hotels", the Willard enjoys its place as a major force in the social and political life of Washington DC. The History of the Willard Inter-Continental Washington While covering the Civil War for The Atlantic Monthly, the famous American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne gave his description of the Willard: "This hotel, in fact, may be much more justly called the center of Washington and the Union than either the Capitol, The White House, or the State Department... You exchange nods with governors of sovereign states; you elbow illustrious men, and tread on the toes of generals; you hear statesmen and orators speaking in their familiar tones. You are mixed up with office seekers, wire pullers, inventors, artists, poets, prosers... until identity is lost among them." The site has served as a hostelry in some form since 1816. When Henry Willard bought the property in 1850, the hotel's history as a major force in the social and political life of Washington began. The hotel has hosted every president, as a sleeping guest or at a social function, from Franklin Pierce in 1853 to current President, George W. Bush. Because of assassination threats, President-elect Abraham Lincolnwas smuggled into the Willard at dawn by Detective Alan Pinkerton on 23rd February 1861. Lincoln held staff meetings in front of the Lobby fireplace and The Willard was bursting at the seams on the eve of his inaugural, with visitors packed ten to a room. He and his family of five stayed until his inauguration on 4th March and returned to the Willard to watch his inaugural parade. Lincoln paid his Willard bill when he received his first paycheck as president. The total for their ten-day stay, including meals, was $773.75. The first group of Japanese ever to leave their island kingdom stayed at the Willard in 1860. A delegation of three ambassadors and their retinue of 74 came to Washington to sign the first trade and friendship treaties between the countries. One of the delegates wrote, "The house of the secretary of state is not as fine as the hotel." Civil War Looms The Willard was the site of the Peace Convention from 4th February to 27th February 1861. Delegates from 21 of 34 states met in a last, desperate attempt to avoid civil war. A plaque from the Virginia Civil War Commission, paying tribute to this courageous effort, is mounted on the Pennsylvania Avenue facade of the hotel. Julia Ward Howe, while a guest at the hotel in 1861, was awakened by the sound of Union soldiers marching under her window singing the popular song "John Brown's Body". She had often thought that this song, which had become something of an anthem for the Union troops, deserved more dignified words. Mrs Howe rose from her bed and wrote the words for the song that would inspire a nation - "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". Ulysses S Grant and the "Lobbyists" President Ulysses S Grant, after a long day in the Oval Office, used to escape the pressures of the presidency with a brandy and a cigar in the Willard Lobby where many would-be power brokers approached him on individual causes. Grant called these people "Lobbyists". The 1870s - Prosperity and Progress The 1870s ushered an era of prosperity and progress for America and The Willard continued to keep pace with the nation. Rooms now cost $4.00 a day, and even more luxurious accommodations were available with private baths. The hotel installed mechanical elevators and sold Washington's first ice cream sodas. For the next 30 years, the Willard remained the center of capital. A New Century, a New Willard At the dawn of the 20th century, one of Washington's first skyscrapers was taking shape in the form of The New Willard Hotel. The first phase of the 12-story building opened in 1901. The architect, Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, also designed The Plaza Hotel, The Dakota apartments and the original Waldorf-Astoria, all in New York. The style is Second French Empire Beaux-Arts and the building is one of the first steel structures in Washington. Wilson and the League of Nations In 1916, Woodrow Wilson held the meetings of the League to Enforce Peace, the predecessor to the League of Nations, at the Willard. Wilson's vice president, Thomas Marshall, in criticizing the price of cigars at the hotel news-stand, said, "What this country needs is a good, five-cent cigar." Coolidge Waits at the Willard The Willard became the official presidential residence for nearly a month in 1923. Calvin Coolidge took up residence at the hotel while he was vice president and remained while the newly-widowed Mrs Warren Harding packed her belongings and vacated The White House. The presidential flag flew in front of the hotel during that time. That same flag was flown when President Reagan was a dinner guest at the hotel in September 1986. The Struggle to Save the Willard The Willard family sold their interest in the hotel in 1946. The hotel continued to operate until 1968 when its doors were closed. After a long legal battle, the newly created Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation was given authority and funding to purchase the hotel and property. The Washington-based Oliver Carr Company, managing general partner of the ownership entity, teamed with Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts, and directed the meticulous restoration of the hotel. Also, Carr expanded the complex to include the Willard Office Building and the Willard Collection of retail shops. Willard Inter-Continental Washington opened its doors on the 20th August 1986 and celebrated the formal Grand Opening on 22nd to 26th September 1986. As a result of major restoration, the Willard Inter-Continental Washington is once again the scene of major meetings, gala social events and sumptuous dinners in elegant dining rooms. Heads of state again stride through the vast Lobby, celebrities and senators stroll under the chandeliers of Peacock Alley, glasses are raised once more in the Round Robin Bar, and crowned heads again rest in lavishly appointed suites. The gracious service of a bygone era is evident everywhere as the Willard Inter-Continental Washington enters a new era in its long and illustrious history as one of America's most notable hotels.
Jenny Lind, PT Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Flo Ziegfield, Harry Houdini, the Barrymores, Mae West, Gloria Swanson and Gypsy Rose Lee. Over 70 heads of state, including the King of Jordan, the King of Morocco and the Queen of Thailand.
Henry Clay mixed the first mint julep in Washington in the Round Robin Bar.
299 rooms + 42 suites Rooms
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Country: USA
City: Washington
Opening date: 1850

Note from the Host

General Manager herve houdre


1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
DC 20004 USA, Washington

Tel: +1 202 628 9100
Fax: +1 202 637 7326

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