PHOTO: Omni Shoreham Hotel

The Best Hotels in Washington D.C. With a Ton of History

Barbara Noe Kennedy | January 10, 2018

As the nation’s capital, you can bet Washington's hotels have their share of ghosts. These are historic places where presidents danced at inaugural balls, movers-and-shakers wheeled and dealed, First Ladies sought out a quiet corner with friends, and international dignitaries and celebrities showed up for a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the most hallowed hotel halls.


Willard InterContinental

Why it made the list

Boy, where to begin? So many historical icons have walked the gilded halls of this fabled property, just a block from the White House: Buffalo Bill Cody, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and the list goes on. Even Thomas Jefferson was known to visit in the earliest days. The crown jewel of DC’s most famous street, this grandiose, opulent, beaux-arts beauty has sat in the middle of the city’s political and social scene since 1818. Among its many historic accolades: The term “lobbyist” was coined in the lobby (where people seeking to plead their cases discovered President Grant liked to retreat for a cigar); Martin Luther King added the finishing touches to his “I Have A Dream Speech”; and Julia Ward Howe penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” A history gallery off the lobby has documents, photos, and artifacts tell the stories of the famous guests who have stayed here during its 200 years of business.

This grandiose, opulent Beaux-Arts hotel, the Crown Jewel on Read More


Washington Marriott Wardman Park

Why it made the list

The sprawling Marriott Wardman, opening in 1918, saw its share of war-related action. British spy “Cynthia” operated covert activities from here before World War II; and the Marine Reserves trained at the swimming pool here in the 1940s to learn how to swim in their clothes. But there’s more, much more. The first televised episode of Meet the Press aired from Wardman Tower in 1947. Langston Hughes worked here as a busboy, slipping poems to diner Vachel Lindsay, who gave him his lucky break. And eleven inaugural balls have taken place here, from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush.

You’ll need a map to negotiate this colossus of a hote Read More


W Washington, D.C

Why it made the list

At one time, the W was the esteemed Hotel Washington, one of DC’s landmark hotels built in beautiful beaux-arts style in 1917 just a block from the White House. Among its many dignitaries, politicians, and celebrities that have stayed here through the years, Elvis Presley allegedly once asked President Nixon if he could be an FBI agent.

Beaux-arts grandeur meets pop-art chic at the former Hotel W Read More


The St. Regis Washington, D.C

Why it made the list

The St. Regis opened in 1926 just two blocks from the White House as the Carlton Hotel in the classic, sumptuous style of European’s greatest luxury hotels. A long line of notables have made their way here to conduct government business, including Secretary of State Cordell Hull, President Truman, and Ronald Reagan (who got his hair cut from the hotel’s barber). It’s also been a social hub; Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor knew it well. Howard Hughes kept a permanent suite here during World War 2, which he offered to soldiers passing through town.

The palatial St. Regis has reigned since 1926 just two block Read More


Phoenix Park Hotel

Why it made the list

Built in 1922 as the Commodore in Georgian Revival style, the Phoenix Park Hotel’s 2016 top-to-bottom renovation gave it a crisp, contemporary look throughout while retaining its historic bones. It’s just steps from the US Capitol and Union Station, long making it a staple among politicians and tourists alike.

A boutique hotel with such a charming personality seems too Read More


Omni Shoreham Hotel

Why it made the list

It’s been a go-to destination for dignitaries, entertainers (including the Beatles in their first USA show) and world leaders since opening its doors in 1930. Indeed, the Omni Shoreham’s posh halls hosted every presidential inaugural ball from FDR to Obama. There’s even a ghost suite, where faint voices, flickering lights, and cold breezes are said to occur.

Elegance and rich history prevail at this sprawling, resort- Read More


Morrison-Clark Historic Inn & Restaurant

Why it made the list

Originally occupying two town houses dating from 1864, this boutique hotel in the heart of DC emerged from a $14 million expansion in 2013 as an eclectic combo that beautifully interweaves Victorian traditional style with Asian minimalism. At one time, it hosted the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen’s Club, with First Ladies from Grace Coolidge to Nancy Reagan serving as honorary chairperson.

Harmony comes to mind upon entering this sparkling historic Read More


The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection

Why it made the list

It’s been dubbed the Hotel of Presidents ever since the Mayflower opened in 1925 for Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration. Truman called it the city’s second best address, after 1600 Pennsylvania. FDR penned his “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech here. But it’s also heralded some more infamous (or, dare we say, scandalous?) episodes, including Mayor Marion Barry’s arrest for cocaine use, Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s hosting of a $1000-an-hour prostitute, and Monica Lewinsky’s hideaway during her affair with Bill.

Ever since the Mayflower opened in 1925 for Calvin Coolidge' Read More


Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC

Why it made the list

Robert Mills (the Washington Monument designer) built the beautiful Greek Revival building in 1839 to house the General Post Office. When the Kimpton brand took over in 2002 to create the Hotel Monaco, it blended the historic architectural details with modern flair.

The column-clad, neoclassical exterior of Hotel Monaco looks Read More


Henley Park Hotel

Why it made the list

Built in 1918 as the Tudor Hall Apartments, this historic property once provided a home to many senators and congressmen. It was converted into a hotel in 1982, though many of the historic touches remain, most notably the 119 facades bedecking its façade. Antiques fill the interior, providing a warm and cozy sense of yesteryear. The Wilkes Room, a fireplace-centered drawing room, is where the gentlemen entertained their dates; afternoon tea is served there today.

Unexpected, to say the least, the Henley Park Hotel is an En Read More


The Hay-Adams

Why it made the list

This romantic, Italian Renaissance grand-dame near the White House has welcomed presidents and other distinguished guests since 1928—Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, and Sinclair Lewis among them. But its legacy goes back farther than that. It was built on the spot where John Hay and Henry Adams were neighbors (hence the name); their wives held intellectual salons, a tradition that continues today with the hotel’s esteemed author series. Supposedly the ghost of Adams’ wife, who committed suicide here, still haunts the halls.

This romantic, Italian Renaissance on Lafayette Square, ofte Read More


The Fairfax at Embassy Row

Why it made the list

This Embassy Row hotel is about as historic as they come. Built as a residential hotel in 1927, it retains a vintage feel with gold-edged paintings of iconic DC sites, ornate sconces and chandeliers, oriental area rugs, and dark wood paneling. Breakfast is now served in the former Jockey Club, the center of DC society in the fifties and sixties (Nancy Reagan and Jackie O knew it well).

This Embassy Row hotel is about as historic as they come. Read More


The Churchill Hotel

Why it made the list

Built as a beaux-arts apartment building in 1906, the Churchill neighborhood preserves the feel of prewar luxury on one of DC’s most prestigious avenues—just check out the stone balustrade and ornate plasterwork. A long list of diplomats, dignitaries and prominent families have called this boutique hotel near Embassy Row home.

Built as a ritzy, beaux-arts apartment building in 1906, the Read More

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