5 historic hotels in Washington, DC

Washington, DC is a dream vacation for a history buff. So much of the country’s (and the world’s) past is housed within DC’s museums, and its monuments and memorials represent important historical figures and occurrences. Supplement your educational experience by staying at a notable DC hotel that has history of its own.

The Hay-Adams

This legendary hotel is named after John Hay, who served as personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State under two presidents, and Henry Adams, a Harvard professor and descendant of Presidents John and John Quincy Adams. The two men and their wives resided near Lafayette Square in the 19th century, their homes serving as popular gathering places for famous guests like Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain. The hotel now sits where the homes used to, with historic details scattered throughout: the famous Hay-Adams Room features wood paneling from the original Hay residence.

Willard InterContinental Washington

Affectionately known as “The Willard,” this beloved hotel began as a series of small houses on Pennsylvania Avenue, built in 1818. The houses were purchased by Henry Willard in 1847, who then combined the buildings to make one four-story hotel at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Willard had already made history by this point: the Mint Julep had been introduced outside of Kentucky for the first time by one Henry Clay at the hotel’s famous Round Robin Bar in 1830, a bar that you can still visit to this day. Other notable Willard facts: Abraham Lincoln took up residence there for 10 days prior to his 1861 inauguration and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put the finishing touches on his “I Have A Dream” speech in the Willard’s lobby.

The Jefferson, Washington, DC

Named after Thomas Jefferson, this Downtown hotel is fittingly just four blocks from the White House, features a Michelin-starred restaurant in Plume and boasts the cocktail haven that is Quill. The Jefferson’s history dates back to 1923, when the structure began as a new residential building sporting a beautiful Beaux Arts design. By 1955, the apartment had been turned into a small historic hotel and by 2009, the Jefferson was redesigned, adding historic Thomas Jefferson-related artifacts and a circa-1923 lobby skylight that had been covered for decades.

Washington Hilton

Since its opening in 1965, the Washington Hilton has played host to U.S. presidents and world leaders and their momentous events in its 36,000-square-foot international ballroom, including the numerous editions of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. The locale became particularly historic when one John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan at the hotel’s T Street exit on March 30, 1981. The hotel is known to many locals as the “Hinckley Hilton,” and a plaque commemorates the incident just outside of the building. A designated entrance for presidents and celebrities was then built on the side of the hotel.

The Watergate Hotel

A stay at The Watergate Hotel means a stay in the vicinity of one of the most infamous burglaries in American history. The Watergate scandal began when, in June 1972, the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, located inside the Watergate complex, were ransacked and robbed. The ensuing controversy, which eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, forever imprinted the word “Watergate” in the history books and changed the course of U.S. politics forever.

A redesigned Watergate Hotel opened in 2016 and has fully embraced Watergate history – there’s even a Scandal Room decorated with Watergate memorabilia. The hotel also features three bars (including Top of the Gate, a rooftop abode) and Kingbird, a restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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