Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

Willard Hotel Willard InterContinental Washington


Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, FAIA


Washington, DC




quasi French chateau


limestone cladding


  Willard & Treasury with clouds

The main facade of the Willard InterContinental

The Willard InterContinental Washington is a historic luxury hotel located equidistant from the White House and the National Mall in Washington, DC. Among its facilities are numerous luxurious guest rooms, several restaurants, the famed Round Robin Bar, and voluminous function rooms. It is two blocks from the Metro Center station of the Washington Metro.

The hotel's site, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, has accommodated guests since 1816, but the Willard was formally founded by Henry Willard when he bought the property in 1850. The present twelve-story structure, designed by famed hotel architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, opened in 1901. It was for many years the only hotel from which one could easily visit all of downtown Washington, and has consequently hosted innumerable dignitaries in its history.

The Willard family sold its share of the hotel in 1946, and due to mismanagement the hotel closed in 1968. A lengthy legal battle ensued, at the end of which the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation purchased the property, held a competition and ultimately awarded it to the Oliver Carr Company and Golding Associates NY Times. The two partners then brought in the InterContinental Hotels Group to be a part owner and operator of the Hotel. The Willard was subsequently restored to its turn of the century elegance and an office-building contingent was added. The Hotel was thus re-opened amid great celebration on August 20, 1986 which was attended by several Supreme Court Justices and distinguished Senators such as Edward Kennedy. In the late 1990s the hotel once again underwent significant restoration.

Famous guests
The first group of three Japanese ambassadors to the United States stayed at the Willard with seventy-four other delegates in 1860, where they observed that their hotel room was more luxurious than the U.S. Secretary of State's house. It was the first time an official Japanese delegation traveled to a foreign destination, and many tourists and journalists gathered to see the sword-carrying Japanese.

From February 4 to February 27, 1861, the Peace Congress, featuring delegates from 21 of the 34 states, met at the Willard in a last-ditch attempt to avert the Civil War. A plaque from the Virginia Civil War Commission, located on the Pennsylvania Ave. side of the hotel, commemorates this courageous effort. Later that year, upon hearing a Union regiment singing "John Brown's Body" as they marched beneath her window, Julia Ward Howe wrote the patriotic "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to the same tune.

On February 23, 1861, amid several assassination threats, detective Allan Pinkerton smuggled Abraham Lincoln into the Willard during the weeks before his inauguration; there Lincoln lived until his inauguration on March 4, holding meetings in the lobby and carrying on business from his room.

On March 27, 1874, the Northern and Southern Orders of Chi Phi met at the Willard to unite as the Chi Phi Fraternity.

Many United States presidents have frequented the Willard, and every president since Franklin Pierce, including George W. Bush, has either slept in or attended an event at the hotel at least once; the hotel is hence also known as "the residence of presidents". It was the habit of Ulysses S. Grant to drink brandy and smoke a cigar while relaxing in the lobby. Folklore, additionally promulgated by publicists for the hotel, holds that this is the origin of the term "lobbying", as Grant was often approached by those seeking favors. However, this is probably false, as the verb to lobby is found decades earlier and did not originally refer to Washington politics. Plans for Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations took shape when he held meetings of the League to Enforce Peace in the hotel's lobby in 1916. Calvin Coolidge lived at the hotel for a month in 1923 while Warren G. Harding's widow vacated the White House.

The first recorded meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research was convened at the Willard on May 7, 1907[1]

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in his hotel room at the Willard in 1963 in the days before his March on Washington.

Among the Willard's many other famous guests are P. T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gypsy Rose Lee, Gloria Swanson, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Lind, Charles Dickens and Mae West.

^ Triolo V (1961). "The American Association for Cancer Research, 1907–1940: Historical Review.". Can Res 21 (2): 137-167. PMID 13778091.