5 of DC’s Most Historic Hotels

There’s basically too much history here

July 21, 2023 7:27 am
Bedroom with a view of the Washington Monument
What better city to stay in a historic hotel than DC?
The Hay-Adams

Does The White House count as a hotel? Technically, it’s no one’s permanent residence. There are multiple dining options and varied guest experiences. Famous people have stayed there, while others have conducted important business while inside its walls. So is it a hotel? If it’s a hotel, this place is definitely the most historic hotel in Washington. If not, the the five properties listed below definitely are, and they are definitely extremely historic.

Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis and Charles Lindbergh have stayed here.
The Hay Adams

The Hay-Adams

Downtown, rooms from $360

The Hay-Adams is one of the most famous hotels in a city of famous hotels. Built in 1884 as homes for the titular (John) Hay and (Henry) Adams, the duo hosted salons for luminaries like Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Henry James and others. After they passed (Hay in 1905, Adams in 1918), the property was sold to be used as the Brazilian embassy, and soon after that, razed for the hotel that stands today. Since 1928, folks like Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis and Charles Lindbergh have stayed here. A $20 million renovation was finished in 2002, and the Top of The Hay roof terrace was completed in 2011. People tend to stay at the Hay-Adams for its proximity to The White House and its views of the Mall. It may be why the Obamas stayed there for a few weeks before his January 2009 inauguration.

The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection

Downtown, rooms from $318

A few blocks northwest from The Hay-Adams is The Mayflower. It also opened in the 1920s, it also hosted Charles Lindbergh, and a Roosevelt spent some time at the address (FDR worked on his first inauguration address, the one with the line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” in Room 776). It was added to  the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America in 1989. There are also ties to Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan, as well as dozens more politicians. Come for the history; stay for the luxury experience and proximity to Dupont Circle and a bustling 14th Street.  

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Tabard Inn

Dupont Circle, rooms from $180

There’s no shortage of luxury rooms in high-end hotels throughout DC. There is, however, a shortage of charm, which Tabard Inn is full of. It’s been open since 1922, making it the oldest continuously running hotel in the District. The name is a nod to The Canterbury Tales and, according to its owners, the place has the hospitality of an Olde English manor. Being around for more than 100 years means it also has ties to historic events: During World War II, it was used as a boarding house for Waves (the Navy’s Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services). Unlike most every hotel on this list, Tabard Inn is not going for updated luxury. It’s a relatively small, 35-room hotel — and those rooms do not have televisions. People aren’t staying here before or after power meetings with powerful people at power lunches. This is the kind of place you want to celebrate an anniversary. And do not skip a dinner at the extremely romantic Iron Gate restaurant directly across the street.

Washington Hilton

Adams Morgan, rooms from $99

A few blocks northwest from Tabard Inn is the Washington Hilton. Unlike the Tabard, this place is massive, with 1,107 available rooms. When you’re navigating it, you may feel like you’re in a convention center. Home of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it’s hosted most every POTUS since opening in 1965. While it’s known for presidential history, you may want to stay for the pool — the likes of which are hard to come by in DC.

Lobby of The Willard
Martin Luther King Jr. made final edits to his “I Have a Dream” speech in the Willard lobby.
The Willard

Willard InterContinental Washington

Downtown, rooms from $319

If the Willard isn’t the most historic hotel in DC, it’s the site of some of the most important events in United States history. Lincoln stayed there before his 1861 inauguration. Ulysses S. Grant coined the term “lobbyist” in the Willard lobby in 1869. The National Press Club was founded there in 1908. Maybe most importantly, Martin Luther King Jr. made final edits to his “I Have a Dream” speech in the Willard lobby before delivering it on the Lincoln Memorial. The original building was torn down in 1901 for the structure standing today. It was closed from 1968 to 1986, but since then has hosted politicians from around the globe as well as incredibly important religious figures like the Dalai Lama and Tom Cruise. If you’re more interested in libations than politics, it’s where the Mint Julep was introduced for the first time outside Kentucky.


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