Washington and The Willard

 

“What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar.” Vice President, Thomas Marshall

Just two blocks from the White House, at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, a hotel has sat at this location since 1818. Through different names, owners and design, the hotel has served the Washington elites ever since its beginning. The construction of the current building occurred in 1904. The name Willard can be traced back to 1847 when the Willard brothers managed the property.

Henry Clay first introduced the mint julep outside of Kentucky here in 1830 at the Round Robin Bar, and it has become the signature drink of the hotel. Ulysses Grant coined the term ‘lobbyists’ as he smoked his cigars and drank his brandy in The Willard’s lobby, constantly bothered by self promoters.

For three years Calvin Coolidge lived here as he served as Vice President in the 1920s. He continued to live here, when he became President in 1924 upon the death of President Harding, while Mrs. Harding took some time to move from the White House. The Presidential flag flew outside of the hotel during the transition.

In 1963, in the hotel lobby, Martin Luther King performed his final edits on his “I Have a Dream,” speech, hours before delivering the speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Taft, Wilson, Harding and Coolidge have stayed in The Willard. Other notable guests include Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, and P. T. Barnum. Walt Whitman included The Willard in his verses. Mark Twain wrote two books in the hotel. The quote at the top of the page from Thomas originated from his irritation of The Willard’s high prices.

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The five star hotel impressed us with perfect service, with courteous, competent and very smart staff. Our large room could not have better with the highest quality of all items. Normally well outside of our price range, with Congress not in session and the President out of the country and with some help from the IHG Rewards program, the weekend rate provided exceptional value.

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The private party below could be viewed from our hotel room. VK your party in November looked more vibrant.

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Across the street, a small park celebrates John Pershing, General of the Armies during War War I.

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As evening fell we stumbled onto a party on Pennsylvania Avenue, Diner en Blanc, DEB. Having never heard of the event, Lois found herself interviewing a participant to acquire additional information. The event started 31 years ago in Paris simply to promote a friendly communal picnic. Today it has spread to every continent, with about twenty cities in the Unites States participating. Your clothing from head to toe, as well as your table and chairs, must be white. You may only drink wine, no beer or spirits. You may not connect the evening with any social or political issues. If you would like more information, they have a website, https://international.dinerenblanc.com/about.

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As the sun set in Washington, we dined at the Brazilian Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, a restaurant chain we have actually enjoyed previously in Chicago and Dallas.

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Sunday morning provided the backdrop for some photos of the iconic Washington landmarks along with a six mile walk.

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This guy seemed to be enjoying himself just a little bit too much.

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After a very nice lunch at the Cafe du Parc, the French restaurant in The Willard, we rushed back to Montebello for Sunday night poker.

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