Willard InterContinental, Washington, D.C. – Hotel Review

By Jonathan Spira on 18 May 2012
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As our taxi turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue, it became clear to me that the Willard InterContinental was indeed at the center of Washington, D.C.    What I didn’t realize, until I had stepped inside its carefully restored ornate lobby, was that the hotel was  central to the capital’s social and political life as well.

Founded in 1818 and named after Henry Willard, who acquired the hotel in 1847, the Willard earned its reputation as the “hotel of presidents” after Franklin Pierce slept there (every U.S. president since Pierce has either slept in the hotel or at least attended a meeting or event there).  Lincoln lived there for several months until his inauguration and Calvin Coolidge resided there while he waited for his predecessor’s widow to move out of the White House.

The Willard hasn’t only served as the residence of politicians; other guests have included P.T. Barnum, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Charles Dickens, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Martin Luther King who wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech there.


My Standard Room, thanks to its Federal-style furnishings and décor, looked as if it belonged in the White House.  The bed was very comfortable; I woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to deliver a keynote address at a conference.

Every guest receives a complimentary morning paper, turndown service is provided in the evening, and scuffed shoes are taken away in the wee hours and returned in pristine condition before dawn breaks.

The temperature controls were easy to adjust and the room was very well lighted.  It was also very quiet.

The marble bathroom complemented the look and feel of the room.  Not surprisingly for an older building, there was no separate shower but the bathtub was more than adequate.

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