If These Walls Could Talk - Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C.

If These Walls Could Talk - Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C.

As nostalgic travel continues to rise in popularity, Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C, remains a steadfast symbol of American history conveniently nestled in the heart of our nation’s capital.

Most recently recognized within the 2023 iteration of Historic Hotels of America’s Awards of Excellence, Willard has played host to U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and global tastemakers for more than 200 years, having gracefully earned its “Residents of Presidents” moniker and prestigious spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

What’s more, Willard has notably served as the site of many prominent moments in U.S. history since it opened its doors in 1818, and we have highlighted a few key ones below for history buffs looking to plan a domestic getaway this fall.

Since the 1830s: The Mint Julep Arrives at Round Robin Bar

As the most historic bar in D.C., Round Robin Bar has served as an iconic meeting ground for the city’s political and social elite since its official establishment in 1847. Serving an expansive selection of hand-crafted cocktails, world-class spirits and elevated bites in a traditional polished mahogany and leather seat setting, Round Robin Bar is recognized as the birthplace of the Mint Julep in D.C. Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay is believed to have first introduced the cocktail to Washingtonians at Willard in the 1830s, when he famously shipped a barrel of Kentucky bourbon to the city for use in his diplomatic efforts. Unlike those who made their Mint Juleps with brandy, rye whiskey or rum, Clay used Kentucky bourbon, which Round Robin Bar still honors and uses to this day. Round Robin Bar sells more than 20,000 Mint Juleps annually.

Since the 1850s: Destination “Residence of Presidents”

Deemed the “Residence of Presidents,” Willard has notably hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853. Boasting 335 gold- and blue-hued guest rooms and 69 spacious suites each with their own unique identity, several of Willard’s suites are aptly named after the U.S. presidents who used to frequent the property, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

Among the many influential presidents and figures who found comfort at Willard, Lincoln particularly stands out as this is where his nickname “Honest Abe” originated. Lincoln took residency at Willard for 10 days prior to his inauguration but was unable to pay his bill upon check-out. He made a promise to return to Willard to pay his bill in full once he received his first paycheck as the 16th U.S. president, and graciously honored his promise shortly after his inauguration.

Further to presidents, Willard has also played host to countless celebrities, including renowned 19th century opera singer, Jenny Lind. Lind resided at Willard in 1850 while on tour, and today, guests can stay in a beautifully-appointed, Tiffany Blue-adorned suite named in her honor, featuring unrivaled views of the Washington Monument from its picturesque bathtub.

Since the 1860s: A Lobby Brimming with Stories

Upon entering Willard’s grand Beaux Arts-inspired lobby, guests often immediately think ‘if only these walls could talk’ when they take in the sights of each state’s seal across its ceiling and towering marble columns.

Ulysses S. Grant coined and popularized the term “lobbyist” in Willard’s lobby in 1864, which referred to the many individuals that he encountered while sitting in the lobby who sought favor from him both as a war general and as president. Here, he was often found enjoying a brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other and holding conversations with guests and residents.

Almost 100 years later, Martin Luther King Jr. and his political advisors spent several hours in Willard’s lobby to write the remaining remarks for his momentous “I Have a Dream” speech on the night before the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where he delivered his words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of 250,000 citizens. Dr. Clarence B. Jones, one of King’s political advisors, created a secluded area within the lobby surrounded by plants with the support of the Willard team to allow them to complete the iconic text in private.

Walt Whitman included Willard in his verses and Mark Twain wrote two books in the lobby in the early 1900s.

Since the 1920s: A Celebrated Afternoon Tea Affair

Long celebrated since the 1920s, Afternoon Tea among the grandeur of the reimagined Willard’s Peacock Alley is one of the D.C.’s most cherished traditions. Still recognized to date as the premier venue for Afternoon Tea in the city, and offered year-round, Willard notably hosts the most festive services during major events, such as the forthcoming holidays and D.C.’s cherry blossom season. Here, guests may indulge in a broad selection of the finest estate and boutique blended loose leaf teas by the J’enwey Tea Company, special seasonal selections of savory finger sandwiches and decadent pastries, and Willard’s famous freshly baked scones, while enjoying the elegant sounds of the harp.