There is no DC hotel with more history than the Willard. The current building, completed in 1901, replaced the hotel’s first incarnation; together they have hosted every president, either as a resident guest or at a social function, since Zachary Taylor in 1850. The old Willard played a particularly strong role as a hub of political activity during the Civil War years. The current building closed during the mid 20th-century years of decline, reopening in 1986. The original, restored lobby is a real fin de siècle spectacle, with marble pillars, palms, and gilt-painted stucco on cornices and ceiling. Off the lobby is the iconic and aptly named Round Robin Bar, a real gentlemen’s hangout. Follow the grand hallway called Peacock Alley, where tea is served, to learn more about the hotel’s past in its History Gallery. Rooms are as comfortable, with furnishings as traditional as one would expect. The Jenny Lind suite has a round window beside the big tub in its bathroom; it catches the Washington Monument directly in its center. The Café du Parc serves bistro-style cooking in an informal space.
The History Gallery is the hotel’s own small museum, with over 100 artifacts and photos tracing the fortunes of the hotel and its many famous guests through the years. Among the collection are the menu from Lincoln’s inaugural lunch—corned beef and cabbage, mock turtle soup, parsley potatoes and blackberry pie—and the bill for his stay at the hotel; he and his family lived at the Willard for a month before moving into the White House. The stay cost $773.