The Social Club of the Potomac

NORMALLY, we consider hotel banquet space unworthy to host our events. But the Willard is not some cookie-cutter bit of steel and prefabrication—indeed, quite the opposite is true: It is a landmark in its own right and an important witness to over 150 years of American history.

The Willard's Peacock Alley and the site's many classic rooms have played host to presidents, princes, governors, senators, diplomats, poets, and socialites from every decade since Henry Willard bought the property in 1850 and transformed it from its origins as a modest hostelry in the dawn of the Republic to a grand gathering point where deals were made and art was inspired.

In addition to every U.S. President from Franklin Pierce in 1853 to George W. Bush in the modern era, past guests of the Willard include P. T. Barnum, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, Mark Twain, Chief Justice John Marshall, Henry Clay, Walt Whitman, Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind, Samuel Morse, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert E. Peary, John Philip Sousa, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Mae West, Flo Ziegfield, Gloria Swanson, and Gypsy Rose Lee. Over 70 heads of state have recently stayed at the hotel, including the King of Jordan, the King of Morocco, and the Queen of Thailand.
   

Exterior detail of the Willard Inter-Continental Washington   

Exterior detail of the Willard Inter-Continental Washington

 
Without the Willard we wouldn't have the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was written by Julia Ward Howe who was inspired by Union troops singing as the passed by her hotel room window in 1861. Nor would we have the word "lobbyist", which was coined by President Ulysses S. Grant to describe the would-be power brokers who waited for him to arrive at the Willard for a brandy and a cigar at the end of a long day in the Oval Office just a block away. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson used the Willard to hold meetings of the League to Enforce Peace, the predecessor to the League of Nations, and it was there that Vice President Thomas Marshall, in criticism of prices at the hotel newsstand, came up with the phrase "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."

  
 

Civil War victory parade passes by Willard's Hotel (right, background)   

Union troops march past Willard's Hotel

 
he current structure dates back to 1901, when the first phase of "The New Willard Hotel"
opened. Designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, designer of New York's famed Dakota Apartments and the original Waldorf-Astoria, the style is Second French Empire Beaux-Arts. The 12-story building was one of the first skyscrapers in the Federal City and it was also one of the first steel structures on the East Coast.

We have booked the entire ballroom level for our event, allowing us ample space for all activities and making security and crowd control even easier.

  

The original "Willard's Hotel" (c.1870)   

The Willard Hotel before 1901 expansion

 
 

The renovated New Willard Hotel at night   

The Willard Hotel after dark

 
 
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