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The New Willard: 1908

Washington, D.C., circa 1908. "The New Willard, Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street N.W." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1908. "The New Willard, Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street N.W." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Famous/Infamous Hotels

Whenever I see or hear of the Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities), I am reminded that Cary Grant died there in 1986. Whenever I pass the Buckminster Hotel in Kenmore Square in Boston, I am reminded that the plot to throw the 1919 World Series was hatched there. When I walk past the Park Central Hotel on 7th Avenue in New York City, I always think, "This is where Fatty Arbuckle died and gangster Arnold Rothstein was murdered." Now, whenever I see or hear of the very stately Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, I will remind myself that this is where the "War Room" for the January 6, 2021 Insurrection was located.

Rooftop walker

When I first saw this photo, I thought the woman in white was walking on the roof of the Multi-copy Typewriting Company. But then I looked again.

Seaboard Air Line RR

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and was always curious about the name. Shorpy has stirred me to action and a moment with Google provided the answer. An air line was the shortest distance between two points and implied that the RR was shorter than its competitors.


I worked on that renovation in 1985. They gutted the interior down to the exterior walls. You could see the original constuction materials and methods. The lobby floor and arched ceiling was done in tiny ornate tiles layed by tilesetters imported from Italy (or so I was told). Amazing to behold.

Top of The Willard

Top floor of the Willard Hotel during restoration in the 1980's.

Gen. Grant at the Willard

When U. S. Grant came to D.C. to meet the president and receive his Lieutenant General commission, he showed up at the (old) Willard with his son (Fred, I believe). He was an unprepossessing man to say the least, tended not to adorn himself with the trappings of high rank, and was dressed modestly in a travel worn Army uniform. The clerk, not recognizing him, told him they could only squeeze him in to a very small room. Grant, without complaint, signed the registration book "U. S. Grant & son, Galena, Illinois." When the clerk saw that, he immediately secured a much finer room. It's said that Grant never felt any resentment at the slight.

The Willard presents its own history

Part of the Willard InterContinental Washington D. C. Hotel's website is a history of the hotel, from 1818 to present. I learned that, after years of declining revenue, the Willard closed in 1968 and stayed closed until 1986, when it reopened following renovation, spearheaded by two developers.

The oculus windows in the original not-too-fussy ballroom support the ballroom was on the top floor, right under the roof. Today the ballroom has a more regal look and is most likely on a lower floor. This is the best original floorplan I could find. It appears each room had its own bath. In April 1907 the Ninth Annual Convention of the Architectural League of America was held at the new Willard Hotel. I'm pretty sure their banquet was held in the same room as the color photo on the left in the concierge brochure. That was an impressive banquet table.
Click to embiggen

Still Majestic

Still there and in a city of impressive buildings it holds its own I think.

Right hand drive

From what I can see, today's, as well as yesterday's photo, show all of the vehicles with right hand drive. 1909 was the first year automakers switched to left, so I'd say your date estimates are spot on!

[As we noted in a comment you made a year ago, early American automobiles were a mix of right- and left-hand-drive vehicles. (Below, an 1896 Duryea.) The change to all-LHD was gradual and took decades (Ford introduced left-side steering with the 1908 Model T; Pierce-Arrow was still making RHD cars in the 1920s). - Dave]

Lincoln sneaked into the old Willard

Abraham Lincoln arrived unexpectedly at the original Willards' hotel early on on February 23, 1861, having sneaked into the city early due to reported assassination plans in Baltimore. Henry Willard borrowed a pair of slippers for Lincoln, who stayed until his inauguration.

Lincoln knew Williards' from his single Congressional term: in 1849 he attended a meeting there to plan Zachary Taylor's inaugural ball.

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