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The Willard: 1922

The Willard: 1922

Washington, D.C., circa 1922. "Willard Hotel, 14th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Competing Willards

While they were renovating the Willard, they were also planning and/or building the JW Marriott across from it on 14th Street. The original plan for the Marriott was for it to be named the J. Willard Marriott Hotel, but folks were worried that visitors would confuse the two hotels, so it's known as simply the JW Marriott Hotel.

Meet our staff

Notice the man standing at the base of the flag.

Re: Dave and tterrace

To be praised by both Dave and tterrace on the same day is indeed deeply humbling. As to my ability to "prepost" a "now" shot, well, Shorpy has been referred to as a time machine afterall. Actually, I'm just trying to keep up.


To my applause I add mystification over those instances in which timeandagainphoto has come up with "now" shots taken from identical perspectives, but dating from well before the "thens" were posted on Shorpy. Time travel is the only explanation I can come up with.

Those little round windows

Did anyone ever get into the rooms behind those nifty round windows, always my dream to have an apartment up there, what is the wooden scaffolding for?

A streetcar named

Union Station? No, perhaps I shall be better inspired when I reach N'ahlenz.


The trees in front of the hotel are obviously new, but I wonder if the ones on the right and left are the same, 89 years later (just not quite full of foliage yest this spring, so looking a little sparse compared to the old photo).

timeandagainphoto, if you had just managed to arrange things so that there were buses in the same positions as the streetcars and a dapper-looking man with an umbrella (traffic conductor of some kind?)

Sad to see that the interesting looking building in the distance on the right is now gone (the one with the cool roof).

Nice Save

When I was a student at Catholic University in the late 1970's, the Willard was a boarded-up, rat-infested dungeon, of obviously distinguished pedigree, but also obviously soon to become a victim of the wrecking ball. The fact that it is standing today, in all of its old, restored splendor, is one of the great saves of local D.C. preservation.

By the way, what's all that scaffolding up on the roof in the old photo? Doesn't look OSHA-compliant to me!

After the Fire

The scaffolding was put in place after the 10th-floor fire of April 23, 1922. The hotel's owners decided to turn the top-floor ballroom into a roof garden. It opened to much fanfare in June 1923.

Fabled Willard

Abraham Lincoln stayed at the Willard before his inauguration--however, it was the earlier, 4-story version at this location.

A major fire damaged the Willard in 1922. Guests who had to be evacuated included Calvin Coolidge, John Philip Sousa, and Adolph Zukor.

The hotel was closed in 1968 and sat empty for 18 years, which is my first memory of it. Its survival is indeed miraculous.


Having escaped the "redevelopment" of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1970s and '80s that claimed other buildings, the Willard still stands at the corner of 14th Street and remains one of Washington's premier hotels. Its adjoining neighbor in the 1921 photograph, the Occidental Hotel, is long gone (as are the streetcars). However, the Occidental's famed restaurant found a new incarnation a few steps west on Pennsylvania Avenue. Below is the same view from April of 2010.

[A big round of applause for timeandagainphoto, whose ability to come up with current versions of 90-year-old views at a moment's notice is nothing short of uncanny. I posted this after dark, so you HAD to have taken this beforehand. From the same vantage. With the flag blowing in the same direction. Brrr! - Dave]

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