“I prefer to say there are various lodges in D.C.,” says normal supervisor Stephane Vogel, “however there’s just one Lodge Washington.”
Which is a well mannered means of claiming: Whenever you’ve been round for greater than a century within the nation’s capital — a metropolis of custom, energy and affect — you don’t want to fret an excessive amount of about being hip. Particularly lately, when sustainability and authenticity are being reembraced.
Fact is, this city is sometimes cool however at all times historic. Vogel arrived in Washington 23 years in the past amid the explosion of artsy, boutique lodges — which, like many eating places, are white-hot for a yr or two, then disappear. In 2021, the W was reportedly offered to the Schulte Hospitality Group, which instantly reclaimed the well-known identify. Vogel got here onboard final yr, decided to de-hip the resort and spotlight its lengthy historical past.
There’s a fragile line between respecting the previous and dwelling in it — most lodges aren’t literal museums. The trick is attaining one thing that appears timeless with out feeling pressured, an aesthetic that most of the grand previous European lodges have mastered.
The Beaux-Arts constructing, opened on Could 22, 1917, sits one block from the White Home — making it the simple selection for anybody visiting the president. VIP friends have included Duke Ellington, John Wayne, Will Rogers and Tom Cruise. The solid of the Ziegfeld Follies stayed there; Shriners celebrated the top of Prohibition by using horses by way of the foyer. (Alas, no images survive.)
It was additionally house to many dignitaries who favored the luxurious and comfort of dwelling in a resort only a stone’s throw from the White Home. Residents included a number of members of Congress. Supreme Courtroom Justice Frank Murphy and Vice President John Nance Garner each lived there for nearly a decade.
And, after all, the notorious, week-long keep of Elvis.
In December 1970, the celebrity checked in hoping for a gathering with President Richard M. Nixon. “Sir,” he wrote in a letter, “I’m staying on the Washington Lodge, Room 505-506-507 [now Suite 406] … I’m registered underneath the identify of Jon Burrows. I will probably be right here for so long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent.” The well-known photograph op of the ensuing White Home encounter continues to be one of many most-requested pictures within the U.S. Nationwide Archives.
Earlier than there was Kanye and Trump, there was Elvis and Nixon
The resort was listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations in 1995, so there have been many tears when it closed in 2007, going through a renovation and a future as a part of the glossy, stylish W franchise. The W model was younger, arty, vogue ahead, with a foyer as “lounge” and packed bars with fairly younger folks.
The brand new vibe was much less class and extra nightclub — home music, zebra prints and purple patent leather-based — that you simply is perhaps admitted to in the event you have been cool sufficient. However cool was in: Obama arrived in Washington simply because the W opened, and the town tried to be as effortlessly subtle as the brand new president was.
The W “actually tapped into this new wave of vacationers that have been anticipating one thing else than simply staying at a boring resort in a boring room,” says Vogel. “They did a incredible job. However vacationers have come to some extent the place an excessive amount of hipness is not actually wished. I feel there’s a want for folks to know the place they keep, a connection to the native.”
From 2007: The Lodge Washington, a many-storied inn
That tracks with present developments within the resort business, says Stacy Shoemaker, the editor in chief of Hospitality Design journal. “The thrill phrases are ‘native,’ ‘genuine,’ ‘true to position,’” she mentioned. “We’re seeing loads of historic renovations and adaptive reuse. The bones and historical past of a spot imply increasingly more.”
In New York Metropolis, a new generation is flocking to historic venues — Bemelmans within the Carlyle Lodge, the Plaza Lodge, the Rainbow Room — to expertise the glamour and class of the traditional cocktail lounges and lodges. Shoemaker says there’ll at all times be room for a brand new, cool spot — however folks come to Washington for historical past, and “leaning into that historical past makes it extra significant for friends. It’s creating that soul.”
In 2019, the W unveiled a $50 million renovation that proved to spectacularly ill-timed — lower than a yr earlier than the pandemic crippled the worldwide journey and hospitality business. The resort was offered in 2021, and Vogel was employed the following yr to maintain what works and jettison the remaining.
The zebra prints have been changed by subtle neutrals. The hovering foyer has been redone in more-muted colours. The huge crystal chandeliers — authentic to the resort and hanging in a staircase — will exchange the fashionable foyer fixtures quickly. Vogel is maintaining the ballroom carpet (an summary tackle Pierre L’Enfant authentic design of the nation’s capital) and the ceilings of the three elevators depicting the constellations within the night time sky on July 4, 1776; the resort’s opening in 1917; and Obama’s first inauguration.
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Unchanged: the rooftop terrace, the jewel within the resort’s crown. You might need seen it in “The Godfather: Half II” or “No Means Out.” Arguably essentially the most lovely view of Washington, it was a hidden gem for many years, earlier than changing into an unique scorching spot through the W incarnation. There have been strains and ropes to stand up, and the New Yorker held its annual White Home Correspondents’ reception on the too-packed-to-move house.
Earlier than Vogel labored on the resort, the roof was the primary place he took his dad and mom once they visited from Switzerland. He confirmed them the White Home, the monuments and, far within the distance, the highest of Arlington Cemetery.
Now this view is a part of his resort, one which’s woven into the story of the town and the nation. “The tales are our historical past,” he says, “and historical past at all times endures.”