Designed by New York architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847-1918), the Willard Hotel opened in 1901 as DC’s first skyscraper. The building successfully adapts the eclectic Beaux Arts vocabulary of French domestic architecture to the rigors of steel frame and concrete construction. In spite of its massive size, the Willard maintains an attitude of dignity and quiet symmetry characteristic of its architect’s mature work. Its well-articulated facades are organized both vertically and horizontally into three-part compositions.
An excellent example of French-inspired eclectic Beaux Arts classicism, the Willard Hotel is perfectly suited to the dominating position it occupies on ceremonial Pennsylvania Avenue. Given its prominent location, the hotel has seen many notable guests, including the first three ambassadors from Japan. The hotel has hosted every president as an overnight guest since Franklin Pierce in 1853, and served as a meeting place for the League of Nations planning meetings and other meetings for various organizations of significance. Another prominent visitor was Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech in the hotel prior to the March on Washington.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: February 15, 1974
Within Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site