Few places capture the history and spirit of a place better than The Mayflower Hotel. This Washington, D.C., landmark first opened in 1925 and quickly became the center of a flurry of activity—both business and social. Recently refreshed, the hotel manages to seamlessly marry a respect for its history while remaining relevant to the 21st-century traveler. Glide past the gilded doors into the lobby where power seems to pervade every nook and cranny.
“Each floor of guest rooms—from floors 2 through 10—represent a different era in the hotel’s history,” explains Director of Hotel Sales Michael Hennessy. All told, there are 581 guest rooms. The look is stylish, with a modern twist on art deco. Gray, cream and black are the dominant colors in the dramatic hallways. Slip your keycard into the door and you’re transported to a hushed setting where the clamor of the outside world quickly dissipates. There is perhaps no greater nod to history than the wallpaper crafted from autographs from the hotel’s guest book. This unique touch will have you discovering everyone from Walt Disney and Howard Hughes to Amelia Earhart. Talk about fodder for inspiring dreams.
J. Edgar Hoover dined at The Mayflower every day, so we’ll forgive you if you feel like eavesdropping on the next table. Indeed, EDGAR, the hotel’s all-day dining outlet, has an oldschool handsome appeal with its antique liquor bottles and clubby ambiance. Private dining is available for 20, while buyouts of the Reading Room located behind the main bar accommodate up to 70 people.
The hotel has 42,000 square feet of event space but don’t let the sheer size overwhelm you. “One of the reasons planners like us is that you don’t feel you’re competing with anyone else,” says Hennessy. Indeed, each room has its own inspiration. The State Room, which just so happens to be decorated with the original seals from each state, has plenty of natural light with eight large windows. The Palm Court Ballroom, which was once the restaurant, has a lovely skylight—along with a fascinating story. “The glass was covered during World War II because of possible airstrikes. It was covered for decades,” shares Hennessy, who clearly loves how history weaves itself into every corner here.
The Chinese Room, named in honor of the Chinese ambassadors who made the hotel their temporary embassy at one point, is enhanced with a stunning painted ceiling and yet another juicy tidbit. The acoustics of the room are such that if you stand in one place, you can hear another person whispering across the room. Winston Churchill discovered that the hard way when he told an off-color joke about FDR under his breath and it went viral, pre-Twitter.
There are plenty more event rooms as well as conference rooms named after the 12 colonies, but the pièce de résistance of The Mayflower is certainly the Grand Ballroom. This two-level event space complete with a balcony and a “terrace” that frames the main well of the room, is the very definition of grand (think 23kt gold leaf). It’s the details that make this room really shine. “The patterns in the carpet echo the patterns of the ceiling,” Hennessy points out. “Every inauguration gala since 1925 was held here up until Reagan,” says Hennessy, who then explains with Reagan’s inauguration it was decided there would be several galas in different locations. The hotel still hosts one of the galas every four years.
While most urban hotels aren’t thought of all-inclusive, The Mayflower is indeed a plug and play for planners who need guest rooms, high-tech meeting space, fine dining and that oh-so-hard to find inspiration.