The Hay-Adams

800 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA

Not everyone gets to live across the street from the White House. Before the current Italian-Renaissance hotel was constructed in 1927, the prime real estate was occupied by the homes of two little-known American icons: John Hay—personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt—and Henry Adams, Harvard professor and great-grandson of John Adams. Their houses were hubs of D.C. culture for decades at the turn of the last century, and so, when the Hay-Adams opened, it was only logical that the hotel would continue that tradition. Washingtonians play at the sultry bar scene, everyone from Amelia Earhart to the Obamas has stayed in its elegantly Old World rooms overlooking historic Lafayette Square and the White House beyond, and the hotel is known for its discreet and comprehensive, no-questions-asked service. Should guests need a ride to one of the District’s many important meetings, the house Mercedes drops off anywhere downtown, guaranteeing a first impression worthy of a luminary. Though if you insisted on the meeting coming to you, no Beltway insider would mind.

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The Hay Adams

Given the golden-ticket location of The Hay-Adams, lesser properties could be tempted to relax standards, knowing the unparalleled panorama that takes in the White House, the Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial would be enough to sell rooms. The Hay-Adams, though, has created a hotel worthy of its place amid the nation’s monuments: beautiful, small, discreet, attentive. Entering the hotel from the busy heart of D.C., guests are met with the perfume of the generous floral arrangement that takes center stage in the wood-paneled lobby. From your first interaction with the staff (241 strong for just 140 guest rooms), it becomes clear that you are in the hands of professionals and your ease and comfort is their business and pride. You have arrived. The Hay-Adams was built in 1928 on the site of two grand and historic houses, those of John Hay—President Lincoln’s private secretary and later Secretary of State under McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt—and writer Henry Adams, himself descended from the two President Adams. (The friends’ adjoining houses shared a basement library!) In 2001, the hotel underwent a $20 million overhaul and while the elegance of the Italianate original was retained, modern amenities and comforts keep it from feeling tired or overly “historic.” It’s not hard to find history in Washington, of course; a short walk in any direction from the hotel can take you to world-class museums and landmarks of American culture. But guests could be forgiven for wanting to linger in the dreamy guest rooms at the Hay-Adams, cosseted by the fresh flowers, Etro toiletries, ornamental ceilings, and luscious Italian bed linens, and enjoying views that stretch all the way to the Potomac.

Guest Rooms at the Hay-Adams

Entering these elegant guest rooms, with their high plaster-ornamented ceilings and palette of creamy whites, feels like entering some private and pillow-y version of the grand white-marble architecture so prevalent in Washington. The classical décor of the Hay-Adams captures the grandeur of the great monuments without the detached coolness of all that hard stone, instead ushering comfort and romance into the mix. The generous windows frame views of either Lafayette Square with the White House and Washington Monument in the background, or the brightly painted landmark St. John’s Church across 16th Street. Silky bed linens, lofty comforters, Etro toiletries, and the services of an exceptional housekeeping staff boost the comfort quotient to a level that may not only spoil guests for other hotels but may make going home a bit painful.

Fitness at the Hay-Adams

Active guests will be happy to see a pair of bikes leaning invitingly beside the front door, part of a fleet available to guests for a spin around the blessedly flat city. The doormen will issue you a helmet, a bike lock, and a map to the more than 70 miles of bike lanes in Washington D.C. (One easy loop heads around the Tidal Basin with stops at the three extraordinary monuments along its banks: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.) For guests interested in a little more cardio work, a pocket-sized running map in the guest rooms suggests a 3.5-mile loop around the National Mall that tempts even the laziest to trot the path and see the sites along the way.

Night viewing

Looking for a spectacular panoramic view of Washington, D.C.? Head to the Top of the Hay rooftop terrace, located in the historic and iconic Hay-Adams Hotel. For over 82 years, the hotel has played host to prominent travelers and Washington’s elite movers and shakers such as Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis, Ethel Barrymore, and the Obama family before they moved to the house you see across Lafayette Park in 2009.

Hay-Adams Hotel Roof

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