One thing locals are often not terribly good at recommending are hotels. We visit museums, dine at restaurants, stroll through neighborhoods, and a myriad of other things that give each city its own feel. What we don't do, is stay at our local hotels.
Well, that's not entirely true. I do stay at hotels, but I do it with large tour groups, and the determining factor has more to do with the ability to feed 97 eighth-graders breakfast and park several giant buses than the details you might find important in a visit here. So, on that note, I will endeavor from time to time to evaluate some local hotels with an eye to help our out of town visitors find a place to stay.
Let's start today with one of higher end choices. I recently had the chance to take a closer look at The Jefferson, a premier hotel on 16th Street, just north of the White House, and if you looking to discover what quality really is, let me recommend this place.
Before we even start, I should say that if your household budget doesn't normally include slip fees for a yacht or a holiday tip for the butler, staying at the Jefferson might be a bit more than you would normally spend on accommodations. But if you've decided to splurge and drop $500 for a night in DC, you will get your money's worth here.
Let's start with the building itself, which started life as an apartment building in 1923, designed by the impeccably credentialed Jules Henri de Sibour. Apartment buildings had started becoming fashionable for the wealthy well before the turn of the century, but the increasing labor costs after World War I sped up the trend. It was becoming increasingly impractical to maintain the large staffs required for the Beaux-Arts mansions that still line such fashionable routes as Massachusetts Avenue and 16th Street NW. An apartment at a place such as the Jefferson would be a prestigious place to hang your hat, particularly if you were a bachelor or simply needed a place in town while here for business,
Converted to a hotel in 1955, the Jefferson still retains some of the layout and design of the luxury apartment building it once was. And in 2009, a recent renovation subtly plays upon the hotel's namesake to introduce some of the character of our third President to the early-20th century splendor. Frankly, I find the current Jefferson Hotel to be more evocative of Thomas Jefferson than his Memorial is, but that's a discussion for another day.
Playing upon the President's reputation as an epicure and a lover of fine wines is a natural fit for a hotel, but such whimsical touches as the inclusion of a dumbwaiter in a private dining room touches upon Jefferson's inventive nature and echoes a similar device included in his home at Monticello. The Book Room, a wood paneled sitting room with enough books to stock a small library, is a fitting homage to the man who could not live without books and who, through a few twists and turns, provided the collection for the Library of Congress.
In fact, it's this inventive use of nooks and crannies that makes The Jefferson an intimate place to stay or relax. Unlike so many high-end hotel lobbies, whose grand spaces impress but don't encourage one to sit and linger, The Jefferson's first floor is a warren of small spaces, rooms, restaurants, bars, and private dining rooms. Rather than being confusing, it encourages one to linger and sit awhile. It's an intriguing, and even under-stated, approach to providing public spaces for one to mingle privately.
This understated luxury continues in the impeccable professionalism of the staff. In a world of plastic smiles and phony "how may I help you, sirs", it's downright refreshing to find folks that can quickly, quietly, and efficiently take care of your every need. The Jefferson has all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a luxury hotel, but where you'd really notice the difference is in the service.
If, perhaps, staying at the hotel is a bit more than you'd like to spend while in DC but you're still looking for a bit of the high life, you may wish to dine at one the restaurants. Plume, The Jefferson's fine dining option is all that you would expect from a top rated restaurant. If you're looking to impress folks at a power breakfast, The Greenhouse is a stunning room with an original 1923 skylight providing ample natural light (well, I suppose the sun provides the actual light). But I was drawn towards Quill, their lounge with it's focus on crafted cocktails in a room lined with 18th century maps. But then again, I'm a sucker for an old map.
It probably goes without saying that their location is superb as well. If, as I always advise, you visit DC without burden of a car, you are a few blocks from Farragut West (Orange/Blue lines) and North (Red line). The Hotel is across the street from the National Geographic Museum, a few blocks from the White House, and a short stroll to Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and Downtown.
I promise I'll touch upon some more affordable options in the future, but for now, let me pretend I could actually afford more than a drink at the bar here.