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Location and access often determined prominence and stature of a particular hotel, sometimes it was planned, other times it was pure luck! The Mayflower Hotel was built in a Grand Style -- with wider lobbies than its rival the Willard Hotel. And the Mayflower Hotel became a central meeting place, in part, because Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s affliction of polio was little known when FDR rose to prominence in the 1920’s and 30’s. Suddenly large entryways were not just for show, pomp and regal needs...they were necessary for a very public person to exit and enter a building quickly and with stealth – in this case it just happened to be a crippled President that desired to conceal from the public at large his very severe affliction and still enjoy some amount of social interaction. Those that sought power knew which hotels would bring them closer to history and nearer to those that meant a possible power route. Hotels, truly a modern invention, took on more and more value as barometers of one’s social consciousness, status and desired status. If one wanted to be among the left or right, the hotel where one socialized and met was a reflection of one’s social status or desire of a certain social status. It is no coincidence that President Ulysses Grant routinely walked from the White House to the Lobby of the Willard Hotel night after night to enjoy the “grand” lobby (hence, was born the term “lobbyist” - for those that would seek his patronage and favor); as it was no less telling that J. Edgar Hoover had the same lunch at the same table for twenty years at the Mayflower Hotel. Hotels began to mean more as America and the nation began to represent more. If one wanted to make a statement in society in the early part of the twentieth century and was going, to, say, Paris...well, then they would stay at the Ritz (not to be mistaken with the Ritz Carlton Chain of today). If a celebrity wanted to exert star “power,” there was the “Zebra Room” in Africa where Bogie and Bacall could be found downing Scotch in between movie takes and kisses. Therefore, if a politico wanted to be among the ‘power brokers’, hotels were an accessible way to be identified as a member of the elite, the learned or the trailblazing kind. Hotels became more than places to sleep. Particularly in Washington, DC, they were reflections of those that chose to stay in a location that was an extension of themselves, their status and their politics.

Hotelier Bob Sierralta

Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington

- Bob Sierralta Best of DC

Club Lounge, Mandarin Oriental)


BEST OF DC: Defining Change in American Leadership  
BEST OF DC: Defining Change in American Leadership  

Welcome to the BEST OF DC: ‘Defining Change’ in American Leadership. This Inaugural Edition is the very first interactive publication of its...