I never thought I would survive

It happened on many occasions since my birth that I thought I am very finite. Actually I’m surprised that I am still alive. But with every resurrection I believe more and more that I am immortal.

Today you would call me a luxury Beaux-Arts palace although I was born in 1816 and you would not always have called me that.

4 early view, source Library of Congress

Not always was I as luxurious as I am now. As a matter of fact I was born, on 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington DC, as six small houses by an architect called Tayloe and only a part of me served then as a hotel which changed names often in those early days of my existence. They were tough years for me. I hardly reached the young age of 30 when my structures were in bad need of repair and I wondered for the first time about my mortality and faced my first death.

Lucky for me Tayloe and his family were rather dissatisfied with me and in 1847 I was rebuilt by an energetic entrepreneur named Willard.

5 1860 willard's

Willard expanded me from 40 to 150 rooms with elegant dining rooms, parlors, large halls and wide staircases and I was called Willard’s Hotel.

By 1861 I feared for my life again when a fire broke out in the tailor shop next door and threatened to suffocate me because the Washington City firemen were nowhere to be found.


I received further extensive renovations after that. I turned out that grand that in 1864 the Willard brothers made me their own.

6 ball

My frivolous years were numbered again and I fell from the height of fashion and prestige and grew that outdated that by 1897 I suffered another serious near death experience. One of my owners refused to spend money on me for many years. A disaster that was only solved after his death. By then they had to tear me down completely – I thought I will die – but they rebuilt me better than ever and I received the reputation to be the first skyscraper in Washington. My doors were opened again for business in 1901.

7 willard

1922 I received yet another blow to my existence. A fire broke out on the top-floor ballroom after an annual banquet.

8 Willard_Hotel_-_rise, fall, rebirth

Lucky again the damage from this fire could be cleaned up and the ballroom was rebuilt. My saga continued for another few years, I never felt as immortal as then.

In 1934 I had air-conditioning installed and in 1937 even bathrooms added to every room. The years during the war seemed to do me good, that good actually that my owners sold me in 1946. This however turned out to be another turning point towards ruin. By 1950 I was called an ‘old man’ rather than a ‘grand dame’. By 1964 I was very run down and struggled again with my mortality. I knew my days were numbered and in 1968 my doors were shut without notice – the worst was to come.

Terrible things happened to me in the following decade. My interior was sold at auctions and I was stripped. I truly thought this is my end. My owners even tried to win the right to tear me down.

9 stripped

And again I was lucky. In 1974 key government agencies decided to save me. More settlements had to be reached but finally in 1978 they started to spend $8mio on me, only to run out of funds with needing different financiers. Finally in 1984 my first-class restoration was under way and I was reopened in 1986 to much critical acclaim.

10 willard-intercontinental

Now I am a 14 story single complex with many de luxe guest and huge function rooms. I house several restaurants, the Willard Hall, the famous Round Robin Bar and the Peacock Alley with many shops.

11 willard-intercontineuzntal

My name is Willard Intercontinental and because I stand two blocks away from the White House I always had enjoyed the most flamboyant of guests from Presidents to Senators, Movie makers and actors, composers of music and literature, corporate grands and many more holding conferences, balls, events or just relaxing.

12 willard_intercontinental_washington_01

Again I feel extraordinarily strong and absolutely immortal. Except for expecting the extraordinary as my history has taught me. My history, as a matter of fact, is that interesting that I recommend you to read more about me.

5 washington-district-of-columbia-103418-2


5 responses to “I never thought I would survive

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