Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C.

This was where I spent many, many hours during my time in Washington D.C.. A great hotel with lots of history and elegance. The old Wardman Tower was once a place of residence and the rest of the facility was the hotel. That changed a few months after I started and I remember the stories of Dwight Eisenhower living there for a time.

Truly a remarkable place to stay during a visit to Washington and with the upper rooms you get a great view of the city.

They also have an amazing variety of foods on the same block which also has a Metro stop. Very convenient and elegant.

Wardman Park hotel
2660 Woodley Road, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20008

Build It and They Will Come
The Life and Times of Harry Wardman (1872-1938)

When real estate agents describe their listings in Northwest Washington, they are always happy to add "It's a Wardman", if the house or apartment building was built by Harry Wardman. He was one of the greatest of all Washington real estate developers, and his name is associated with a high quality of design and materials. So great is his legacy that some houses are "Wardman Wannabe's", who’s past owners pretended they were built by Wardman, when in fact they weren't. Since Harry Wardman was responsible for building some 80,000 housing units from the early 1900's to 1938, the real thing can be found all over the city, in neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights, Brightwood, Woodley and Kalorama.

Born in England, Harry Wardman came to this country by accident. At he age of 17, he stowed away on a ship bound from London to Australia. When he was discovered, he was put off the ship in the nearest port, which happened to be New York City. He worked his way to Philadelphia, then on to Washington, DC, where he began to work for construction companies. From these modest beginnings, he became the biggest, most influential builder in the District of Columbia. His work spanned three decades, including over 4000 single-family houses, 12 office buildings, 2 embassies, 1 parking garage, 8 hotels, 2 clubs, 2 hospital annexes and 400 apartment buildings!

He built the Northumberland, the Dresden, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the Jefferson Hotel, the St. Regis, and the British Embassy. He built elaborate, expensive buildings and he built low cost housing. Harry Wardman wasn't shy about his talent or his success. When he built seven buildings on R street, between 14th and 15th, he had the first letter of each building spell out his name: W-A-R-D-M-A-N. Ten years later, Morris Cafritz followed suit with seven buildings on Spring Street NW that spelled out C-A-F-R-I-T-Z. Wardman was responsible, more than any other developer, for turning Washington from a city of rooming houses to a city of apartment buildings, most of which were later converted to condominiums in the 1970's.

Of all the things he built, Harry Wardman considered his crowning glory to be the Wardman Park Hotel and the Wardman Tower, at the corner of Connecticut and Woodley. The hotel, which is now owned by Marriott, was called "Wardman's Folly" in 1916, while it was under construction. Critics said it was too far out of the city to be successful, but they were wrong. The hotel was soon filled to capacity. At the end of World War I, Washington's population increased greatly, and at that time, people lived in hotels much as they live in apartments today.

It was the largest and grandest hotel to be built in Washington, and one of the 10 largest in the country. Designed by Frank R. White, the building was patterned after "The Homestead" resort hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia. Among the special features were 1200 rooms, a 200' by 45' lobby, a dining room for 500, a Turkish bath, billiards room, drugstore and grocery.

In his book,"Capital Losses", James Goode describes just how far Wardman would go to pursue a project. When he decided to add a luxury apartment tower to the hotel, he tore down his own house, while his wife was visiting in Paris! He moved all the furniture out in 48 hours, tore down the elegant stucco manor house, and quickly set to work on the dream tower.

Over time, the Wardman Tower turned out to be everything Harry Wardman envisioned. No other place in Washington was home to as many famous people; a partial roster of resident s over the years includes Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson, John Foster Dulles, Perle Mesta, Clare Booth Luce, Dean Rusk, Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson and Casper Weinberger.

Harry Wardman finished the apartment tower in 1928. Unfortunately, he paid more attention to the construction and design of his buildings than to his finances. The Depression found him cash-short and overextended. He lost all his vast real estate empire worth $30,000,000, and only managed to keep on building houses, because some of the land he owned had been deeded in his wife's name. He built more than 1000 houses in the 1930's, and was on his way to creating a second real estate empire, when he died of cancer in 1938. At the time of his death, he estimated that 10% of Washington's population lived in a "Wardman".
I found this story at
Real Estate Inc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband, four year old and I just stayed at the Wardman Park Hotel. I loved the antiques in the hallways of the Wardman Tower. I felt as if I had stepped back in time and would spot a historical figure any moment. The antique door knobs in the center of the room doors, original carved moldings, and parquet floors were stunning. After staying there I am inspired to read all about the history of this hotel. I appreciate the insight provided on this site.