A rowhouse on the corner of 14th Street and Pennslyvania Avenue, built by Captain John Tayloe in 1816, is leased to Joshua Tennyson for a hotel. Over the next 30 years both the name of the hotel and it’s operator would change numerous times.
Henry Willard is hired by Benjamin Ogle Tayloe to operate The Willard (known then as the City Hotel) after years of falling profits.
The Willards remodel the building, tearing down the frame façade and building a new brick façade and enlarging the interior. It was also around this time that hotel was renamed Willard’s City Hotel.
Kentucky Stateman Henry Clay first introduces the Mint Julep outside of Kentucky in the Round Robin Bar. It would later become the hotel’s signature drink.
Willard’s City Hotel welcomes Franklin Pierce, their first presidential patron.
The Napier Ball, an extremely lavish event, attended by 1,200 notables in honor of British minister Lord Napier takes place at the hotel.
The Willard is selected to house the first ever Japanese Delegation to the United States. Comprised of three Samurai ambassadors and an entourage of seventy-four, the Japanese delegation came to Washington to meet with President James Buchanan to ratify the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation in an effort to build a close relationship between the two nations.
Chaired by ex-President John Tyler, the historic Peace Convention is held at The Willard in a last ditch effort to avoid the Civil War.
President –elect Abraham Lincoln takes up residence at The Willard for ten days prior to his inauguration.
Julia Ward Howe pens the immortal words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
While staying at The Willard, General John A. Logan issued the order designating May 13, 1868 as a day to observe the memory of those who have fallen in battle, thus beginning the tradition of Memorial Day.
It was in the Willard lobby that Ulysses S. Grant popularized the term “lobbyist.” Often bothered by self-promoters as he sat in the lobby and enjoyed his cigar and brandy, he referred to these individuals as “lobbyists.”
The Willard is torn down to make way for the new Willard, a Beaux-Arts style structure that currently remains today.
The University Club of Washington is founded in the hotel’s Red Room.
The National Press Club is founded at The Willard.
President Woodrow Wilson holds the League to Enforce Peace, the predecessor to the League of Nations, at The Willard.
Besides living at The Willard during his entire term as Vice President, Calvin Coolidge remained at the hotel while Mrs. Harding moved out of The White House. It was during this time in which the Presidential flag flew outside the hotel.
After almost 100 years of association with the Willard family, the hotel becomes the property of the Abbell Hotel Company for $2.8 million.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in the hotel lobby with his closest advisors to make final edits to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech just hours before delivering it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
After years of declining revenue, the April riots in DC, and the proposed Pennsylvania Avenue plan by the President’s Advisory Council that called for the creation of a “National Square” at the western end of the avenue which eliminate all of the buildings on the Willard block, the Willard officially closes on July 15, 1968.
The United Citizens for Nixon-Agnew leases four floors of the hotel in the fall of 1968 to work for the election of Richard M. Nixon.
The hotel’s furniture, fixtures and equipment of the hotel are sold to the public at auction. The future of the Willard would remain undecided for five years.
Early in 1974, realizing the uncertainty over what to do with the Willard was as great a problem as funding, Lawson B. Knott, Jr., then Executive Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, leads the National Trust in co-sponsoring with the National Park Service a study to evaluate the re-use of the hotel. The Oliver T. Carr Company conducts the study along with Vlastimil Koubek, the George Hyman Construction Company and InterContinental Hotels. After analyzing seven different alternatives including office, hotel, condominium and mixed use, the Carr Company concludes that the hotel use was the most economically practical option for the redevelopment of the hotel.
Hotel owners file a suit for inverse condemnation, which is won on January 26, 1977. At the same time, PADC has appropriations authorized on August 14, 1976 including funds specifically earmarked for the preservation of the Willard Hotel as a demonstration project.
A settlement procedure is negotiated with the owners during the balance of the year and on January 12, 1978, the government, through the PADC, took title to The Willard. Later that spring, PADC issues a prospectus calling for developers to submit proposals to restore and preserve the Willard. On December 19, 1978 the Fairmont/Golding team is selected as the new developer of the hotel.
After years of delays and significant challenges, Golding contacted the Oliver T. Carr Company in the summer of 1981, and invites his old competitor to join with him to find a way to move the project forward. In October, 1981, the new team of Golding and Carr went before PADC and proposes the admission of Carr to the development team and modification of the project to include 350 hotel rooms and roughly 225,000 square feet of office space over a retail component reduced by 50%. This plan is approved by the board. It is also at this point where the current group of Joseph Willard heirs are reintroduced to the partnership directing the rescue of the hotel.
On February 1, 1984 the renovation work begins with a ground breaking ceremony.
The hotel reopens to the public on August 20, 1986, after having been closed for over 18 years.
22 Finance Ministers from around the world, known as the ‘Group of 22’, met at The Willard to discuss the stability of the international financial markets.
Academy Award-winning director, Steven Spielberg and Academy Award-winning actor, Tom Cruise film scenes for Minority Report throughout the hotel.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama attends a conference breakfast meeting at The Willard.
Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American U.S. president leads his Inaugural Parade past the hotel.
Former President Jimmy Carter gives a keynote speech at a conference held at the hotel.
The Willard hosts seven African heads-of-state attending the first ever U.S. – African Leaders Summit.