This hotel dubs itself as "Washington's second best address." In fact, the Mayflower attracts nearly as many notables as the nearby White House -- no doubt the town's first most desirable address. Since opening its doors in 1925, the hotel has hosted Calvin Coolidge's inaugural ball and Charles Lindbergh's celebration of his historic flight. Hotel legend has it that during a visit, actress Jean Harlow was so intrigued by the hotel's switchboard that she spent a morning as a stand-in operator.
Designed by Warren and Westmore, the New York architects who also worked on Manhattan's Grand Central Station, the original hotel boasted 1,057 rooms, including 112 apartments. Hotel workers reportedly spent three months working around the clock just to arrange some 25,000 pieces of furniture delivered from New York. Extensive renovations in the early 1980s restored the hotel to its original grandeur, earning it a place on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Now you can stroll the same one-tenth-mile promenade that visitors enjoyed 73 years ago, under the watchful eyes of gilt rams on the frieze decorating the lobby. Then, hit the lounge for a drink served up by Sam the bartender, a local legend himself, who whips up martinis while dazzling guests with magic tricks.
Despite its location in the heart of Washington's business district, hotel rooms are surprisingly quiet. Furnishings are lavish: poster beds and settees, damask wing chairs, and tiered curtains with matching bedspreads and dust ruffles. Walls are covered with faux-silk wallpaper and decorated with historic prints of local scenes. The bathroom, covered in Italian marble, is luxurious. Light-wood cabinets house an army of fluffy towels. A television and telephone help keep you entertained while you bathe. When you're finished, slip into the in-room seersucker robe.
Complimentary services include tea and coffee, shoe shines and newspaper delivery to your room. To commemorate your stay at the town's second-best address, pick up a coffee-table book detailing the hotel's illustrious history. It's on sale in the gift shop.
-- Angela Walker