As the New Presidency Approaches . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

All that was absent from Darryl Fears's Jan. 10 Metro story, " 'The Nation's Square'; Hay-Adams Hotel Area Was Home to History Long Before Obamas' Arrival," was the genesis of the Hay-Adams.

The hotel was erected in 1928 on the site of contiguous homes designed in the mid-1880s by the celebrated architect Henry Richardson at the behest of two of his friends, the eminent author Henry Adams and Adams's fellow author and diplomat, John Hay, who had served as President Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and would become secretary of state under presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.

The entrance to the Adams house faced the White House across Lafayette Square, while Hay's front door fronted on 16th Street opposite St. John's Church. The two neighbors and their wives, Clover Adams and Clara Stone Hay, together with their witty and eccentric friend, geologist Clarence King, gathered regularly for tea as "The Five of Hearts," as described in the book of that title by Patricia O'Toole.

One of the last events held at the Hay home before its demolition was the 1924 marriage reception of my parents, Hay's granddaughter Evelyn Wadsworth and Stuart Symington, a Baltimore boy who would wend his way in due course to Missouri. The reception was hosted by my grandparents, Sen. James Wadsworth of New York and Alice Hay Wadsworth. Among the guests were President Calvin Coolidge, Maryland Gov. Albert Ritchie and their wives.

Much of the paneling of the Hay home is incorporated in the Hay-Adams reception rooms, along with portraits of the two men. How proud they would be to know their joint home site would be host, albeit temporarily, to a family America has taken to heart.

-- Jim Symington


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