The Capital Hilton will close its 16th Street NW main entrance within the next few weeks, marking the start of a $12 million interior and exterior renovation project. According to hotel executives, that sum will cover the first phase of a four-year total renovation, estimated to cost about $22 million.

"We're taking one of Washington's best examples of modern architecture and returning it to its original appearance," said Frederick J. Kleisner, general manager of the Capital Hilton. "The actual designs of the doors and porticos are being restored to their original condition. The faux designs in wood and formica veneer of the '60s, in which the monumental design of the interior was obscured, will be removed."

The hotel originally opened in 1943, and was the only major hotel built in Washington during World War II. It was then known as the Statler Hilton. Extensive use of marble and bronze characterized the original interior, much of which was covered by different materials as tastes and styles changed. Most of the marble that will become evident as the renovation progresses will be that originally installed. A new entrance and lobby represent a major portion of the renovation budget.

Some aspects of the exterior renovation have already begun, including refurbishing of the building's limestone outer walls. The 1,080 existing double-hung steel windows will be replaced by aluminum sliding window frames with thermopane and thermal break glass. Inside the hotel, rooms will get new wall coverings and carpeting.

"Luxury is what sells in Washington, and that's what we want to offer to our customers" said Kleisner, explaining the restoration. "We're providing luxury as well as value. After Jan. 1, the hotel will have only deluxe suites."

The future stages of renovation, Kleisner said, include a total revamping of the entire hotel by sections. During the current stage, the side entrance on K Street NW and the original entrance, known as the K Street motor entrance, will remain open for guests.

Copeland Kreiger Associates, a local firm, is designer for the project, and William B. Tabler & Associates, New York architects, was commissioned to design the new exterior entrance. Tabler was the resident architect at Holabird & Root four decades ago when the firm was commissioned to design the original hotel.