Long before anyone thought of the Palm restaurant with its cartoon drawings of celebrities on its walls, Washington's Occidental restaurant had its collection of photographs of some of the biggest names in American and world politics. When the famous restaurant "Where Statesmen Dine" closed down in 1972, its collection of 1,100 photographs and paintings dating to the turn of the century was sold.

But along with the revival of the historic Willard Hotel, Washington developer Oliver T. Carr has decided to reopen the Occidental on its old site next door to the hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, in an office building he is constructing there. Carr is buying many of the Occidental's original photographs so he can make the new restaurant look as much like the old one as possible. Among the impressive collection were photos of Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, John D. Rockefeller, Buffalo Bill, the Duke of Windsor, Marshal Ferdinand Foch and Winston Churchill.

Like the old Occidental, the new one, scheduled to open next September, will reserve special tables for the celebrated political figures Carr expects will gather there. The new restaurant will be run by Phil Carr, who has hired his first employe -- Michael Sternberg -- as the Occidental's manager. This obviously goes along with the need to attract politicians, since Sternberg was maitre d' at Morton's in Georgetown, where Capitol Hill types love to dine.