Washington's Ambassador Hotel, a 14th Street landmark for years, is on its deathbed at the age of 49. But yesterday, instead of last rites, the ailing hotel found itself the focus of a frenzied liquidation sale.
Hundreds of people of all ages swarmed the hotel, picking their way through floors cluttered with 19-inch black and white television sets selling for $35 and $48, curtains selling for a quarter, and hundreds of tables, chairs, mirrors and beds.
One could buy the building's elevator for $2,400, or the marble in the entraceway for $450. Even the vertical, six-story "Hotel Ambassador" sign adorning the exterior is being offered for sale for $250.
As Elizabeth Starost of Annandale noted, as she waited to pay for some $9 nightstands, "You can't beat this at Levitz or Marlow's."
Demolition of the Ambassador, located at 14th and K streets NW, will begin in about three weeks, according to John Klesch, sales manager for Content Clearing and Exchange Corp., a Detroit-based firm that is liquidating the hotel. The Ambassador is to be replaced by a new office building, Klesch said.
Until then, the liquidation firm will try to get rid of everything from the wall paneling and pianos to the hotel swimming pool, though Klesch acknowledged he isn't quite certain how the pool could be removed. "If you can get it out, God bless you," he said.
Yesterday's was one of numerous liquidation sales of ships, office buildings, hotels and department stores Klesch's firm has handled throughout the country. It was the first such sale for Brenda Fields of Washington.
Mrs. Fields said she came looking for two television sets. She bought one, a 19-inch model for $48, and then purchased two teapots with stands - "Now I can have my cup of tea in bed while I watch television" - plus wool blankets and curtains.
Mrs. Fields arrived for the sale at 9:30 a.m. yesterday, only to find a long line in front of her. When the doors opened at 10:30, "they only let 25 people in at a time, and we were in the fourth set," Mrs. Fields said. "It's all been very exciting. I love sales. Everything here is so worth it."
Several thousand persons picked through the hotel furnishing by the time the first day's sale ended.
The sale will continue each day until all the items have been disposed of.