For the first time in 33 years, the beds at the Burlington Hotel were unmade. The luggage racks were empty; the lamps unplugged. Only sunlight and furniture occupied the rooms of the hotel.
The grand old building that has stood on Vermont Avenue since the first decade of this century will come down in March. Hudson Moses, whose family has owned the Burlington since 1915, recently negotiated a 99-year lease with Sylvan Herman, who said he intends to build a 12-story office building on the site.
"I wanted to retire," Moses said. "The building was old and I didn't feel it was economically feasible to put the required millions in it" for renovation.
Moses, who was president of the Washington Hotel Association from 1957 to 1970, reflected last week on the many years he has run the hotel. Outside his office, people were carting off bits and pieces of the Burlington.
"Everybody says that I'm supposed to be standing around crying. But I'm not," said Moses, who intends to become a hotel and restaurant consultant after he and his wife travel for a bit.
If anything, he said, he is relieved. "The human life angle. Four or five hundred people sleeping, for which you're responsible every day of your life. It will make you bald-headed," he said, stroking his barren pate. "I want to retire. I've said my bit. I've done my piece."
The Burlington Hotel bid its last guest farewell Nov. 18. For 37 years it was an apartment house; for the last 33, a hotel. In two months it will be a pile of rubble.
Last week the final farewell began. The liquidators arrived and said that everything will be sold.
The gargoyles that have stared out over Vermont Avenue these many years are available, for a price. The carved marble railing in the main lobby can be picked up for $950. Hundreds of color TVs stand ready for new homes. Beds, lamps, rugs, sofas, tables -- all are for sale.
There are seven stories of wrought-iron railing just waiting to be taken away. Three hundred bathrooms beckon to be stripped of their fixtures. And there are 200 paintings by Theodora Kane, the Georgetown water-colorist who died in 1977.
Evelyn Mills, who went to the sale after hearing about it from a relative who works across the street from the hotel, said she chose some lamps, and "We're gonna get them if they're not too high. So far it's very reasonable. It's not every day you run along a bargain like this."
According to the liquidators, the sale should be going on for another month, but on the second day of the sale, it didn't look like the supply would last that long. A continuous parade of men, women, boxsprings, mattresses, tables and lamps flowed in and out of the elevators, emptying the 300 rooms of the seven-story building.
Mike Kabealo, the national sales manager for National Content Liquidators, said the company expects the contents to sell for about $300,000.
Doug Bailey, an interior designer came with Curt Bell, an Adams Morgan realtor. Bell said he is opening a new office that he wants to decorate "a la 1930."
The marble pillar facings in the main lobby caught their interest, "but it's hard to tell how you can get them off the wall. You might ruin some of it," Bailey said. "When you go into a building, you try to get everything you can before the wrecking ball comes. You check the details."
Bailey's apartment, which he said has benefited from many liquidations, "is kind of eclectic. Gargoyles end up as coffee tables."
In the main lobby, it looked like business as usual -- almost. People milled around the main desk as if waiting to check in, but the desk clerk's line was a little bit out of the ordinary.
"A double bed sir? Are you going to take it now or are you going to come back for it later?"