MetroScene ordinarily shuns the local party scene, but was lured by an invitation to a "birthday party" Wednesday for the hotel that has been The Washington Post's neighbor since this newspaper moved into its new L Street building in 1950.

To many unreconstructed Washington longtimers, the hotel is still "the Statler," so we assumed the celebration would mark the hotel's real birth as a contemporary of the Pentagon, which quietly marked its 40th milestone just last week.

But the party, a merry bash marked by the presence of a circus band, clowns, jugglers and a functioning calliope, was being described in a press release as the hotel's sixth birthday (although that same release referred to the hotel, without elaboration on the point, as "one of Washington's most historic").

"It was the sixth birthday for the Capital Hilton, not the Statler, not the Statler-Hilton," explained one hotel aide, using all the names the hotel has borne throughout its history, the first from 1943 until 1954 and the second from then until 1977.

In many respects the hotel is new, since a $12.6 million restoration has just been completed, and plans are in the works to invest another $25 million in renovation.

By coincidence, the "sixth" birthday party came precisely 40 years and a day after the Statler registered its first paying guest, Brig. Gen. Charles D. Young, on Jan. 18, 1943. The hotel was not fully completed or occupied until the following month.

The Capital Hilton occupies in part the site of the mansion once owned by Sen. Eugene Hale (R-Maine), who served from 1881 until 1911, and later by his son, Sen. Frederick Hale (R-Maine), who served from 1917 until 1941.