J.W. Marriott Jr. speaks in the atrium of the Marriott Marquis Washington D.C. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan )

The Marriott Marquis Washington D.C. opened May 1, but executives waited six weeks for the official dedication ceremony — a Tuesday morning affair that included three ribbon cuttings, a root beer toast (a homage to the company’s beginnings as a soda stand) and many references to the decades-long road to financing, developing and building the convention center hotel.

“I remember the first meeting I had [about] this hotel, I met on this spot with Pierre L’Enfant and George Washington,” D.C. Council member Jack Evans quipped. “I remember sitting down with Frederick Douglass and saying, ‘Can you lobby Abraham Lincoln?’ Still didn’t happen.”

Mayor Vincent C. Gray echoed that idea: “We began to wonder whether it would come out of the ground,” he said. “We have needed this hotel for a long time.”

The project was first proposed by then-Mayor Marion Barry in 1990. It took 20 years of contentious land swaps and financing hurdles before the $520 million Marquis — financed by both public and private money — broke ground in 2010.

The hotel, the 4,000th for Bethesda-based Marriott International, has 1,175 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Washington.

“This hotel, combined with the state-of-the-art convention center across the street, will make this city that much more competitive,” Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott, said at the event, which was attended by about 200 people. — Abha Bhattarai