To all you sticky fingered guests who have "borrowed" an ice bucket or light fixture from the Washington Marriott Wardman Park: The venerable hotel in Woodley Park wants its stuff back. In return, you could receive a two-night weekend stay in the Langston Hughes suite in Wardman Tower, plus 500,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Through the end of the year, the hotel is seeking memorabilia for its upcoming centennial celebration. Harry Wardman, a master stair builder and contractor who emigrated from England, built the hotel a decade before the Hay-Adams. Previous guests and employees, who may or may not have pinched a souvenir from the property, include a World War II-era British spy (code-named Cynthia), who snooped on the French Vichy Embassy from the hotel grounds; Thurgood Marshall, who stayed at the Wardman during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings; Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy in the restaurant and slipped several of his poems to diner-poet Vachel Lindsay, who introduced the young scribe to publishers; and jurors sequestered during the Watergate trials. The Wardman also received the presidential seal of approval: Eleven of the 12 presidents from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush have held inaugural balls on the premises. (The one exception was Gerald R. Ford: See Nixon.)
Since announcing the amnesty program late this summer, the hotel has received a small Wardman Park ashtray and a folio from a couple's honeymoon in November 1944. The newlyweds paid $6 per night and racked up $3.65 in restaurant charges — $51 in today's prices.
To participate in the contest, hand-deliver or mail the item to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park and include a 25-to-250-word piece about the object and your stay. According to the contest's small print, you will never see your teacup or pillowcase again, except possibly in a permanent lobby exhibit. (The hotel is still working on party plans for next year's big birthday.) Judges will rate the submissions on sincerity, memorabilia value and story relevance; originality and creativity; and quality of story. The hotel will announce the victor in January. Even if you don't win, you will still earn a consolation prize: a guilt-free conscience.
More from Travel: