My partner and I had our first stay at the William Lewis House (which is basically a set of two restored rowhouses from the 1800s) for 3 nights over New Year’s 2012. This also happens to be the time of year of my partner’s birthday. To celebrate, I contacted Patrick, the general manager and all-around go-to-guy, via email to see if he might make a little cake for my partner as part of the regular weekend breakfast-making.
To my delight, Patrick emailed me back right away and said for a few extra bucks, he would make a homemade cake, buy a bottle of champagne for our room, and also book dinner for us wherever I wanted. I took him up on the offer, and on my partner’s birthday when we came back from dinner, a chocolate cake with raspberry frosting sat on a little table in our room next to a chilling bottle of bubbly. Really sweet.
I only tell this story because it is indicative of the personal touch you generally come to expect from a B&B experience. However, even if this personal touch weren’t present, The William Lewis is still really comfortable. Within the first day, my partner and I felt at home and were comfy hanging around the interestingly decorated common rooms (sort of from the period), lounging on the overstuffed sofa and chairs, and talking with other guests and the owner, Dave, and manager Patrick. This is not a snooty crowd, nor is this a snooty environment. On the weekend, there is a homemade breakfast (eggs, muffins, fruit, potatoes, sausage) served at 8:30 sharp; on weekdays the breakfast is continental and runs later, but good. There is a great cappuccino/coffee machine (a Jura!) in the dining room accessible to guests all day, with fruit on the table and granola on the bar. They also have a very informal happy hour with guests on the weekends with some wine and snacks.
Our room, on the third floor, with a queen bed, was nicely sized and comfy too. Generally, it was quiet; the stairs leading to all the rooms from the first floor are original, and hence they are extremely creaky—there is no way to walk on them quietly, even when being careful. So, some of this noise will enter the rooms. Also, on New Year’s eve, the streets surrounding the house were louder than usual. We actually also heard rapid gunshots during the night in the distance, which the owner said was very out of the ordinary.
The owner (who lives on the premises) and the manager both have dogs that roam the house freely, so if you are allergic, you should be aware. If you invite them to play, they will! But I found that they are extremely well-behaved and will generally leave you alone if you choose. They prefer to be outside most of the time. I’m not really a dog person, but my partner is, and he rolled around on the floor with them. I was content to sit and watch. Though they want to eat from the table (they are dogs after all), you can tell they are very carefully trained to not do so. Usually, the owner would remove the dogs when we were eating. They do give the place character, and I did not really detect any dog stink.
The greatest asset of this place is its location. If the weather is right and your legs are good for walking, you can get anywhere. My partner and I walked to a variety of good, mid-priced eateries within 15 minutes (Mexican, Thai, American, Latin-Asian fusion), a grocery store within that same distance, a movie theater, three or four gay bars, and we even walked all the way down to the national mall (about a brisk 35-minute walk one way) and did the Smithsonian circuit. It was a breeze. The metro station is about a 10-minute walk away, which will take you just about anywhere. Hailing a cab or a bus from the street corner is simple.
There were some issues: When we arrived, there was a film crew filming a TV show (a historical crime/drama) in some of the period rooms, and this delayed us getting into our room for about an hour. It was a temporary upset, and this sort of thing does not happen regularly. I could tell even Patrick, the manager, was not happy about it. This was their first outing allowing a film crew onto the premises, and the owner was second guessing his decision. Nevertheless, it was not a nice way to start our stay.
More importantly, there were some issues with the bathroom, which is shared. The fact that up to 3 rooms share a bathroom (one bathroom per floor) actually was not a problem at all. The bathroom was never occupied when I wanted to use it. However, the shower accommodations are a bit lacking, at least on the third floor of the one house. In a situation where you must haul your toiletries in and out of the bathroom, you’d think there would be a place to properly set them while showering. But in our bathroom, it was a clawfoot bathtub with a rigged shower curtain around it and no shelves anywhere to place your imported toiletries. I ended up having to place them on the floor, and then open the curtain with water blowing out, and bend over to get my shampoos or whatever. A real hassle. The second floor has a more updated bathroom, with a glassed-in, walk-in shower. When I discovered that, I used it. I only later found out that it is “forbidden” to use a shower on a floor where you are not staying. I did anyway, and no one said anything.
This brings me to the issue regarding the owner’s, Dave’s, “rulebook” which you will no doubt read about in other reviews. There is a book in each room detailing the “house rules,” basically. Before we booked our stay, even I read reviewers who were appalled at being told what they could and could not do in the house as guests; I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But as it turns out, it really is not that big of a deal. Really, more than anything, the rulebook is Dave’s way of trying to “idiot proof” the house (this is how my partner succinctly put it) so that as little as possible goes wrong. Most of the information in there is commonsense (don’t tromp up the stairs at 3 a.m., leave the bathroom clean for the next user, no non-guests allowed in the house for security reasons, etc.).
One last issue that you’ll also read about here: The rooms do not have individual locks on them, though there is a small safe in each room for valuables. I did not see this as a problem. However, we did find that the front door to the house was accidentally left unlocked at one point for who-knows-how-long, and it should have been locked the entire time (this is the key you get when you check in, to the front door of the house). So, for a short while, our things in the house were not safe, but we did not run into any trouble regarding this, so it was a non-issue. Chalk it up to luck, I guess. But if this sort of thing makes you nervous, be aware.
Overall, my partner and I had a good time in DC and a good time getting to know others at William Lewis. It was a relaxed, low-key, interesting, non-prefabricated, non-commercialized casual environment in which to spend some quality time. And Patrick is indeed the man. Delicious cake! Treadmill time...
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- describes itself as "Gay Bed & Breakfast" ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- William Lewis House Hotel Washington Dc