Why are you traveling to D.C.? If you just want to get in and get out, and you like taking taxis everywhere, and you're passionate about mid-80's beige-box architecture, then by all means- find a chain hotel at the airport. But if you are going to D.C. to walk where our nation's founders walked, to really see and experience this place where so much history has happened and to make a lot of memories, you owe it to yourself to stay at The Willard.
The Willard is old. How old? Every president since Pierce has stayed there (see Wikipedia). There are lithographs of Teddy Roosevelt drinking cocktails in the lobby and bragging about hunting. A main hallway in the hotel is called "Peacock Alley", after the ladies who would sashay through the building in the 19th century in their fancy gowns. To stay here is to stay in your very own museum of DC history (and the building itself actually does have its own museum- stop by, there are lots of interesting things to see!). Since falling on hard times and closing in the late 60's it has been lovingly and accurately restored to its original Lincoln-era glory. Breathtaking!
As for the crisis referred to in the headline: I was traveling with two friends of mine, a couple who happens to be expecting. Upon returning to our room one night (a very well-appointed Executive Suite with a view of the Washington Monument and the Treasury) we discovered that the master bedroom smelled strongly of cigar smoke. This is not good for pregnant people. One phone call and about 10 minutes later, we had been upgraded to the Calvin Coolidge suite- there was no hesitation there! They immediately sent up a bellhop and we swiftly relocated to our "new digs". We really appreciated the quick and conscientious response to our issue.
And, although it's not likely that you'll be staying in the Coolidge Suite (Coolidge, by the way, took his oath of office at The Willard), you should be advised that it comes with its own oval office. Seriously, just a large oval sitting room which made us all feel quite presidential. It also has a separate room for the coffee maker.
Despite all these positive words, I find myself wishing I could rate this at 4 1/2 stars, rather than the full five. The reasons are minor: though it was big and very luxurious, our upgrade suite didn't seem to be as updated as the previous one. There was only one shower, for instance (I know, "only" one shower is pushing it as far as complaints go, but it's a huge suite with multiple parties involved. A second one would be nice). We also lost our pull-out bed- because of the oval-shaped room, the couch had to be curved which ruled out using it as a bed! And I've been blown away by hotel staff before, and while there are no specific complaints about the very professional folks at The Willard, I was not blown away. I told you they were minor reasons.
But I'm going with 5 stars anyways. The history, the location, the lobby, even the hotel bar- it's all just too special and too unique to downgrade. So, 5 it is.
Cheers and Safe Travels,