Reservations: (800) 424-8532
Hotel Front Desk: (202) 628-8140
History & Photo Album
The Hotel Harrington is the last of its kind in Washington, D.C.. Still owned and operated by members of the founding families, the Harrington continues its 99 year tradition of providing value and convenience to the tourists and visitors of our great Capital City. Now in its third generation of ownership, it has the longest record of continuous operation of any hotel in the city of Washington, D.C.
The hotel was constructed in three phases over a period of 11 years. The first phase consisted of a six story building, with 80 guest rooms, which opened in March of 1914. In the lobby of the hotel you will find the original architectural rendering, for this original phase of construction, produced by the firm of Richard Fitzsimons. The second phase of construction was completed in 1918 and consisted of a 12 story addition on the E Street side of the original building. This addition consisted of 100 additional rooms, a grand ballroom, and a third elevator.
On the left is a picture of our antique mailbox which was installed in 1918. This working mailbox has a drop chute that runs from the top floor down, with every floor having a drop slot ........ and a glass panel front allows you to watch your mail, and the mail from the upper floors, sliding down toward the ornate holding box on the lobby level.
In 1925, the hotel was extended on down to 12th Street with another 12 story addition. This added 125 more guest rooms and one more elevator to the hotel. The Hotel Harrington now had 305 guest rooms making it the largest hotel in the city at that time.
Since 1925, the basic structure of the hotel has remained intact, however, in 1945 major interior changes were undertaken. In an effort to make the interior more contemporary for the period, the two story heights of the ballroom and hotel lobby were reduced by half, and the mezzanine level was eliminated. This gave the hotel a more modern feel, and allowed for the creation of an additional 10 guest rooms.
In 1938, air conditioning was installed in the hotel replacing the original negative draft system that had been built into the building from the start. The negative draft system utilized huge fans located on the roof of the building to draw air from each of the hotel's hallways. By opening the guest room window, and by controlling the tilt of the valance above the guest room door with the adjustment lever, guests were able to establish a comfortable circulation of outside air into their rooms during the warm summer months up through the summer of 1937. By 1938, guests of the Hotel Harrington had something no other hotel guest in Washington, D.C. could boast: AIR CONDITIONING had arrived and was installed hotel wide. Yes, the Hotel Harrington was the very first hotel in Washington, D.C. to make air conditioning available to their guests, and summer visits were never more pleasant from that time forward.
At about this same time, the former, full service fine dining restaurant was also completely re-worked. In addition to lowering the ceiling and relocating the entrance off the lobby, the concept was changed to a cafeteria style dining. The new restaurant, named the Kitcheteria, opened in the fall of 1941 and was an immediate success. Everyday brought a new variety of fresh, always from scratch Kitcheteria specialties. Homestyle cooking was a part of every Kitchiteria meal. Huge sacks of potatoes were always on hand for the homemade mashed potatoes, and the baker arrived every morning at 4 AM to bake fresh biscuits, breads, pies, and other desserts from our own ovens.
During the 48 years the Kitcheteria operated, very few changes were made to the magic formula, and it is estimated that something exceeding 15,000,000 meals were served during the restaurant's memorable run.
Unfortunately, times and tastes changed over the years, and in 1991 the Kitcheteria closed as the daily volume of customers declined. Today, in its place, is a mixture of the old and the new. The new restaurant, Harriet's Family Cafe, offers an economical buffet for breakfast until 11:00 AM. Traditional table service follows with lunch from 11 AM to 4:30 PM, then dinner from 4:30 PM to 9 PM. Although food services stops at this time, the cafe remains open until 11:00 PM to allow hotel guests free access to the Internet connected computers.
In 1928 the hotel opened the Pink Elephant Cocktail Lounge. This popular gathering place became world famous during World War II, and continued in operation until 1986. Today it has been replaced by Harry's Pub which serves sandwiches and lighter fare for lunch and dinner and late into the night, along with a full selection of beers, wines, and mixed drinks. A pinball machine, two dart boards, and numerous televisions are operating all day long for everyone to enjoy.
On May 19, 1945, television history was made in Washington, D.C., and the Hotel Harrington was right there in the middle of where it all began. On that day, W3XWT, now known as WTTG-TV, Channel 5 (Fox Network), broadcast the very first television signal ever to the residents of our great city. The television studio, projectors, and transmitting equipment were all located on the upper floors of the Hotel Harrington, with the antenna mounted to the roof as the Harrington was the tallest commercial structure in the city at that time. One of our recent guests found and sent to us a video commemorating this significant event from our city's and hotel's history. Please click here to watch this amazing two minute video clip.
No hotel can operate without a captain of the ship, and in the hotel business that captain is called the General Manager. Those who occupy this top spot can sometimes be legends in their own right, and we may well have had some of our very own. In the 98 years the Hotel Harrington has been open for business, we have had a grand total of just FOUR General Managers; this may well be an industry record that will never be broken. The very first General Manager of the hotel was W. E. Fairfield, who opened the hotel in 1914 and kept things going through the great depression years until his retirement in 1934. Then came Augustus Gumbert, a veteran of the Spanish American War, with his memorable peg leg, the result of an injury received during the war while serving under the command of the famous and honored navel officer, Admiral George Dewey.
Mr. Gumpert ran the Harrington until 1948 when the position of General Manager was turned over to a long time and faithful employee of the hotel, Mr. Robert Bryce. Mr. Bryce had already been with the hotel for 15 some years by that time, running the successful restaurant operations while also assisting in other areas of management, when he took over as the General Manager of the hotel. Mr. Bryce continued in this role for 37 additional years, bringing his total number of years with the Hotel Harrington to 50 plus by the time of his retirement in 1985.
Upon Mr. Bryce's retirement in 1985, the controls were handed over to our very own Ms. Ann Terry who is the current General Manager and overseer of all good things our guests enjoy during their visit to our hotel. At 28 years and counting as the hotel's General Manager, Ms. Terry is now the longest serving of all the current hotel managers in the city of Washington, D.C.
We are always in search of more history of our fine hotel. If you, or someone you know, have been a part of the Hotel Harrington's wonderful past, we would love to hear from you. We are in the process of collecting memorabilia and historical information from the earliest days of the hotel, and we are planning to include selected samples in this section of our website. Photographs, stories, promotional items, whatever you might think would be of interest, might be of valuable interest to us. Any assistance you might be able to provide to us would be greatly appreciated.