Washington, D.C. Hotel History
Few hotels in the country can claim the significant moments, political adventures, sports heroes, entertainment firsts and milestones, debutante and inaugural balls, school proms, state society dances and weddings that have taken place over the years at Omni Shoreham Hotel.
The hotel was first conceived when Harry Bralove was walking the property between Woodley Road and 28th Street to begin construction on apartments. Fortunately, he had grander visions – a hotel that would combine temporary and residential living. He hired architect Joseph Abel to bring the vision to life with Renaissance and Art Deco architectural and decorative features. The state-of-the-art building featured fireproofing, running ice water, an indoor ice rink in the lounge and high-speed Westbrook elevators and cost $4 million.
For the Shoreham’s opening night on October 30, 1930, legendary bandleader and entertainer Rudy Vallee was scheduled to perform a sold-out event – Vallee’s appearance may have made this the social affair of the year. Unfortunately, due to weather and travel delays, Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees were only able to perform for 15 minutes.
Vallee’s abbreviated performance was the just the first of many major special events to take place at the hotel, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural ball. For the next 70 years, all inaugural balls were held at the Shoreham.
Entertainers flocked to the Shoreham, as well, especially to the famed Blue Room on the Terrace and the Marquee Lounge. These included Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Pearl Bailey, Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee. Abbe Lane, George Kirby, Clancy Bros and Tommy Makem, Gordon & Sheila MacRae, Bob Newhart, Phyllis Diller, Enzo Stuarti, Eartha Kitt, Edie Adams, Van Johnson, Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, Nelson Eddy & Gale Sherwood, Jerry Vale, Teresa Brewer, Petula Clark, Jose Molina Bailes Espanoles, Bill Cosby, the New Journeymen, Gretchen Wyler, Smothers Brothers, Milton Berle, Pat Suzuki, Paul Anka, the New Christy Minstrels, Tony Bennett, Pam Bricker, and Bob Hope.
Politicians have also been drawn to the hotel. Senator Stuart Symington (D-Mo.) was among the seven U.S. senators, 18 congressmen, and diplomats and their families who have resided at the Shoreham. President Harry Truman was a frequent guest, playing poker with Symington, Speaker of the House John McCormack (D-Ma.), and William “Fishbait” Miller, the doorkeeper of the House, throughout many a night in room 406D. Senator Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wa.) was another resident of the Shoreham and also played poker regularly with Truman.
The Shoreham has also played host to famous sports figures. In 1941, New York Yankees Manager Joe McCarthy and teammates of Joe DiMaggio surprised the Yankee Clipper with a party in room 609D in honor of the slugger’s 56-game hitting streak.
Shoreham Fun Facts:
- The Beatles stayed at the Shoreham during their first trip to the U.S. Their hand-written set list is printed on Shoreham stationery & displayed in the lobby.
- Our Ghost Suite, #870, is said to be haunted by two ghosts; former Executive Housekeeper & a young girl.
- “Hail to the Redskins!” – the fight song for the Washington Redskins – was written in the Blue Room and debuted on August 17, 1938.
- When Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his first presidential inaugural ball at the Shoreham, the hotel had a ramp and elevator installed to accommodate his needs.