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The Story of The Hay-Adams

Centered in Downtown Washington, DC, The Hay-Adams is one of the city's most famous landmarks and most iconic luxury hotels. Named for the distinguished residents, John Hay and Henry Adams, our historic hotel is now a popular destination among visitors and Washingtonians.

John Hay served as a personal secretary to President Abraham Lincoln, and later as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, as well as Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Henry Adams was a historian and Harvard professor, and the descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

In 1884, the architect Henry Hobson Richardson designed elaborate, Romanesque homes at the corner of 16th and H Streets for Hay and Adams. The site soon became a bustling scene of intellectual activity. Together with their wives, Clara Hay and Marian Adams, as well as noted geologist Clarence King, Hay and Adams formed a close friendship. The group dubbed themselves "Five of Hearts," and even had custom china and a letterhead made to feature the moniker. For years, the homes served as one of Washington's leading salons, alive with stimulating discussions about literature, art, science, and politics. Famous guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Henry James, and the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens stopped in from near and far.

Hay died in 1905 and, after Clara died in 1914, ownership of the home was passed to their daughter Alice Wadsworth and her husband, Senator James Wadsworth. After Adams died in 1918, the Wadsworths purchased the property and leased it to the Brazilian Embassy.

In 1927, Washington, DC, developer Harry Wardman bought and razed both homes, replacing them with the Hay-Adams House, an Italian Renaissance-style, 138-room apartment-hotel design by the architect Mihran Mesrobian. Opened in 1928, the $900,000 structure featured impressive architectural embellishments such as Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, walnut wainscoting, and intricate ceiling treatments featuring Elizabethan and Tudor motifs. Wood paneling from the Hay residence was repurposed in the public space now known as the Hay-Adams Room. Many historic details have been carefully preserved to this day.

The property quickly became one of the most popular Washington DC hotels near the White House, and guests loved the easy access to Lafayette Square and St. John's Church. The hotel played host to prominent out-of-towners and Washington's elite, including Ethel Barrymore, Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis, and Charles Lindbergh. They enjoyed the setting and views, as well as the large suites, kitchens, steam heat, elevators, circulating ice water and, in 1930, Washington, DC's first air-conditioned dining room.

In October 2001, the hotel closed its doors for a major $20 million renovation under the eye of acclaimed Washington, DC, designer Thomas Pheasant. In March 2002, The Hay-Adams re-emerged fully restored as one of the region’s most refined luxury hotels.

Additional renovations occurred in June 2010, including elevator improvements and rooftop enhancements, culminating in the development of the stunning Top of The Hay, a roof terrace with panoramic views, in January 2011.

Upholding the reputation for excellence that The Hay-Adams has built over the years, we continue to celebrate and provide the classic hospitality introduced by our historic hotel's namesakes. Privately owned and managed, and operated by our dedicated staff, The Hay-Adams exemplifies heritage, elegance, and comfort at the heart of the Nation’s Capital.