The Willard Hotel: 150 Years on the Inaugural Parade Route

8:11 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- For 150 years, the Willard Intercontinental Hotel has been the place to stay during a presidential inauguration. But it's not just its location on the parade route that makes it so legendary, it's the hotel's history of VIP guests on Inauguration Eve.

President Lincoln stayed there the night before his first inauguration, while other guests were packed in - sometimes ten to a room - to guarantee a front row seat to the Inaugural parade. Today, the Willard is far less crowded thanks to a major renovation. But its location still can't be beat on Inauguration Day.

"I have a front row seat," says Steve Blum, the Willard's Bell Captain.

This will be Steve Blum's seventh inauguration, and every four years his biggest challenge is getting the VIPs in and out on time.

"Sometimes they try to get here at the very last minute, at the same time they're bringing in the cement barriers to close off all the streets," said Blum. "I've been out front trying to bribe the fork lift operator, 'Give me five more minutes."

Bartender Jim Hewes has been working at the Willard's Round Robin Bar for 27 years, but his job might be the reason many of those VIPs are late. Before any inauguration, Hewes is in charge of concocting a collection of drinks designed to honor the incoming Commander in Chief.

"One of our featured cocktails this year is the Blue Hawaiian, to honor President Obama's Hawaiian heritage," said Hewes. "People really want to taste that excitement and the energy that's in the air. It's amazing when you bring that many people together for a common cause."

You can still get a room at the Willard for this year's Inauguration, but it will cost you. There's a four-night minimum, which amounts to about $4,600 for the weekend.

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