|On the road from New York to Florida in
early February, our thoughts went back to the many times
we’d made the trip from our home (in Long Island back then)
to the southeast bottom of the nation, and how, as
began to fall along I-95, our kids would be looking out the
windows, longing for a glimpse of the silver star atop a
tower lit by blue neon, and against a green backdrop, the
words: “Holiday Inn.” It felt like coming home.
Maybe even better. After a day-long drive,
they (and we as well) could look forward to a streamlined,
modern room with big comfortable beds and a sparkling
bathroom, a restful night’s sleep and a good breakfast the
next morning before hitting the road again. Named after the
1942 movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, Holiday
Inn was our standard stopover and true to its name: “The
And now, after all these years, we are heading
south once again and spending a couple of nights at a Holiday Inn.
Only this time our destination is not off I-95, but in the heart of
the nation’s capitol, six blocks north of the White House. And
instead of a low- rise motel, we’ll be stay in swanky 212 room,
10-story hotel of cream-colored stone with green window treatments
that stretches along Rhode Island Avenue and down 15th Street. “It’s
Not Your Ordinary Hotel” is the property’s slogan, and it lives up
to the promise.
David Kusnetz, Senior Sales Manager, and Don
Evans, Director of Sales and Marketing, introduced themselves as we
were checking in and then escorted us through a spacious lobby
marked by rich paneled walls and gleaming marble floors into a
lounge where free-standing plush sofas upholstered in a fabric of
plum-purple-blue vertical stripes curved around the room forming
intimate conversation areas. The crowd was animated, varied,
international. On the other side of the lobby, barstools at the
Avenue Café Bar and Lounge were filled.
It was just a few weeks after the Inauguration and
the spell of that special time still lingered. “We did a lot of
renovation of the property in time for the Inauguration,” David told
us. “The lobby and restaurant were redone in time for that key
event. The guest rooms were refreshed with new décor and features
like a built-in safe big enough to accommodate a laptop.”
Sales Manager David Kusnetz
of Sales and Marketing Don Evans
with a safe big enough to store a laptop
free at the Holiday Inn, not only in the business center and
conference rooms but throughout the hotel,” David added. “Guests
keep telling us how pleased they are with that feature.”
We try to think out of the box,” Don noted. “For
example, we have a free laundry setup on the first floor: two
washers and dryers, open to all registered hotel guests. All they
need to enter is their hotel key.
“And we have an electric vehicle charging station.
Enterprise, the auto rental company, has an outlet nearby, and for
the past six months they’ve been leasing electric cars which can be
charged at our station, complimentary for guests, and at a very
reasonable charge for others. It’s part of the government’s green
initiative. There are a lot of green initiatives, but this is
A grouping of First Ladies. Can you tell who is who?
|So is the hotel’s rooftop
swimming pool open during the summer and a workout facility
where information appears in seven languages. Clearly,
attention is paid to the international clientele. At the
same time, there’s no mistaking of the hotel’s locale; a
variety of artifacts and themes reflect its Washington
setting. Most memorable and meaningful to us was the
permanent exhibit of photographs of First Ladies that
decorate the walls of the hotel dining room, going as far
back in time to when Mrs. William Howard Taft lived in the
A bright open space of
contemporary design with a huge buffet station in the
center, the Avenue Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner,
each with an extensive list of dining options. Food and
beverage director Marshall Wickramaratne runs a busy and
complex kitchen that handles not only restaurant dining but
an extensive catering operation for the regularly held
banquets and events that can accommodate as many as 200
people. Although Marshall is from Sri Lanka (the former
Ceylon), his culinary knowledge knows no borders, ranging
from dishes inspired by the flavors of his Far Eastern
childhood home to foods of the Mediterranean, the United
States, and beyond.
Holiday Inn has been part of the Intercontinental
brand for many years, and this one had the feel of a global village.
But Don and David, who are visible and active presences at the
hotel, are natives of Queens and veterans of New York City’s
hospitality scene. Still they seem very much at home in the
Washington, D.C. environs and in particular at the Holiday Inn. In
some ways, they remind us of the “nation’s innkeepers” we met during
our trips down to Florida years ago — engaged, warm and welcoming.
At the forefront of a sophisticated, glamorous and
very 21st century property, they seemed to us the embodiment of a
tradition of decades-old hospitality passed on to a new generation
of hoteliers. For us, spending a couple of days at this Holiday Inn
of the present evoked pleasant memories of many a stay at the
Holiday Inns of the past.
Central Washington D.C.
1501 Rhode Island Avenue, N. W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Photographs by Harvey Frommer