Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC

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Discover the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC, which has hosted every presidential ball from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington D.C., a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2005, dates back to 1930.

The Omni Shoreham Hotel was the brainchild of Harry M. Bralove, a local real estate developer who originally wanted to construct a lavish apartment complex in Washington, D.C. Bralove instead decided to construct a luxurious hotel, which would effectively serve as the city’s main “Grand Dame.” His construction company broke ground in the upscale Woodley Park neighborhood in 1929. The respected architect Joseph Abel led the design team, using a brilliant combination of Renaissance Revival and Art Deco aesthetics into its appearance. Abel also oversaw the installation of many cutting-edge amenities that included fireproof walls, running ice water, and high-speed Westbrook elevators. It took Bralove more than a year and $4 million to complete. When his wonderful hotel was finally ready to debut, it stood as one of the finest destinations in throughout the entire District of Columbia.

Bralove formally inaugurated the hotel on October 30, 1930, with a magnificent party attended by close to 5,000 people. The celebration was supposed to be attended by the celebrated bandleader Rudy Vallee, but a violent storm the night before prevented he and his orchestra from arriving on time. Despite this inauspicious start, the Omni Shoreham Hotel would go on to host many more of the nation’s most famous entertainers. Countless stars have held many shows at the hotel over the years, including Aretha Franklin, Eartha Kitt, Bob Hope, George Kirby, Phyllis Diller, and the Smothers Brothers. Denny Doherty even performed for the first time alongside John and Michelle Phillips as members of The New Journeymen at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in 1964. These three individuals would then form the band The Mamas & The Papas with Cass Elliot shortly thereafter. Most of these acts occurred frequently inside the hotel’s legendary Blue Room, where sightings of celebrities still happen to this very day.

But the Omni Shoreham Hotel hosted more than just Hollywood’s finest—it quickly became an established haunt for some of the nation’s most prolific politicians. In total, the hotel has hosted seven U.S. senators, 18 congressmen, and more than a dozen U.S. Presidents throughout its history. President Harry S. Truman was considered something of a regular at the hotel, as he was seen playing poker regularly in Room 406D with Speaker of the House John McCormack, Senator Warren G. Magnuson, Representative William “Fishbait” Miller, and Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington. President John F. Kennedy was also another common guest, who often sipped on cocktails in the Blue Room with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. The Omni Shoreham Hotel even became the sight of 12 different inaugural balls, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s in 1933.

The hotel eventually joined Omni Hotels and Resorts in 1983, following its acquisition by the Dunfey Hotel Corporation some four years prior. Rebranded as the “Omni Shoreham Hotel,” it has continued to be one of the most prestigious holiday destinations in Washington, D.C. The Omni Shoreham Hotel has received numerous accolades for its unrivaled hospitality, including a coveted Four Diamond rating by the American Automobile Association. The Omni Shoreham Hotel has also been one of the leading members of Historic Hotels of America since it first partnered with the organization back in 2007. As such, this magnificent historic hotel is among the best places to stay in order to experience the amazing heritage of the nation’s capital.

  • About the Location +

    The Omni Shoreham Hotel—a member of Historic Hotels of America—resides in the heart of Woodley Park, a neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. This upscale area of the nation’s capital is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, due to the wealth of historic townhouses and apartment buildings that still call it home. Many of the well-known architects in Washington around the turn of the 20th century worked in Woodley Park, using a variety of Neoclassical architecture to influence their work. Talented individuals like Clarke Waggaman, Albert H. Beers, and A.H. Sonnemann all left their mark on the neighborhood. Most of the buildings that emerged in the area around this time specifically reflected English design aesthetics, although a few other architectural styles—such as Romanesque and Baroque—managed to survive through the present. Woodley Park itself is named for the Woodley House, which Philip Barton Key constructed in 1801. The uncle of Francis Scott Key, he served as both a federal circuit judge and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Many other prominent American politicians would later live at the Woodley House, such as Secretary of War Henry Stimson and President Grover Cleveland. Today, is operates as both a library and an administrative building for the Maret School.

    This magnificent historic resort hotel also overlooks the magnificent Rock Creek Park, located just a few miles to the north of Woodley Park. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rock Creek Park was originally established by an Act of Congress in 1890. It bears the distinction of being one of the country’s first national parks, with only Yellowstone National Park and Mackinac National Park surpassing it in age. Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., and his adopted son, John Charles Olmstead, designed the layout of the park’s original 2,000 acres of land, which they began doing in 1897. Efforts to create Rock Creek Park were spearheaded by Charles Carroll Glover, a local philanthropist who worked as the President of Riggs Bank. Glover and his fellow conservationists ascribed to the tenants of the “City Beautiful Movement,” which was a reform philosophy that sought to make America’s urban communities more harmonious. They hoped that by constructing ornate municipal buildings and lush open parks, the residents of every major American city would develop a stronger sense of moral and civic virtue. As such, Glover and his colleagues helped found many spectacular public destinations across Washington throughout the 1890s and 1900s. Glover specifically decided to found Rock Creek Park following the debut of the National Zoological Park in 1889.


  • About the Architecture +

    The idea for the Omni Shoreham Hotel came from the genius of Harry M. Bralove, a real estate developer in Washington, D.C. right around the time of The Great Depression. He had specifically conceived of creating the marvelous structure while out for a walk in Rock Creek Park. Originally looking for a place to construct a series of upmarket apartments, Bralove soon believed that a luxurious hotel would financially serve him better in the long run. Using his own construction company, he set about building the hotel upon land he acquired along Connecticut Avenue. It would eventually cost Bralove more than $4 million dollars to complete. Noted architect Joseph Abel was tasked with overseeing its entire design. He used a brilliant combination of Renaissance Revival and Art Deco architecture to create the hotel’s stunning appearance. Abel also outfitted the Omni Shoreham Hotel with a variety of then cutting-edge amenities, including fireproof walls, running ice water, and high-speed Westbrook elevators. There was even an indoor ice rink by the time Bralove and Abel were done with the project. Interestingly, the Omni Shoreham Hotel also shared its basement with a furniture factory operated by C.V. Harlan, a master wood carver who was responsible for much of the original handmade furnishings featured in the hotel's interiors.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    Inaugural Presidential Ball of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933): Held of March 4, 1933, the inaugural ball capped off a monumental day in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States. He had run a tense political contest against presidential incumbent Herbert Hoover the previous year, in which the two pitched to the nation their respective strategies on how to combat the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s New Deal—a proposed plan centered on government-driven economic recovery—won over the hearts and minds of many Americans. The uplifting attitude that Roosevelt projected only further reinforced voters’ confidence in him, as he gave hope to the otherwise grim tone set by Hoover during the race. As Roosevelt gave his inaugural address from the East Portico at the U.S. Capitol Building, he famously proclaimed: “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt would then go on to have one of the most historic presidencies in the nation’s history. Occupying the White House for an unsurpassed four-terms, his time in the Oval Office reshaped American politics for the next fifty years. When he first assumed office, the nation at the time was in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis. The national unemployment rate sat stubbornly at 25% while some 5,000 banks had closed across the country. Coinciding with the decline in industry was a massive agricultural calamity called the Dust Bowl, in which hundreds of farms shuttered their doors as a result of drought and erosion. Roosevelt’s administration quickly jumped into action, signing into law an unprecedented number of federal bills that provided economic relief and reform. He also governed several federal agencies that aimed at putting people back to work, as well as enhancing the overall quality of life. Some of these organizations included the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Roosevelt later expanded his efforts during his second term with such iconic institutions as the Social Security Act and the Works Progress Administration.

    The latter two terms of Roosevelt’s presidency became increasingly more focused on international affairs as fascist dictators brought about a second World War. The United States under Roosevelt became a neutral ally of nation’s like China, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, as they fought against the Axis Powers. Perhaps the most famous of his initiatives was Lend-Lease, which loaned supplies and weaponry to the Allies throughout much of the war. He eventually emerged as one of the most prominent Allied leaders following the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, presiding over the global effort to beat Germany, Italy and Japan alongside Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. Roosevelt contributed significantly to the shape of the postwar world, as his opinion carried considerable weight at the Tehran and Yalta conferences. Despite his ailing health toward the end of the war, Roosevelt remained an iconic symbol of perseverance to countless Americans. Thousands across the nation mourned when they learned that he had died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945. Historian have since characterized Roosevelt as one of the nation’s three best presidents alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

    Demonstration of the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (1942): As evening fell over the nation’s capital on November 18, 1942, a group of several men met at the Omni Shoreham Hotel’s indoor pool. These men had not arrived as part of some club or fraternity—instead, they were military officers, several of which were members of America’s secretive Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency). They had gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel to test a novel underwater breathing device known as the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit. Designated as the LARU system, the contraption was created by an inventive medical student called Christian Lambertsen. Lambertsen’s invention consisted of a closed-circuit rebreathing device that would enable its user to conceal their exhalations while submerged. Many within the United States government had been excited at the prospect of the LARU system, for it would aid the Allies in blunting the clandestine operations of the Axis powers.

    The first person to test the LARU system was Jack Taylor, a renowned Hollywood dentist who was later recruited by the Office of Strategic Services following his enlistment into the United States Navy. Taylor donned the strange contraption, carefully hooking its hoses and buckles firmly in place. He slowly dipped his toes into the hotel’s pool and disappeared into the pool below. The other attendees watched with batted breath for any sign that the machine had malfunctioned. Yet, the experiment proved to be a massive success. Taylor swam one lap after the other with the LARU system providing him with an untraceable source of oxygen. As such, the Allies gained the capability for forming an elite commando unit that could function on land, sea, and air. The LARU system eventually evolved into the more sophisticated Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, otherwise referred to as the SCUBA system. SCUBA became a central component to the U.S. Navy SEALs, which first formed on New Years’ Day in 1962. One of America’s most renowned special operations units, the Navy SEALs would not exist today had it not been for the unique Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Judy Garland, renowned actress and singer known for her roles in A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Wizard of Oz.

    John Lennon, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band, The Beatles.

    Paul McCartney, lead vocalist and bassist for the legendary rock band, The Beatles.

    George Harrison, vocalist and lead guitarist for the legendary rock band, The Beatles.

    Ringo Starr, drummer for legendary rock band, The Beatles.

    Aretha Franklin, renowned singer and songwriter hailed as “The Queen of Soul.”

    Bob Hope, famed comedian and patron of the United Service Organization (USO).

    Phyllis Diller, legendary comedian whose career spanned some five decades.

    Bob Newhart, renowned actor known for his roles on The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart.

    Eartha Kitt, celebrated singer and actress known for such songs as “C’est si bon” and “Santa Baby.”

    Van Johnson, renowned actor known for his roles in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and A Guy Named Joe.

    Petula Clark, celebrated British singer known for such singles as “Downtown,” “My Love,” and “I Know a Place.”

    Milton Berle, famous comedian known most prominently as the host of Texaco Star Theatre.

    Joe DiMaggio, celebrated baseball player known as “The Yankee Clipper.”

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States (1963 – 1969)

    Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (1969 – 1974)

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977)

    Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1977 – 1981)

    Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989)

    George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989 – 1993)

    Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States (1933 – 2001)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    No Way Out (1987)

    Shattered Glass (2003)


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