Just a few years after The Watergate opened its doors, the downtown Washington, D.C. hotel became enmeshed in an epic political scandal. But the Watergate isn’t the only hotel steeped in US presidential history. Since 1789 when George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States, leaders have been dining, deliberating, writing, and resting their heads in hotels across the country. Below, find seven iconic properties forever tied to American Presidents.
The Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.
The capital city’s Watergate Hotel became suddenly and forever synonymous with one of America’s most notorious political scandals in 1972 that involved President Richard Nixon and a break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Though it’s the most famous political tie, it’s not the Watergate’s only one. Nancy and Ronald Reagan visited the Watergate often, and the First Lady hosted a birthday bash for her husband inside the hotel’s famed French restaurant, Jean-Louis. Designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti and first opened in 1967, the Watergate reopened in 2016 after a swank renovation. Nowadays, the five-star property has a mid-century modern vibe (staff uniforms were designed by Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant), with an on-site spa, indoor pool, and a rooftop bar that overlooks the Potomac River. There's also a playful take on the notorious narrative with the Scandal Room – a re-imagining of room 214, which G. Gordon Liddy used as a command post the night of the infamous break-in of the DNC headquarters office.
The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, El Paso, Texas
Famed hotelier Conrad Hilton’s first high-rise, the Pueblo Revival art deco hotel opened in El Paso in 1930. But the building has origins dating back to the 1800s. Prior to Hilton’s takeover, it was the Sheldon Hotel, which was known at the time for being the most lavish hotel in the southwest. It was the unofficial headquarters for members of the Mexican Revolution, and the 27th president, William Howard Taft, was a guest at the hotel when he met with Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz on October 16, 1909. The property got another restoration this past June, maintaining its iconic art deco architecture but adding luxe modern amenities, such as rooms stocked with Matouk bathrobes and Nespresso coffee makers, and a 17th story rooftop bar with views of Mexico, New Mexico, and the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America, the elegant Mayflower Hotel may be the second most notorious hotel in the city, hosting several presidents in its 95-year history. On March 3, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression and on the night before his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote his inaugural address in the hotel’s room 776, which included one of the most memorable lines in political history: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FBI director J. Edgar Hoover dined in the Carvery Restaurant and Coffee Shop almost everyday for 20 years, (and placing the same order each time: cottage cheese, grapefruit, and iceberg lettuce, and allegedly brought his own salad dressing) while another notable patron, President Harry Truman called it “Washington’s Second Best Address.”
The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee
The beautiful, beaux arts-style Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville was built with Tennessee marble floors, Italian marble columns, and a painted glass skylight in the lobby that’s just as striking today as it was when it first opened in 1910. Throughout its 110-year history, the property has hosted Hollywood royalty, sports icons, and music legends (including Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, and Johnny Cash, among so many others), but it’s also been a particular favorite among politicians. Besides being a hub for local lawmakers and lobbyists (the Tennessee state Capitol is a block away), the stately hotel has welcomed Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and William Howard Taft, who gave a speech in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom in 1911 during a banquet held in his honor.
JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, Paradise Valley, Arizona
The 125-acre Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa resort in the Sonoran Desert has been a peaceful escape for high-profile visitors since it opened in the 1930s. President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara took advantage of the secluded sanctuary – with its 32,000-sq-ft spa, 36-hole golf course, and sprawling desert landscape – for frequent vacations, and before he became president, John F. Kennedy spent time at the resort while recuperating from his famous PT-109 boat accident during a clash with a Japanese vessel in 1943. And one almost-president: when he lost the election to incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, Arizona Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater gave his concession speech from his campaign headquarters at the Camelback Inn.
Hotel du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware
Built in the early 20th century and modeled after grand European hotels, the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware has hosted both President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. More recently, in August, former Vice President and current Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his new running mate from the hotel’s Gold Ballroom. (Biden, who represented Delaware in the US Senate for 36 years, lives in the nearby town of Greenville.)
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The century-old Italian Renaissance building has had a few facelifts over the years, but still features its original gilded ceilings, hand-carved woodwork, and marble floors. In September, the hotel’s old-school landmark restaurant, the Green Room, reopened as Le Cavalier, a contemporary French brasserie with its original hand-laid terrazzo floors.
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
President Benjamin Harrison became the first in-office president to visit San Diego – and the Hotel del Coronado – in 1891, when he arrived by cross-country train and met with dignitaries over breakfast at the hotel. He wasn’t the last, though. A long list of US Presidents and Veeps have stayed or visited the iconic beachfront property, including William H. Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Nixon also hosted a state dinner for Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz on September 3, 1970 in the hotel’s historic Crown Room – the first state dinner in history to be held outside the White House. (Frank Sinatra and John Wayne also attended.)