In Ruben Castaneda’s S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C., the Mayflower Hotel is only mentioned in one scene of the book. Castaneda states that a jury found Mayor Marion Barry “guilty of using cocaine at the Mayflower Hotel, in downtown Washington, with another woman, two months before the Vista episode”(83). This event is certainly not the first instance in which a major scandal has occurred at this cosmopolitan hotel yet this event is just one of many that makes the Mayflower Hotel significant. Currently, the Mayflower Hotel is a luxury Renaissance hotel that offers a contemporary stylish location to its customers. Located off of the Farragut North metro stop at 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW, the Mayflower Hotel is a five-minute walk to the United States Capitol (Cooper). The Mayflower Hotel’s close proximity to the metro station and the White House provides the hotel’s clientele and staff easy access to various work and immediate transportation. Starting from the hotel’s opening day in February 18, 1925, the hotel’s management has changed over several times from C.C. Mitchell up until the current ownership, Marriott (McClinsey 7).
The Mayflower Hotel prides itself on being known as “Washington’s Second Best Address [as the hotel has] hosts everyone from presidents to pop stars”(Cooper). Since the hotel has gained a reputation for hosting elegant events and upper-class people, it has also been tainted by the scandals that happen within. While these events have shaped the hotel’s public image around DC, other underground events are only recognized by the hotel staff.
Along Connecticut Avenue, which surrounds the Mayflower hotel, many high rise buildings with a modern designs hosts coffee shops, law firms, doctors’ offices, banking credit union firms, financial services firms, and an ABC News office. Located on one corner of the Mayflower hotel is “Edgar”, a high-end restaurant and “Pink”, a men’s boutique located on the opposite corner. On a busy weekday, during rush hour, hundreds of businessmen and businesswomen who leave work to go to the Farragut North metro, constantly pass by the Mayflower Hotel with limited knowledge of the history and events of the building they are passing. Many business people only view the front entrance, which contains gold detailing, a mid-gray entryway with beige embellishment on the bottom half of the building, and sandy brown brick on the top half of the building. As the four American flags soar above the entranceway, many business people who walk past the hotel fail to notice the “doormen and bellhops in white gloves and dark brown suits” who wait by the three gold plated front doors (Kershaw). The gold plated front doors provide a glimpse of the elegance and a wealthy environment that awaits the clientele that enter the hotel.
The interior structure of the hotel is made up of ten floors along with 581 elegant guestrooms. Many of these guestrooms hold an interesting piece of United States history (Bhattarai). For instance, President Franklin D. Roosevelt checked into the Mayflower hotel suite 776 and prepared for his famous “Nothing to Fear” inaugural address that would be presented the following day (Tom). Another famous area at the Mayflower hotel is the second floor, also known as the mezzanine level. On the mezzanine level, the Mayflower hotel displays its unique and eye-catching history and provides a breathtaking overlook of the lobby’s and second floor’s elegant architecture. Once a hotel guest reaches the mezzanine level, the red, blue, yellow, and green patterned rug, thick off-white marble pillars, and numerous “twenty-three karat gold leaf” surrounding the top of the marble pillars (Roberts 92). According to McClinsey, the mezzanine level of the Mayflower hotel was originally used “as an open seating area for hotel guests to relax” (113). Today, few hotel guests take advantage of the comfortable seating, unlike President Bill Clinton. The day after President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, he took part in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America host Joan Lunden on the couch located on the mezzanine level of the Mayflower Hotel (McClinsey 125).
Additionally, the Mayflower Hotel takes pleasure in its deeply rooted history and preserved artifacts. This pride can be seen on the mezzanine level through the exhibit that holds numerous pictures that were taken from past events that took place in the hotel, for instance, musicians famous or hired coming to the hotel to perform in 1925. Moreover, in the exhibit, several artifacts such as an old water pitcher, teacup, and golden plated dishes are displayed. Interestingly, in 1956 waiters at a dinner event in the Mayflower hotel used these golden plated dishes to serve Soviet Embassy guests. While on the mezzanine level, guests can stand atop the balcony to behold a magnificent overview of the elegantly designed lobby and long promenade.
Throughout the years, the lobby’s design has evolved. In previous years, the lobby contained a fancy area containing seating, carpeting, and a large fountain (McClinsey 125). After a hotel guest would walk past the lobby, a large hallway, known as the promenade, contained several chandeliers, artworks, and comfortable seating (McClinsey 35). Today, the seating and the carpet have been removed. The chandeliers still remains hanging and gold detailing, marble columns, new flooring, and a purple contemporary-style front desk have been added. While gazing at the elegant lobby and promenade, guests cannot help but reflect back into the past when all the prominently and elegantly dressed people all gathered and socialized throughout the hotel during President Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural ball in 1925 (McClinsey 35).
These milestone events that took place in the Mayflower Hotel, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s visit, President Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural ball, and President Bill Clinton’s first interview as president have set the Mayflower hotel apart from all other hotels and given the hotel a unique history. These historical events are not the only eye-opening aspects of the hotel. Scandals also present themselves in the Mayflower hotel’s history. In 1989, former Washington, DC mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. was suspected of consuming cocaine while staying in one of the Mayflower hotel rooms (Kershaw). Fast forward nineteen years later, the former New York governor, Eliot Spitzer stayed in room 871 where he paid a prostitute one thousand dollars an hour for her services at the hotel (Paschall). Ironically, just a few doors down from Spitzer’s room, in room 860, Monica Lewinsky was a guest at the Mayflower hotel. Similar to Bill Clinton, Lewinsky was also interviewed in a Mayflower hotel suite (Kershaw). Monica Lewinsky was also caught and photographed hugging President Bill Clinton during one of his campaign events in 1996 that took place in the Mayflower Hotel (Tom). These famous scandals have brought about a new conversation surrounding the hotel and its reputation. As a result, the hotel is not only known and remembered for its monumental events and guests but also know and remembered for the various crimes committed within the hotel.
This trend of scandals, primarily prostitution, had been infamously exposed, such as the Eliot Spitzer case, but many other smaller cases occur at the Mayflower hotel and remain unknown to the public. Behind the famous interior and exterior elegance of the Mayflower Hotel, the hotel’s primary customers fail to see the “business” that occurs in the hotel. This “business,” prostitution, has remained under wraps to everyone but the hotel staff. As a result, Kershaw mentions that all of the well-dressed hotel staff “have come to recognize the subtle signs: [an] attractive wom[a]n who carr[ies] no luggage, dresse[s] tastefully but, in stilettos and lacy camisoles, seeming a touch to sensual to meet a chubby Commerce Committee lobbyist for cocktails.” Interestingly, this frequent illicit act not only takes place at such an elegant hotel but the staff of the hotel also has full knowledge that prostitution happens at the Mayflower hotel. In fact, Kershaw argues that not only is the hotel staff fully aware of the prostitution that occurs in the hotel, but also the numerous Mayflower hotel staffs “suggest that Mayflower and her $400-a-night peers downtown take a passive don’t -ask-don’t- tell policy toward the more elite prostitution outfits.” This type of don’t -ask-don’t tell policy provides an accepting and safe space for this type of behavior to occur. Prominent guests at the Mayflower hotel feel secure in relying “on the discretion of the high-end hoteliers…no one would blow the whistle on a Kennedy or a senator” (Kershaw).
On one occasion, a woman left the hotel and a hotel staff member turned to another hotel staff member and “asked: ‘What does that woman do?’ [and he was] told [that] she worked at the Mayflower”(Kershaw). Immediately after the conversation ended, the hotel staff member completely understood the meaning behind that remark that “she worked at the Mayflower.” For those who study the history of the Mayflower hotel in-depth such as Diana L. Bailey, found “tragedy in such notoriety” (Kershaw). Bailey says that “it would break [her] heart…to see the hotel tarnished by this” (Kershaw). If knowledge of this ‘business’ spreads to beyond the staff and to the outside world, the reputation of the hotel could be negatively impacted.
Kershaw references, Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, who describes the Mayflower hotel as a “gentlemen’s hotel”. The reasoning behind this phrase is apparent from the moment one visits the Mayflower hotel’s website. Displayed on the Mayflower hotel’s website’s homepage, a young fit woman with piercing blue eyes dressed in business casual attire, being ogled by a young man dressed in a business suit as he leans casually against the banister placed at the mezzanine level of the hotel. From this homepage picture, the Mayflower hotel appears to be a “gentlemen’s hotel” indeed.
Furthermore, the homepage speaks to another type of demographic: upper and middle-class business people. The entire homepage of the Mayflower Hotel, starting from the font of the text to the well-organized menu on the side of the high-quality picture provides the whole website with an organized and elegant feel. Immediately, from the offerings and amenities being presented on the homepage, the Mayflower Hotel’s website designers carefully considered the hotel’s primary location and their primary audience: politically active, business-oriented, well-paid businessmen and women from the nation’s capitol and possibly throughout the world. After a glance at the different actives that surround the hotel, the hotel’s website then begins to promote its different selections of rooms. The Mayflower hotel’s management strives to enhance the hotel’s guestrooms in order to be able to better cater to their current clientele that are known as the “generation of travelers”(Bhattarai). The Mayflower Hotel’s most recent customers no longer prefer “to work at a desk anymore”(Bhattarai). In order to satisfy the customer, Marriott has begun to design “each room [to] have chaise couches with tables, where a [guest] can sit down with [their] laptop. There will [also] be more outlets, more USB ports by the nightstands, [and] additional lighting”(Bhattarai). Furthermore, the hotel’s website also advertises various amenities that the hotel has to offer, such as meeting rooms. These rooms are essential to the hotel’s primary customers because thousands of company events, gatherings, and seminars take place in the Mayflower hotel’s meeting rooms, such as the J.P. Morgan’s Inventory Seminar.
The Mayflower Hotel’s former owners believed that the Mayflower Hotel “must continue to be a significant asset to the city” (McClinsey 109). The Mayflower Hotel holds a deep significant asset to Washington DC by creating an exhibit than can map out significant events, whether good or bad. In addition, the Mayflower Hotel provides different groups of people different kinds of resources. The Mayflower Hotel contains two different types of businesses: business people and prostitutes are both linked by the hotel staff. One type of business, the business people, can clearly be seen from the exterior of the building and the second type of business, prostitution, is not as transparent to outsiders but it very apparent to the hotel staff. Both businesses, ultimately seeking profit, unknowingly coexisting under the same roof. However, the third type of business has full knowledge of both business operations.
Bhattarai, Abha. “Mayflower Hotel to Undergo $20M Guest Room Renovation (Posted 2014-08-24 20:27:43).” The Washington Post, Aug 24 2014,ProQuest Central, http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1555605274?accountid=8285.
Castaneda, Ruben. S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C. New York, Bloomsbury USA, 2014.
Cooper, Rebecca. “Even with History in Its Halls, Mayflower Goes Modern with Its Rooms.” Washington Business Journal , 12 Aug. 2015, www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/top-shelf/2015/08/even-with-history-in-its-halls-mayflower-goes.html.
McClinsey, Keith. Washington D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel. Charleston, SC, Arcadia Pub., 2007.
Roberts, Robin. “The President’s Hotel.” Saturday Evening Post 258.1 (1986): 92-93. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.