At this time of year, Virginia sweetspires greet you at 17th and ‘N’ Street near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. The Tabard Inn is located on that block. It is named for the Tabard Inn of Chaucerian fame in Southwark in London.
I love The Tabard Inn for its antique comforts and for its reasonable room rates which have allowed me to visit Washington, DC and its trove of art on and off going on 30 years.
Operating since 1922 in one building later extended to the two adjoining, The Tabard Inn is thought to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in the city and is housed in 3 adjoining formerly private residences built – I think – in the third quarter of the 19th century. These are magnificent houses and deep.
The interior of these three houses are interconnected in a warren of 40 bedrooms, dining and sitting and banquet rooms. Some bedrooms have shared and some private baths.
Bought in the early 1970’s by Fritzi and the late Edward Cohen, zoning battles were fought by the two and their neighbours against creeping ‘redevelopment’ and the hotel survived. The hotel’s infrastructure has been updated bit by bit over the years: during my early visits, the shower water might suddenly run cold and, guilty as it made me feel, I would open a window in winter in order to reduce the heat from the old radiators. No more.
The hotel has served organic and sustainable food for some years and is famous for its kitchen and its Sunday brunch; and, for me, its crème brulee, different every evening.
Famous also is the hotel’s remarkable ambience: friendly staff who remember you for years and eclectic vintage furnishings. The whole operates on the principle that the human eye is always seeking colour and pattern. Because of the depth of these houses, some public rooms have limited or no natural light: useful for weary travelers; very inviting in winter when a fire is lit. Encouraging also for conversation.
A courtyard of brick, now roofed.
Vintage furnishings; vintage and comfortable beds. Quiet. Very quiet because there are no televisions or radios in any room. Many, many lamps. Often unmatched curtains.
A banquet hall of lime green and pale pink, neither too big nor too small.
Walls whose colours are unafraid. And so many paintings; posters; stained milk glass work; prints; tilework; murals. Some bought, some gifted and some commissioned.
And a devotion to the relaxation of women, particularly in baths……
Of men also, of course.