The Old Shoreham Hotel at 15th and H Streets NW

Built in 1887 by then-Vice President Levi P. Morton, the original Shoreham Hotel stood at 15th and H Streets NW and was designed by the New York firm of Hubert Pirsson and Company. It was named after Morton’s birthplace, Shoreham, Vermont. Morton had made his fortune in the department store business, and decided to build a hotel on this property as an investment. Expanded in 1890, it was a very fashionable and elegant hotel in turn-of-the-last-century Washington, especially with congressmen from New York and New England.



Much effort was spent to keep the hotel stylishly up-to-date, including a major renovation in 1902, which included a dining room with yellow and green paneled walls, onyx wainscoting, and an elaborately plastered and gilded ceiling. The hotel was completely remodeled once again in 1913 by Waddy B. Wood, in the then-popular neoclassical style. On the first floor, a heavy brick wall was dismantled, opening up an old hallway and two adjoining rooms to create a large new lobby graced with white pillars and painted a muted brown with golden accents. The main dining room adjoining it was "finished in French gray, with carpets and hangings of old rose," as recounted by The Washington Post. The renovation, completed in January, was ready in time for President-Elect Woodrow Wilson to stay there for his first inauguration in March. These years represented the pinnacle of the old Shoreham's prestige.

Postcard from the collection of Sally Berk.
The Grill Room, an informal restaurant, after the renovation.



Despite these efforts, the Shoreham remained an odd building of mixed architectural styles that undoubtedly kept making it seem out of date. By 1927, the hotel was bankrupt, and it was sold at auction to developer Harry Wardman. Originally a new neoclassical hotel was going to be built to replace it, but instead a modern office building, also called the Shoreham and designed by noted Washington architect Mihran Mesrobian, went up after the hotel was torn down in 1929. Shortly thereafter construction began on the current Omni Shoreham Hotel at Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street, NW, in Woodley Park.


The old Shoreham Hotel is the large tan building on the left in this postcard view of 15th Street seen from Vermont Avenue, N.W., around 1914. The white building behind it is the Southern Building, designed by Daniel Burnham and built in 1911, which still stands today, sporting an additional two floors added in 1987. On the right side, the First American Bank building with the large classical Corinthian columns, designed by Waddy Wood’s firm and constructed in 1906, also still stands, as does the twin-towered Woodward Building behind it, from 1911, which has just been recently renovated. Below is a current view from more-or-less the same location.

Comments

  1. I have an interesting old photograph of the Shoreham Hotel. Im not sure how old it is but you can see the Saint Matthews Church in the corner of the photo. Maybe you can tell me more about the time frame that Saint Matthews was there or if it is still there. Thanks

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  2. The Shoreham Hotel was on the northwest corner of 15th and H Streets NW. Saint Matthew's Catholic Church was on the northeast corner. The parish began work on a replacement for this building (the current St. Matthew's Cathedral on Rhode Island Avenue) in 1893, although it was not completed and dedicated until 1913. In the mean time, the old church was on the market for many years and finally sold in late 1909. That building was demolished in early 1910 to make way for the Southern Building, designed by Daniel Burnham, which still stands. A photo of the old church building as it was being demolished is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcplcommons/3422304780/in/photostream/

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  3. Isn't this the site of the Sofitel Hotel now?

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  4. This is indeed the site of the current Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square, which occupies the renovated Shoreham Office Building, constructed in 1929 by Harry Wardman and designed by Mihran Mesrobian (1889–1975).

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  5. "Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square" - how utterly clumsy, cluttered and inelegant that is. Shore Ham or Shoreum don't exactly invoke Gilded Age visions either, but it's easier on the ears than just SoppyTel by itself, let alone the rest of that unnecessarily longwinded crap. Sure would be nice to time-travel back a hundred years to see how it looked as described; sounds a visual architectural feast!

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  6. Trying to find out if my grandmother Edna Neeley was employed there in the late 1800's, dont know where to start looking. I'm sure they kept a roster of people employed there. She could have also been employed at the Cairo hotel or the Dupont Circle hotel. Can anyone "steer" me?

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    1. I would try the DC city archives....they may have a website or give them a call!

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  7. Don't know of an Edna Neeley but my grandfather, Carlton Collins Sr. was a manager at the old Shoreham Hotel back in its heyday and he and his family lived in the hotel.

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    1. I have found a document that I believe that I believe references a Mr Collins at that hotel back in 1917 I found it online. I would be glad to share it with you.

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  8. "Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square" will get an Upgrade ?

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  9. My dad worked in the (Omni) Shoreham Hotel in the 60s. The Blue Room and the Terrace featured some great performers such as The Supremes and Tony Bennett. Too bad we don't have elegant, small venues like that anymore.

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  10. I loved visiting the Shoreham Hotel in the 60's. I was a teenager at the time and loved sitting out by the colorful fountain. I would love to have a picture of that fountain. Does anyone happen to have one?

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  11. The Beatles stayed at the Shoreham when they came to DC for their first US live concert at the Washington Coliseum, February 11, 1964. They booked the entire 7th floor. Legend has it that one family refused to vacate their 7th floor room, so the hotel cut off their heat and water and told them there was a power outage and they had to move.

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