The Old Hay-Adams House

The corner of 16th and H St. NW wasn’t always dominated by the Hay-Adams hotel. Prior to the hotel being built in 1928, two large and beautiful Victorian homes sat on this corner, occupied by the Hay family and the Adams family (no, not that one). John Hay was the former personal secretary to President Lincoln and Henry Adams was an accomplished author. The photo below from the Library of Congress shows both homes on the northwest corner of the intersection. It’s a shame these homes had to be razed, but the hotel built by prominent Washington developer Harry Wardman isn’t a site for sore eyes. Some prominent guests have stayed there since the early days including Amelia Earhart, Ethel Barrymore, Charles Lindbergh, Sinclair Lewis and the current president, Barack Obama and family, before his inauguration in 2009.

There’s also a great, quiet bar in the basement called Off the Record. That place has some serious history to it. You should check it out.

Hay-Adams residence circa 1890
Hay-Adams residence circa 1890

I’m not sure if those are railroad tracks or trolley tracks running along H St.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Anon20009

    It’s a little off -base to say “the Adams family (no, not that one)”. As your link indicates, although Henry Adams was not either of the presidents, he was the grandson and great-grandson of the presidents, and in his own right, a very prominent member of the famous Adams family.

  • I should have specified the reference to the Addams family (2 d’s), Morticia and Cousin Itt.

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  • Jim McLaughlin

    John Hay and Henry Adams were the closest of friends from the time the met in Washington during the Civil War until death parted them. Their homes were built at the same time and purposely next to each other. Their wives were also good friends. Henry Adams wife, sadly, suffered from depression and committed suicide not long after they moved into their new home. John Hay deserves more recognition than just as Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary. He was amassador to England and served as Secretary of State under two presidents, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Here is a link to his bio:
    http://www.biography.com/people/john-hay-21010737