News & Politics

A Crystal City Hotel Lights Up the Washington Skyline With Messages of Love and Hope

The DoubleTree has lit up empty rooms to form encouraging signs you can see from I-395.

Photograph courtesy the DoubleTree Crystal City.
Coronavirus 2020

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If you’ve driven the 14th Street Bridge from DC to Virginia over the past few weeks, you’ve seen it: a giant illuminated heart on a Crystal City building. The DoubleTree by Hilton in Crystal City began displaying the heart after its team members discussed the fact that the building’s north tower faces I-395, general manager Charles Hill tells Washingtonian. “Amongst all the things that are going on, this has been enjoyable,” he says.

Hill and Ken Kruger, the building’s director of property operations took a photograph of the hotel from outside and mapped the windows to rooms. Then, as Hill watched from across the street, Kruger pulled back the curtains in rooms until they were satisfied with the display. When the sun goes down, the lights go on. Hill drove over to the District and back to see how it would look like from the road. “You can see the heart almost in DC,” he says.

The pandemic has been brutal for the entire service industry, particularly the travel sector, “and we’re not exempt,” Hill says. Almost 80 percent of the US’s hotel rooms are empty, and like many other businesses, hotel workers have undergone massive layoffs. That north tower is empty, and the hotel is hosting its customers—many of whom are airline employees and essential workers—in the south tower. “We hope this all ends sooner than later,” Hill says. 

A police officer at the Pentagon has been among those who’ve sent thank-you messages for the displays, Hill says, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to switch up messages while the lockdown continues. Thursday night, the hotel broadcast a new message: “HOPE.”

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.