News & Politics

RIP Trump International, DC’s Wildest Hotel

Dead birds, spoons of wine, and other highlights from its short life.

The hotel formerly known as Trump. photograph by Evy Mages

The Trump International Hotel Washington DC, age six years, attempted to fade away quietly on the night of May 11, 2022 (sadly for the Trump family, there’s no way Twitter was going to let that happen). Its passing was proceeded by years of complications and a final, lethal $375 million sale to a Miami investor group, who will reincarnate the hotel as a Waldorf-Astoria. Its sign came down last night.

The DC Trump hotel was born on October 26, 2016. It was a difficult birth—roughly 6,985,427 hours of labor and the premature loss of partner-chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian (blame family patriarch Donald Trump, who called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and was elected President). But the hotel was a fighter from the start—multi-million lawsuits against the chefs were eventually settled—and its fraught beginnings would set the tone for a truly wild lifespan at the historic Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. 

Trump International DC is survived by sibling properties in Chicago, New York City, and Las Vegas, as well as a cousin, Trump Winery in Virginia. The hotel joins a growing number of Trump family ventures in the Great Beyond, including Trump Airlines, Trump casinos, Trump magazine, Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump University, and the Trump presidency.

No obituary is complete without a few lifetime highlights. Here are some of our fondest, weirdest memories.

Born with a golden spoon (of wine)

A flight of wine spoons at the Trump hotel. Photograph by Daniel Swartz.

The gilt-and-velvet hotel attempted to establish itself as a high-end tastemaker. Its crown-jewel restaurant, David Burke’s BLT Prime, traded in pricey salt-aged steaks and miniature, Game of Thrones-ian racks of hanging bacon (it was the only restaurant President Trump visited during his DC tenure). Its swanky Benjamin Bar served $140 spoons of wine. Also: a $169 cocktail—the most expensive in DC at the time, though the Hungarian wine-based cobbler didn’t actually contain any liquor (Trump: pioneer of the low-ABV trend?). And let’s not forget “Cheese Night,” a buffet extravaganza that not even the Coronavirus could kill.

That said, not every foray into luxe living was a success. Let’s not forget the time a guest sued the hotel after a flying shard of glass from a Champagne sabering ceremony resulted in a trip to the hospital (and $350,000 of damages).

A friend to animals

“America’s Living Room” welcomed all nature of beasts. Dogs. Ill-fated birds that got stuck in the walls. The MyPillow guy.

A model brother figure 

Trump supporters crowd Harry's Bar on Nov. 13. Photograph by Evy Mages.
Trump supporters crowd Harry’s Bar on Nov. 13. Photograph by Evy Mages

The hotel became known as a sumptuous  swamp where Trump loyalists like Stephen Miller and Rudy Giuliani could mingle with lobbyists and visiting diplomats hoping to curry favor with the administration. But what about the younger, scrappier MAGA crowd whose scene was more Fireball than fine spoon-wine? Well, instead of shelling out for the Benjamin Bar’s cheapest cocktail ($24), they took over the dive-y, 78 year-old Harry’s Bar at the nearby Hotel Harrington. It was a perfect fit, like a Trump meet-cute: a bunch of white people with no regard for Covid safety and an apparent fondness for the Jim Crow Era meet a bar run by a bunch of white people with no regard for Covid safety that’s from the Jim Crow Era! Don’t worry, only four people were stabbed.

A lifelong friend

You know what they say: if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Or, if you’re a hotel, a wildly loyal manager. For Trump International DC, that ride-or-die was Mickael Damelincourt—a man whose lobby swagger bested the concierge in Home Alone 2 and whose allegiance proved stronger than a January 6 “protestor.” When the hotel needed a little pick-me-up, Damelincourt was there with the hashtags (#success #neversettle) and awkward TikToks. When the property’s closing was imminent, he provided reassurances of longevity (#success #neversettle). And, most important, he was there through the bitter end.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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