Hotel Harrington, DC’s oldest continuously operating hotel, is closing. The downtown budget hotel—which gained notoriety in recent years for its far-right clientele—will end its 109-year run on Dec. 12, as writer Steve Kiviat first reported.
Hotelier Harrington Mills and his business partner Charles McCutchen opened “Washington’s Tourist Hotel” in 1914 and expanded the original six-story property over the years to include two 12-story annexes. It became DC’s first air-conditioned hotel in 1938, according to the Washington Post, and was home to a popular nightlife destination called the Pink Elephant Cocktail Lounge in the years following Prohibition. The hotel also hosted city’s first TV station and transmission tower. (The Milt Grant Show, a teen rock-and-roll dance party program, aired live from the hotel in the 1950s.)
The property remained in the hands of the same family for its entire history. Longtime managing director Ann Terry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in 2020, she told Washingtonian that owner Charles McCutchen—a nuclear physicist and grandson of the co-founder—had recently died, and a succession plan was being sorted out.
The hotel was an unassuming destination for foreign travelers and school groups in recent years—until Donald Trump became president. The hotel’s dive-y drinking outpost, Harry’s Bar, soon became a go-to gathering place for the MAGA crowd. The watering hole was popular for its proximity to the Trump hotel (now a Waldorf Astoria), but with more affordable drinks. “For us, it’s more of an after-hours place. After the Trump closes, we’ll typically end up there if we’re going to have a late night. You’ll see familiar faces: other people who do Fox, some congressmen, but it’s not as common as at the Trump,” Republican political consultant and commentator Harlan Hill told Washingtonian in 2020.
Trump supporters packed Harry’s Bar during the “Million MAGA March” in November 2020, singing “God Bless the USA” and waving a big blue lives matter flag in the street out front. Almost none of them were wearing masks despite the city’s mask mandate at bars and restaurants at the time. A month prior, Trump himself had retweeted a video showing maskless supporters in the bar cheering and fist-bumping police. They city ultimately fined the bar $2,000 for its repeated Covid safety violations.
When the Proud Boys came to town in December 2020 to protest the election results, several hundred booked rooms at Hotel Harrington, making it their “unofficial headquarters,” the Washington Post reported. Clashes between the far-right group and anti-Trump protestors erupted near the hotel, resulting in four stabbings with serious injuries.
Harry’s Bar will close alongside Hotel Harrington, Fox 5 DC reports. The fate of the hotel’s other restaurant, Ollie’s Trolley, was not immediately known.
Managing director Ann Terry tried to distance the hotel from the political controversy swirling around it at the time. Asked about the impact of the Trump crowd on the hotel’s reputation in 2020, she said, “it’s not something we can control, really.”