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Friday, March 30, 2007

Thing 18: Historic Hotel Happy Hour

I love a good alliteration, don't you? Thing 18 was almost "Historic Henley Hotel Happy Hour", but then we also went to the Morrison Clark Inn. I will have to make do with a four H title.

This particular thing took me one week to complete, but that was due to poor planning and failure to read the fine print on Sarah’s coupons (or the back of her coupons, for that matter). Sarah had happy hour coupons for the Henley Park Hotel and the Morrison Clark Inn, both registered historic hotels that neither of us had been to. So last Wednesday we met at the Morrison Clark Inn, with two happy hour coupons from each hotel, determined to drink a little drink and learn a little history.

The Morrison Clark Inn used to be two homes, one owned by Mr. Morrison, and the other (surprise!) by Mr. Clark. In the 1920s, it became a boarding house for servicemen, with rooms costing 50 cents a night. Over the course of WWII, the inn housed over 45,000 men from the armed services. Now declared a historic site by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it is tucked away at L and 11th and open as a hotel and restaurant. There just isn't a bar. Which we found out when we tried to get a drink there at happy hour.

It turns out, had we read the fine print, that the Morrison Clark Inn only serves drinks on Thursdays, and we were there on Wednesday to cash in our coupons. Luckily, we also had two coupons for the Henley Park Hotel, just across the street, and we were assured that our other two coupons would work there, where they have a bar seven days a week.

The Henley Park Hotel, at 12th and Massachusetts, used to be an apartment building for DC's upper class. Back then it was called Tudor Hall, and the Massachusetts Avenue corridor was a very fashionable district for the moneyed and powerful to take up residence. The apartments were home to Senators, Congressmen and administration officials in the first half of the 20th century. Now a hotel, it has been restored with stained glass, gargoyles and luxurious rooms.

The bar at the Henley Park is dimly lit, opulent with indigo and gold patterned wallpaper. The silver metallic bar is accented by dripping, hanging lamps. A piano at one end of the room sat unplayed at our Wednesday happy hour, with a cheese platter laid out on top of it. Sarah and I took a seat at a corner table, and ordered two fancy martinis - she got a French martini, sweetened with pineapple juice, and I got a pomegranate martini. They tasted like juice, and we slugged them back a little too quickly considering they were actually cocktails. The clientele seemed to be mostly out of towners staying at the hotel. When we took a couple pictures they asked us where we were from. "Oh, we live just down the street," we answered to puzzled looks. It is the downside of being a tourist in your own city -- people think you're actually a tourist.

After slugging back our drinks, we pulled out our coupons, only to find out that martinis were not included (there's that fine print again) and that they were actually double sided, bearing drink coupons for both the Morrison Clark and the Henley Park. Our martinis were $12 -- we paid up and left, making plans to visit the Morrison Clark the next Thursday, now that we knew we actually had four tickets that we could use at the inn.

The next week, Sarah and I were back at the Morrison Clark. This time, a small bar was set up in a corner, and the bartender assured us that we could use our coupons for any drink, martinis included. With our cocktails in hand, Sarah and I retired to the historic, Chinese-inspired porch to enjoy our happy hour in the warm spring weather, with a view of the blooming front garden complete with blossoming cherry tree.

Before leaving, we peeked into the restaurant - a romantic room of pink and white, with colorful bouquets and chandeliers. Sarah and I didn't have meal tickets, sadly, but perhaps it merits going back for a little dinner sometime...