Built in 1846, it has hosted every president since Franklin Pierce. Some of the historic incidents include:
- February 4 - 27, 1861 Peace Congress - a lost attempt by delegates from 21 of the 34 states to avert the Civil War.
- February 23, 1861 following many assassinations threats, detective Allan Pinkerton smuggled Abraham Lincoln into the hotel where he lived for a week prior to his inauguration.
- Also in 1861, after hearing a regiment singing John Brown's Body, Julia Ward Howe wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
- President Ulysses Grant's wife forbade him to smoke his cigars in the White House. In desperation he went to the Willard Hotel for his cigar and whiskey. Folklore contends that it was in the hotel lobby that many approached him for favors and it was President Grant who labeled them lobbyists.
- The hotel lobby also saw meetings with Woodrow Wilson and the League to Enforce Peace which was the precursor to the League of Nations.
- In 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr drafted his speech, I Got a Dream, in his room at the hotel.
- Other famous people who stayed at the hotel include: Bob Fosse, John Philip Sousa, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, to name just a few.
- In 2001, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, and Max Von Sydow filmed portions of The Minority Report in the Willard Hotel.
Saturday night we had dinner with Eliza Knight and her husband. It was great spending some time together and catching up on family, mutual friends, books, and writing. It was a wonderful weekend.