The Morrison-Clark Inn, Washington DC

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Discover the Morrison-Clark Inn, which once offered lodging for servicemen when it functioned as the Soliders, Sailors, Marines and Airmen's Club in the 1920s.

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The Morrison-Clark Inn, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back 1864.


Listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, The Morrison-Clark Inn is one of the most historic structures still standing in downtown Washington, D.C. Its institutional history is quite fascinating, as the facility was originally two separate townhouses constructed at the height of the American Civil War. The first home—the Morrison House—served as the primary residence for David L. Morrison, a noted local real estate developer who had first made his fortune supplying food to the Union Army. Next door, another manor opened for the D.C. jail commissioner, Rueben B. Clark. (An incredibly active individual, Clark was also a prosperous grocer, as well as a director for the local Anacostia and Potomac Railroad.) Both men constructed their gorgeous homes in the reigning architectural aesthetic of the age—Italianate. Morrison, however, began to alter his building’s appearance during the 1870s, adding on additional rooms that nearly doubled it size. But Morrison and Clark were not destined to live inside the homes forever. Clark was eventually the first leave, moving to another home along Massachusetts Avenue in 1880. In turn, he gave the house to his daughter, Ida, as a present. Morrison then died seven years later, leaving the building to Marie E. Byington in his will. Nevertheless, the buildings’ subsequent owners leased them out to various residents shortly thereafter. A couple of high-profile tenants did live on-site, too, including two congressmen, Mason Summers Peters and William Craig Cooper.

In 1923, an organization called “The Women’s Army and Navy League” bought the Morrison House, intending to transform it into a new national headquarters. It then obtained the Clark House seven years later, combining it together to form a single structure. The new buildings quickly became the epicenter for all of the League’s activities in downtown Washington, namely its charitable events that sought to provide assistance to the nation’s many military veterans. In fact, it provided nearly 46,000 lodgings and 85,000 meals during its peak year of 1943. Illustrious people were soon gracing the site with their presence, too, such as the renowned General John J. Pershing. Pershing himself enjoyed spending time inside the buildings’ “Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen’s Club,” which the group had opened specifically for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. But the organization specifically attracted many prominent female figures within Washington society, which elevated The Women’s Army and Navy League into one of the city’s premier social groups. The most notable women to attend the League over the years were numerous First Ladies of the United States, who often served as its leader. Among the First Ladies to frequently visit the location were Grace Coolidge, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In fact, Grace Coolidge was even at the head of the reception line when The Women’s Army and Navy League held its opening ceremony at the Morrison House!

The Women’s Army and Navy League remained at the facility for years, continuing its tradition of giving help to America’s veterans and their families. But in the late 1980s, the League eventually vacated the premises and sold it to several hoteliers. The new owners subsequently conducted a massive renovation of the complex, which transformed the site into a stunning boutique hotel known as “The Morrison-Clark Inn.” Spearheaded by architect William Adair, the work brilliantly preserved every aspect of the structure’s beautiful, historical architecture. When the business finally opened in 1987, it immediately established itself as one of the best holiday destinations in all of Washington. Indeed, demand for the hotel’s rooms became immense over the following years, prompting ownership to further expand the complex. As such, construction began to incorporate the historic Chinese Community Church and Parsonage located right next door in 2013. Originally built in 1901, the church provided an additional 43,000 sq. ft. of space for even more accommodations. Like the earlier work on the hotel, the architects diligently protected every aspect of the historical architectural features inside both the church and parsonage. A charter member of Historic Hotels of America, The Morrison-Clark Inn continues to be among the best places to stay in Washington, D.C. This spectacular historic hotel has a fascinating institutional history and an amazing location that cultural heritage travelers are certain to enjoy.

  • About the Location +

    Washington is among the nation’s most historic cities, having been founded more than two centuries ago by the Founding Fathers. In 1790, Congress specifically passed the “Resident Act” after James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton agreed to create a permanent national capital in the southern United States. Known as the “Compromise of 1790,” the men decided to place the future settlement somewhere in the South in exchange for the federal government paying off each state’s debt accrued via the American Revolutionary War. George Washington—who was serving his first term as President—then carefully looked for the site of the new city in his role as the country’s chief executive. He spent weeks searching for the perfect spot before finally settling upon a plot of land near the mouth of the Potomac River. Washington had felt that the location was in a terrific spot, for it was still roughly in the middle of the nation. Furthermore, he hoped its proximity near major seaports would further bind the emerging western states with the more established Atlantic coastline. Maryland and Virginia subsequently donated around 100 acres at Washington’s site, although Virginia would later rescind its donation in 1847.

    Nevertheless, work on the capital began a year later and lasted for the duration of the decade. At the start of the project, the three federal commissioners in charge of supervising its progress decided to name the nascent settlement after the President himself. (They also named the federal district surrounding the city as “Columbia,” a feminine adaptation of Christopher Columbus’ name.) Noted French architect Charles L’Enfant spearheaded the city’s new design, who presented a bold vision that featured wide boulevards and ceremonial spaces reminiscent of his native Paris. But despite L’Enfant’s grand plans for Washington, only the first iterations of the United States Capitol, the White House, and a couple other prominent governmental structures appeared at the time. Barely any other buildings stood in the city when the entire federal apparatus relocated from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800. Life in early Washington was hard, too, for its residents were constantly beset by disease, poor infrastructure, and local economic depressions. What few residents remained in the city year-round endured the worse hardships during the War of 1812, when the British notoriously ransacked the community. In fact, the British had even torched the Capitol, the Treasury, and the White House.

    Washington did not finally start to develop into an actual city until the middle of the 19th century, after investment in its upkeep increased dramatically. While additional federal buildings—including the General Post Office and the Patent Office—first appeared in the 1830s, a wave of municipal and residential construction flourished in the wake of the American Civil War. But much of the construction was conducted under the auspices of a territorial government that initiated dozens of new buildings projects, including the development of schools, markets, and townhouses. Streets were also paved for the first time, while modern sanitation systems were created for the many new neighborhoods debuting throughout the city. Congress even contributed to the local construction, especially after the territorial government bankrupted itself shortly after its founding. But the federal government had also created some of the city’s most iconic structures on its own at the same time, such as the Washington Monument, the National Mall, the Library of Congress complex, and a new United States Capitol. The climax of all this construction work materialized with the Senate Park Commission—remembered more commonly as the “McMillan Commission”—which offered a comprehensive series of plans to beautify the entire city.

    It would take years to complete the recommendations of the McMillan Commission’s, though. Buildings and landscape designs that reflected the commission’s research appeared throughout the first half of the 20th century, especially once the federal government became more involved in international affairs after World War I. Dozens of art galleries, storefronts, and restaurants proliferated, transforming Washington into one of the nation’s most esteemed cultural capitals. Many new embassies also debuted within the city along Massachusetts Avenue, giving rise to its iconic area of Embassy Row. Dozens of new monuments appeared throughout Washington, too, such as the iconic Lincoln Memorial. Some of the most significant construction transpired during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which helped spur the creation of an official U.S. Supreme Court building, The Pentagon, and the famous Federal Triangle. Washington nonetheless fell into a brief period of decline around the start of the Cold War that was only reversed with the committed efforts by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to invest heavily into its upkeep. Today, Washington, DC, is now among the most powerful cities in the whole world, as well as one of its most gorgeous. Thousands of people from all over flock to the city each year to take in its prestigious culture and heritage.

  • About the Architecture +

    Originally constructed at the height of the Victorian Era, the two buildings that form The Morrison-Clark Inn display a beautiful blend of Mediterranean-inspired architectural motifs. Indeed, the facilities feature such iconic features like decorative woodwork and ornate brick walls. Gorgeous triple-hung bay windows proliferated throughout the façade, as did cast-iron railings and gorgeous columns. Each structure was topped with a low-pitched, sliding roof that was detailed with wide, projecting cornices. The Morrison House even had a magnificent cupola when first opened in 1865, although it was alter removed three decades later. All the architectural components subsequently made the Morrison and Clark Houses resemble the palatial Italian villas that resided throughout Tuscany. The designs were part of a much larger architectural trend that was spreading throughout the United States at the time known as “Italianate.” Interestingly, it was the renowned British architect John Nash who first conceived of the style, who constructed similar building across England in the early 19th century. Looking back to the architecture of Italy’s Renaissance, Nash specifically hoped that this new form would help preserve a part of the West’s past amid a rapidly changing present. Nash’s vision soon became incredibly popular, spreading across the rest of Europe over the following years. Italianate style eventually arrived in the United States by the 1860s, thanks mainly to the writings of American architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Buildings designed with Italianate architecture quickly appeared in many of the country’s leading cities, including Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and New York City’s Brooklyn Heights. Washington, D.C., also became an epicenter for the movement in America, namely its 600 block of rowhouses along East Capitol Street. But the country’s interest in the style gradually declined throughout the Gilded Age, before finally dissipating in the 1880s. Nevertheless, countless Italianate buildings still exist in the United States today, and many feature a listing in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    John J. Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.  

    Edith Carow, First Lady of the United States (1901 – 1909)

    Grace Coolidge, First Lady of the United States (1923 – 1929)

    Mamie Eisenhower, First Lady of the United States (1953 – 1961)

    Jacqueline Kennedy, First Lady of the United States (1961 – 1963)

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