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March 30, 2006

The Willard Hotel is Subject of Display in American Treasures Exhibition

Items on View until June 17

The Library of Congress recently opened a display on the Willard Hotel in the continuing "American Treasures" exhibition in the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

The display will be on view until June 17 in "American Treasures," which is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

Featured items highlight the history and significance of the Willard Hotel from its mid-19th century beginnings through its late 20th century restoration and rejuvenation. The materials are drawn from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division and from the Willard Family Papers in the Manuscript Division.

"The display captures, in graphic detail, Willard’s descent and its fortunate comeback from a ruinous state," said C. Ford Peatross, curator of architecture, design and engineering collections in the Prints and Photographs Division. "Key documents include photographs by noted photographers Frances Benjamin Johnston and Carol Highsmith and architectural drawings from Henry J. Hardenbergh and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer."

The Library’s display is part of the Willard InterContinental Hotel’s "Willard 2006—A Hotel’s Legacy, A Nation’s History," a yearlong celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1986 re-opening of the historic site, which was rescued from demolition after its 1968 closing. The Willard Hotel has hosted nearly every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853. It was where Julia Ward Howe wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," where President Ulysses S. Grant reportedly coined the term "lobbyist," and where Martin Luther King wrote his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

The items on display are:

  • A delicately crafted lace cap and collar set made by Antonia Ford while in prison on charges of spying for the Confederate Army. Ford was allegedly instrumental in the capture of Union General Edwin Henry Stoughton by John Singleton Mosby (known as the Gray Ghost) at Fairfax Courthouse in 1863. She was arrested for her alleged involvement, incarcerated in Washington’s Old Capitol Prison, and married her captor, Union Army Major Joseph C. Willard, one year later. Joseph and his brother Henry were the proprietors of the Willard Hotel.
  • Studio portrait of Antonia Ford Willard
  • Two architectural drawings of the Willard Hotel, one from the early 20th century by Henry J. Hardenbergh and the other from the 1980’s renovation by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer.
  • Five photographs by Carol Highsmith, who documented the hotel’s evolution from dilapidated hulk in 1980 to its grand reopening in August 1986.
  • Two photographs of the hotel from distinguished early 20th century photographers, Frances Benjamin Johnston and George R. Lawrence.

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PR 06-072
03/30/06
ISSN 0731-3527

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