CAPITOL CHIC, BY GEORGE
by Kelly Monaghan
The winds of change are blowing through the smoke-filled, wood-paneled rooms
of Washington's power hotel scene. Enter the Hotel George, a chic new
boutique hotel on Capitol Hill that is making a blatant play for the kind of
hip, upscale clientele being attracted to post-modernist hostelries like
Small enough to offer privacy and discretion, priced to keep out the
riff-raff, dedicated to a high level of personal service, and designed to
appeal to a modernist sensibility, the Hotel George offers an attractive
base of operations for anyone seeking entree to the corridors of power in
the nearby House and Senate.
The George began life in 1928 as a residence for female government employees
and was most recently the tourist-class Hotel Bellevue. The new renovation
represents a $7 million gamble on the part of Amerimar Enterprises, a
Philadelphia real estate firm that has made something of a subspecialty of
redeveloping hotel properties such as the four-star Rittenhouse Square Hotel
in its home town.
We saw in the George an opportunity to break the mold and provide the
corporate traveler a cutting edge hotel experience that is new to DC
hotels, said Amerimar Senior Vice-President Bernie English. The strategy
seems to be working. The property is one of 60 hotels in 35 cities chosen
for inclusion in Hip Hotels - The City Experience, a forthcoming coffee
table tome from travel publisher Thames & Hudson.
In this most political of towns, the George takes no sides. This reporter
refused to read anything into the fact that the newspaper at the door in the
morning was the left-liberal Post, not the arch-conservative Times..
Target Clientele: With rates at the low end of the luxury hotel range, the
George will appeal to the upscale traveler willing to try something a bit
different at an attractive price. This is the kind of place where younger
movers and shakers will feel at home when they pop into town to twist arms
or respond to a subpoena, yet it's discreet charm will appeal equally to the
more mature business traveler. The hotel is also just a short stroll from
Union Station, making it attractive to weekend refugees from Philadelphia
and New York.
Accommodations: The most obvious nod to the Schrager style is found in the
sole piece of artwork gracing every room. It is a full-size reproduction of
an artfully garish double portrait of George Washington commissioned from
Andy Warhol acolyte Steve Kaufman, who mimics the master's style perfectly.
The original hangs in the lobby.
The painting makes a nice focal point for the elegant austerity of the
spacious cream and beige rooms which feature just a few pieces of custom
designed furniture and a single desk cum dressing table. Bathrooms are large
and elegantly marbled with a separate shower stall in most. Thoughtful
touches include an iron, with board, plush terrycloth robes, complementary
overnight shoeshines, and twice daily maid service.
Most rooms have king beds, although there are four rooms with two double
beds on each floor and four rooms meeting full ADA standards. There is one
true suite, The George, on the eighth floor, featuring a living room,
powder room, wet bar, a stereo system with CD player, and a whirlpool in the
Public Areas: The lobby is small but seems larger thanks to the two-story
glass walls facing onto E Street. Contributing to the airy feel is the
minimalist chic decor a baby grand here, a huge floral arrangement there
and just a few pieces of modernist furniture. The simple color scheme
features white fossilized coral walls and black granite counter surfaces,
with bright red accents. On the mezzanine level, a compact billiards room
offers refuge to cigar aficionados.
The Hotel George offers 1,250 square feet of meeting space off the back of
the lobby, but the chic venue is the sleek Back Room with conference table
seating for 16 on the mezzanine level. A compact basement fitness center
offers the latest in Cybex equipment and his and hers steam rooms.
Dining: Bis (short for bistro, they say) is award-winning chef Jeffrey
Buben's foray into contemporary French cuisine and the hotel's sole eatery.
The elegant, two-story room is slated to open in the Spring, seating 120 in
three distinct dining areas. In addition, there will be a small sidewalk
seating area. The menu is moderately priced, with entrees in the $20 to $30
range. Another French restaurant and an Irish pub are less than a block away
and nearby Union Station offers a wide range of dining options.
Service: The young staff, hiply somber in dark suits and vests with
collarless white shirts, are friendly and familiar in the contemporary
fashion, which may not be to everyone's taste. Also, the everyone a
concierge approach employed here can make getting sound advice a rather
Could Be Improved: The hotel is still very much in shakedown mode, so minor
wrinkles like temperamental hot water, noisy air conditioning, and a staff
stretched too thin at times may be smoothed out.
Strongest Selling Points: Perfectly located for those with business on
Capitol Hill and an attractive base of operations for a weekend getaway. An
excellent value in the luxury category.
Rates & Packages: Rooms start at $185 to $225 a night, with The George
suite going for $500. Weekend rates start at $119 a night. All rates
currently include continental breakfast, but this may change when the
Address: 15 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Year opened: 1998
Last renovated: The new hotel represents a $7 million revamping of the
defunct tourist-class Hotel Bellevue
Agent commission rate: 10%