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Discover a Trove of Centuries-Old Artifacts at This Prestigious DC Hotel

The Jefferson houses documents and art dating back to the 1780's.


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Washington, D.C.'s The Jefferson, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is known to locals for its history, Michelin-starred restaurant Plume, and to-the-detail service for overnight guests. What many may not know is that it holds a double identity as a cultural landmark. Formerly an apartment building constructed in 1923, the luxury property is home to over two centuries of artifacts under one roof. Yes, there are historically significant documents and art dating back to the 1780s scattered throughout the property, giving guests a museum-like experience during their stay.

Hanging in the lobby is a 1781 letter written by Thomas Jefferson with seven other of his documents. For instance, one signed document is a personal check written to Joseph Dougherty, Jefferson's coachman, for his annual wage of thirteen dollars, ten and a half cents. Incredibly, this was written while Jefferson was President, and great care has gone into protecting them.

"The eight documents were reframed in 2009, and done so with museum quality glass with a special glaze to prevent UV light from causing the documents to fade," said David Bueno, General Manager. "Evelyn Avery of Avery Fine Art Fine Frames oversaw the artwork and installation. The documents are securely attached to the wall, with a security camera focused on them for the safety of the prized articles."

Elsewhere there's a rare 18th-century diptych painting hangs behind the registration desk; fourteen 19th-century, hand-colored lithographs of Native Americans in the Cabinet Rooms (the remnants of a collection burned in a Smithsonian fire), and a late 1700s copperplate map engravings of Jefferson's travels in France resides at lounge Quill. Even The Greenhouse's skylight is a relic. It was hidden during the WWII aerial bombing scares, and uncovered in 2009. Today, it resides as the focal point over the atrium-style restaurant.

While there is much to look at on your own, the property truly embraces its museum-like persona by having an on-site historian to explain just how special the pieces are. Susan Sullivan Lagon is at The Jefferson every Saturday for guests who have requested a one-on-one with her (free of charge). They can ask her questions about the hotel's own history and its art/artifact collection, or on Washington, DC and American history.

"When you reserve a room at The Jefferson," said Bueno. "You're stepping into a hotel that breathes American history through its walls, and we can't think of a better gateway to this culturally-rich city."


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