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The Inn at Dupont Circle
A Relaxed Setting Surrounded by Our Nation's Capital

by Courtney Caldwell

Front Entrance at The Inn

Finding the right hotel in a city in which you've never been can be at best daunting. Sure, there are the mainstream chains, which offer consistency like McDonald's; you always know what you're going to get no matter where you get it. And that's all well and good if the status quo is all you're after. But the big question is, especially for women travelers, is it in a safe area? Since safety is the number one concern women have when traveling alone then all the status quo in the world is useless if the hotel is not in an area in which you feel safe and comfortable. In fact, safety and security has become such an important issue that it's led to the rapidly growing trend of bed & breakfast use all over America.

One such place, hidden in plain site in the heart of Washington, DC, is The Inn at Dupont Circle. Built in 1886, this historic house still harbors a sense of history. The hardwood floors and wooden staircase creak and echo footsteps as guests make way to their rooms. It could take some getting used to if you've not been around wooden floors before. However, it's a small sacrifice for the excellent location and safe environment The Inn provides.

Nestled snugly between other historic DC buildings The Inn resides at 1312 19th Street, an area surrounded by nonprofit organizations and law firms. Trees stand erect in the brick laden sidewalks and black cast iron gates protect entrances and doorways. At The Inn, there is no key for entry but rather a combination, which requires your memory to be in good working condition. Owner Lydia Pena Simone decided that after too many keys lost by guests a combination would better serve as protection for she and her guests.

Sitting Salon and the 1890 Steinway

Upon entry, guests are met by a small sitting salon, which is host to an 1890 Steinway grand piano, which is nearly as big as the salon. The story goes that the Steinway was bought in a yard sale years ago for a mere $150. Later, its savvy new owner had it appraised and discovered the yard sale treasure was worth nearly $100,000.

Because of the Inn's age there's no elevator nor are there plans to install one. But that doesn't seem to matter to many of the repeat clients I had a chance to chat with while there. They loved coming to The Inn when in Washington with several mentioning they recommend it to clients, friends and family. In fact, it seemed to be all the little nuances and character flaws that made this home so appealing.

The eight rooms at The Inn are each submerged in their own slice of history with every one different than the other. There are three floors with rooms on the lower level being the largest and most expensive starting at $215 per night. The higher you go with luggage in tow the rooms become less expensive starting at $165. The top floor is home to 3 very small rooms and one shared bath, and oddly enough has repeat patrons so often that they feel comfortable enough to leave their doors unlocked or opened. Strangers united in this architectural delight suddenly become family and friends. If size doesn't matter, but cost does, then these bigger-than-a-bread-box rooms range from $89 to $125, a steal for DC.

Wireless Internet is available free of charge in every room, and for those who don't have a computer, the house provides one in a tiny room converted in the attic. The only way to access this room is via a very narrow hidden staircase in the back of the house.

Radiators were installed in the 30s by then-owner and famed psychic, Jeanne Dixon, where she and her husband lived and died from 1936 to 1996. I was happy to have not known this little piece of trivia before I went to bed. Due to an overactive imagination coupled with creaking staircases, I would have likely hid under the covers, if not the bed, all night waiting for a haunting. Alas, there was none.

Dixon's former office has been converted to an outdoor solarium. The religious art in the background once belonged to Dixon.

The radiators are controlled by one central system. The only way to cool down your room on a hot summer night is to open a window or turn on the more recently installed window air conditioner in your room. It's these kind of oddities that give this old place character and charm. Consider yourself lucky to even have a radiator. During Dixon's domain, rumor has it she was so cheap, she refused to heat the top floor often leaving guests under heaps of blankets and fully clothed to avoid freezing to death. No doubt Ms. Dixon's lack of warmth contributed to her life as a recluse in her old age. Folklore has it that the deeply spiritual Dixon lived in this 4 story dwelling all by herself long after her husband died, surrounded only by religious art and portraits of herself in every room.

The rooms at The Inn are comfortable and charming. My room was draped in white wicker furniture including a rocking chair by a fireplace, which was once the only source of heat for each room. Lydia has preserved the history in this old place by keeping it true to its heritage. Everything from historic wooden chests as footlockers to old flip-front desks; to built-in bookshelves laced with literature from long ago to cozy quilts hanging above each bed. Yet, somehow all the modern necessities were nicely blended in with all the possessions of another time. Each room was equipped with color TV and DVD player, coffee maker, 2 bottles of water, a ceiling fan, alarm clock, pillow top mattresses, and toiletries.

The Inn is a also supporter of Project Planet, a program designed to protect the environment through the conservation of water and decreased use of detergent. Guests who are staying more than one night are left a Project Planet calling card which informs them their linens will be washed every three days unless they otherwise decline the offer. Adding to their political correctness, the calling card is printed in six languages including English.

Guests seemed to be on a first-name friendly basis telling me that The Inn had become somewhat of a home base for many of its visitors. That impressed me the most about The Inn. There is an immediate sense of security as if everyone, whether they knew you or not, was watching your back.

A full breakfast, including to-order, is served from 6am to 10am. There's nothing continental about it. Everything from a full ham to several kinds of breads and cereals to fruits and yogurts are there for every kind of appetite. It was nothing more than a brief wait for my egg white omelet to arrive cooked exactly the way I liked it.

Should you decide to stay at The Inn tell Lydia I sent you. It's that kind of place. Also, if you have the time, ask for a tour and the full history. It's pretty fascinating. One particular thing you may want to check out is a tiny loft-like suite hidden in the back of the house, which is slyly accessed through the kitchen pantry. Its current guest, who had been there for six weeks working on a novel, was kind enough to give me the five-cent tour. A spiral staircase led to a tiny loft, which combined the bedroom and bath into one space. One could literally roll out of bed and into the shower.

One of 8 guest rooms at The Inn

The arrangement of The Inn may not be for everyone, especially those who are spoiled by the lap of luxury. But if you like history and unique experiences then I strongly recommend a stay at The Inn at Dupont Circle the next time you're in Washington, DC. It's definitely worth the experience, and even if you never go back (which is very unlikely) you'll walk away with a story to share for a lifetime.

For more info or reservations at The Inn at Dupont Circle: Call 866-467-2100 or go to: