The Best, Cheap Washington, DC Hotel You’ve Never Heard Of

The parlor of the National Pen Arts Building in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC
The parlor of the National Pen Arts Building in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

Over Christmas break, my family made the 1887, 20-room Pen Arts Building in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle our home base for active days exploring this great city.

As a member of the National League of American Pen Women, I knew about this treasure. But this historic house, once home to Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, is a very well-kept secret. It is open as a guest house to non-members.

Its first floor public rooms are beautiful and there are many special architectural details like the bay window in the turret and dragons carved in the balustrade.

My husband and I stayed in a third floor twin room and our kids had the fourth floor attic (which has two bedrooms and an open area with multiple beds, plus a bathroom) to themselves. Actually, we had the entire mansion to ourselves! The guest rooms are basic but functional. There’s a kitchen we were able to use. Upon departure, guests are expected to strip their beds and remake them and take out the trash.

Guess how much we payed? Would you believe $140/night for all four of us? And no tax!

Pen Women is a wonderful national organization of female writers, artists, and musicians. My local Letters chapter meets once a month to discuss everyone’s works in progress. The insights, edits, encouragement, and networking we receive are invaluable.

At the age of 18 in 1866 Pen Woman Vinnie Ream became the only person to have scultped Abraham Lincoln from life. She created a bust of him; after his death she was commissioned to sculpt a statue of Lincoln, which is in the rotunda of the Capitol Building. I was proud to teach my daughters about the Pen Women and Vinnie Ream and to show them Vinnie’s magnificent statue when we took a tour of the Capitol Building.

My daughters in the Capitol Building rotunda with Portrait Monument depicting Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, sculpted by Adelaide Johnson in 1921.
My daughters in the Capitol Building rotunda with Portrait Monument depicting Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, sculpted by Adelaide Johnson in 1921. Note the unsculpted mound, left perhaps in anticipation of our first female president.
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