If you are looking for an unusual place to stay while visiting Washington D.C., be sure to check out The O Mansion near Dupont Circle, one of the most vibrant neighborhoods of the city. It’s hard to tell you what The O Mansion is, because it is so many things all at once. It is a B & B, a museum, a location for events, and it is also a place of curiosities, all jumbled together. There are over 100 rooms in the Mansion, and all are filled to the brim with antique to modern art, books, musical instruments, and knick-knacks.
The O Mansion is a series of five interconnected town houses which were designed in 1892 by Edward Clark, an architect for the US Capitol. The original buildings were interconnected and served as a home for himself, his brother James “Champ” Clark, Speaker of the House (during Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidency), and a third brother, known as “the artist.”
Originally spanning three row houses (it now spans five), the original residence was connected through the basement and main floor, while providing separate sleeping quarters for each brother upstairs. The Mansion, which is believed to be the last intact private residence of that period in Washington D.C., has many unique architectural flourishes, with detailed woodworking and grand chandeliers.
On the main floor, guests will find a colorful Tiffany Door which leads into a small meeting room. After a period in the 1930’s when the home was converted into three separate rooming houses for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s G-men, the house was taken over by student protesters in the 1960’s. The property was purchased in 1980 by H.H. Leonards, with the intent to restore its original character by reconnecting the row houses. Ms. Leonards is a music aficionado, and is heavily involved with the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so the Mansion is a music venue as well as a retreat for working musicians.
Music and the arts are the themes of The O, and there is memorabilia in abundance, from guitars signed by famous musicians to thousands of books from the last century. In a large game room with a full-sized pool table the walls are lined with framed posters signed by the Beatles, as well as the Grateful Dead and other icons of music. You will find vintage sheet music scattered around various rooms and can even listen to rare studio cuts in some rooms.
And what a place to stay!
The best part of the Mansion is that you can stay a night or more in one of the themed rooms. I loved the two-story Log Cabin which was decorated in cowboy art and has a small balcony overlooking the gardens of the area. The most stunning room by far was a secluded Art Deco room with colorful Japanese kimonos hung from the ceiling, and a bathroom almost as large as the bedroom.
However, my favorite room was a “John Lennon” room which has his face woven into the bathroom carpet, and signed photos of the Beatles over the tub. On the bathroom door hangs hippie clothing of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band era, including a fuzzy purple vest. Be sure to hum a few tunes from the Beatles’ songs while having a bath!
One of the other great things about staying here is that everything that you see if for sale. Most of the items have been donated to The O Mansion, and the proceeds go to a fund to support musicians and other artists.
You can even open up the closets to find vintage and craft-made clothing which you can try on and then purchase. There are books and music scores everywhere so you can browse, read and then take them home.
- For more information on staying at the O Mansion, go to omansion.com/hotel. Rooms are $350/night and up, depending on the size and décor of the room. Be sure to book a valet space if you have a car, as there is minimal parking in the residential area.
- If you don’t want to splurge for a stay at the Mansion, you can still enjoy the ambiance through one of the many self-guided tours available. If you buy your tour ticket on-line at Omuseum.org as you will save $5. You will need to pick a tour time, but during weekdays the museum is fairly flexible on entry time. Plan to spend 3-4 hours at the Mansion exploring the rooms.
- If you are a musician yourself, make time to attend a Bluegrass jam session during your stay, held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month. Musicians of all levels of skill are invited to bring an instrument and jam with professional musicians. It’s free for those who participate, and only $15 to watch. The Mansion uses 100% of the proceeds to support their artists/heroes-in-residence and other arts programs. More details at omuseum.org/visit.
Note: All photos taken by the author.