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Robert E. Sherwood
(April 4, 1896 – November 4, 1955)

The Willard Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC.

Sherwood moved to DC to help with the war effort during WWII, working as a speechwriter and consultant for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and as Director of the Office of War Information. He lived in the Willard Hotel, maintaining a regular suite there from 1940 to 1945. He is author of one of the first World War II memoirs, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1948) that recounts his DC years, and which was awarded the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history and a Pulitzer Prize in Biography.

Sherwood is better known, however, as a playwright, movie critic, and one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table. He was close friends with Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott and Edna Ferber. During the 1920s, he worked as drama editor for Vanity Fair and editor of Life. In 1938 he co-founded the Playwrights’ Company, a major production house.

Sherwood was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes: one for biography and three for dramatic writing, and eight of his plays were adapted for movies, making him the most popular and successful dramatic writer of his era. His 15 plays include: The Love Nest (1927), Waterloo Bridge (1930), The Petrified Forest (1925), Idiot’s Delight (1936), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938), There Shall Be No Night (1940), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, winner of an Oscar for Best Screenplay), and the musical Miss Liberty (1949, with a score by Irving Berlin). He also worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, adapting his Pulitzer winning play Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938) and collaborating with Alfred Hitchock on Rebecca (1940) among other films.

“To be able to write a play,” Sherwood wrote, “a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naïve, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool.”

Architect: Henry Hardenbergh
Year: 1901
There has been a hotel in this location since 1818. The latest Beaux Arts version was built by the same architect who created the Plaza Hotel in New York. The interior is notable for its lavish lobby, and a grand ballroom on the 12th floor. While hotel guests, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech and Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in their rooms.