The Raleigh Hotel got its start in 1893 when the Shepherd Centennial Building on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, NW, was converted from commercial use into the hotel by Washington architect Leon E. Dessez.
The hotel expanded quickly. In 1897 three additional floors were added. In 1898 New York architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh designed a major addition in the center of 12th Street to the north of the original building. The building was enlarged by Hardenbergh again in 1905. By 1911, the original building was considered too dated and razed for Hardenbergh’s new, Beaux Arts, thirteen-story main hotel building facing Pennsylvania Avenue.
The builder’s demand for height caused Congress to change the height limit for Pennsylvania Avenue froom 130 feet to 160 feet in 1910.
The Raleigh was well know for good food, drink, and entertainment. It was equally regarded for the beauty of its architectural details, such as the decoration of the gold-and-white ballroom on the top floor.
It was a prosperous hotel, though it lost some of its business to the Mayflower Hotel when it opened. One of the factors that made the Raleigh such a success was its manager, Curt C. Schiffeler, who managed to create a warm and informal atmosphere that pleased the guests. Schiffeler remained at the Raleigh until he retired in 1954. By then newer hotels were drawing patronage away. The Raleigh was razed ten years later in 1964.
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