- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Keith McClinsey has been on a scavenger hunt for nearly a year.The senior event manager at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel is in charge of retrieving lost, forgotten and purloined antiques, artifacts and notions for the establishment whose rooms over the years have embraced a great complement of visiting dignitaries, history-making events and posh parties.

The hotel celebrates its 80th anniversary tomorrow, and Mr. McClinsey’s finds will be on exhibit to highlight the Mayflower’s prominent past.

History has been made at this grand hotel, dubbed Washington’s “second best address” by President Truman. Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the famous line “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933 in Suite 776. The original draft of the GI Bill was created on Mayflower stationery in Room 570 in 1943.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a regular there, eating the same lunch of buttered toast, cottage cheese and grapefruit, salad and chicken soup at the same table every workday for 20 years.

“The Mayflower has long been known as a place not only to make history but to absorb it,” said Christian Mari, general manager. “The hotel’s history is inextricably tied to the history of the nation’s capital and in many ways the nation itself.”

Mr. McClinsey has managed to piece together some of the hotel’s rich history by sorting through photographs, researching articles, digging through hotel safes and even browsing EBay.

The hotel has bought about 40 pieces on EBay including a complete set of the hotel’s original china, a champagne flute from President Clinton’s first inauguration, decades-old postcards and historic magazine ads.

“It’s so exciting,” Mr. McClinsey said with his eyes lighting up as he pulled out a discolored postcard with a greeting from 1960. “The stories are fascinating.”

Mr. McClinsey has spent a couple of hundred dollars ” averaging between $7 and $12 for each piece on EBay.

“I don’t think people understand the stories behind these,” he said. “I don’t know why people have these things. It’s so bizarre to me.”

Mr. McClinsey is currently bidding on a silver ice bucket with the Mayflower’s seal for $19.99.

The ice bucket belonged to the grandmother of Bart Kozar of Euclid, Ohio. Details are a bit sketchy but Mr. Kozar said his grandfather, Carl Buckner, who was a carpenter, may have done some work at the hotel.

In a letter to Mr. Kozar’s grandmother, Arvilla, Mr. Buckner wrote he was stuck at grandmother, Arvilla, Mr. Buckner wrote he was stuck at the Mayflower longer than he expected but he would return with a gift of wine or champagne. Mr. Kozar assumes the ice bucket was part of that gift.

“I’m sure that ice bucket had a lot of memories for my grandmother because she kept it for so long,” he said.

Mr. McClinsey has been outbid on two EBay items: an old hotel room key and sheet music written by the Mayflower’s orchestra.

Mr. McClinsey began nearly a year ago researching the hotel’s rich history ” sorting through photos and artifacts that were stashed away, as well as trying to fill in historic gaps.

“When you renovate and change hands, things disappear,” he said.

The 660-room upscale hotel, which opened Feb. 18, 1925, on Connecticut Avenue, has undergone massive renovations over the years and had several different owners including Hilton Hotel Corp., Stouffer Hotel Corp. and current owner CTF Holdings. Marriott International has operated the hotel under the Renaissance brand since 1997.

The hotel has captured its history in a new video that will play on a plasma screen in the hotel’s promenade beginning tomorrow. Some of the hotel’s historic items “like the china ” will be on display on the mezzanine level.

Last year, the Mayflower hired the History Factory, a heritage-management firm based in Chantilly, to help shape the hotel’s story and pull it all together with the exhibit and tech-savvy video.

“They truly have a unique history,” said Jason Dressel, senior client counsel at the History Factory. “They understand the importance of their heritage.”

EBay wasn’t the only place Mr. McClinsey found the hotel’s history.

The history buff located 40 solid-brass plates, with a 14-karat gold wash ” worth about $3,000 ” tucked away in a safe behind a desk in the hotel’s accounting office. The hotel bought the plates, belonging to Evalyn Walsh McLean, who owned the Hope Diamond, at an estate sale in 1948.

The retrieval of the hotel’s artifacts is ongoing.

Mr. McClinsey’s next mission is to find two missing paintings of George Washington and John Adams that once hung at one end of the Presidential Dining Room.

He noticed the oversized paintings hanging in an old photograph. Two other paintings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison hung at the other end of the room. Those paintings still exist and are hanging in the hotel’s promenade.

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