Dupont Circle’s park and fountain. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

Joel Freyberg left the Big Apple to move to The Swamp. But when the hotel executive got to Washington D.C. he found himself working in a part of town which was becoming very fashionable once again: Dupont Circle.

“It’s just like any major city. I am a native New Yorker, and I remember when the Upper East Side was the place to be. Then it relocated down to Soho and to Tribeca and then to the East Village and now Nomad. In Washington, the place to be was, at one time, Dupont Circle. We’re just brining it back home,” said Freyberg, who is now general manager of the newly Dupont Circle Hotel.

“Dupont Circle used to be pretty nasty stretch of town. Not anymore – now it’s the place to be,” said U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who has held office since 1987.

Freyberg said Dupont Circle Hotel has a place in helping make Dupont Circle great again, pardon the pun.

Looking back to go forward

“I have been reading a book called ‘The History of Dupont Circle – the Center of High Society in the Capital.’ Dupont Circle back in its day was really the epicenter of Washington D.C. My goal is to bring it back to its former glory and at the hotel we are doing that day in and day out. We take that work very seriously.” he explained.

Freyberg is obviously all-in.

“Being from New York I’d never taken Washington D.C. very seriously. I always thought of it as a place for business and Congress of course and politics. But now that I’ve relocated here and I am becoming more and more a Washingtonian every day,” he said. “I notice the architecture is beautiful. It’s the most European city in the country – I strongly say that. And the museums all being complimentary is outstanding. It’s a beautiful walking city. And it’s below the Mason-Dixon Line so it’s not as cold. You really can enjoy the festivities outside. And Washington has become a true dining destination.”

Laura Bush loves it

Dupont Circle Hotel is centrally located in DC by car or foot. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

Reportedly a favorite of First Lady Laura Bush while the 43rd President was in office, Dupont Circle Hotel recently completed a multimillion dollar investment program to enhance its 347 rooms and penthouse suites. The hotel now seeps with serious style.

Jamaican Embassy neighbors. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

“Am I allowed to pull in here?” an Uber driver asked upon pulling up to the valet circle on New Hampshire Ave. NW between Dupont Circle and the Jamaican Embassy. Indeed the building exudes elegance often seen in exclusive residential properties than in hotels – and the doormen only amplify the kind of “welcome home” one would find on New York’s Upper East Side and, once they meet you, call you by name for the remainder of your stay. Be ready for another question after they inquire whether they can get you a bottle of water.

“Cold or room temperature?” they ask.

“I am proud of our team,” said general manager Joel Freyberg. “My ownership, the Doyle Collection, wants the hotel to be an extension of the private homes and the nearby embassies.”

The Irish know hospitality

Books and crannies in the Doyle. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

The Dublin-based Doyle collection therefore exhibits renowned Irish hospitality.

“My owner is very, very sophisticated so it’s not a shamrock on every table. But there is always that touch of Irish hospitality which goes back for years and generations: the warmth and ability to go above and beyond is part of our DNA,” said Freyberg.

The Pembroke…a brasserie in Dupont Circle Hotel. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

One example sits on the craft cocktail menu in The Pembroke, the bright brasserie bar and restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor terraces. It is the “Irish Sazerac:” Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Cardamaro, Peychauds, and coffee pecan bitters.

“We have people come for cocktails. We have a lot of political visits here. You’ll go to the bar and you’ll see two people huddled in a corner and it could be several congressmen having a nice meeting discussing foreign affairs or works in progress,” said Freyberg. There are curved couches and crannies perfect for caucusing or canoodling in Doyle, a Mad Men-style library lounge that is like a 1950’s art deco den. It offers panoramic views of Dupont Circle and the cosmopolitan crowd loves it.

The Doyle in the Dupont Circle Hotel is vintage cool. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

Do conversations in the lobby and in meeting spaces throughout the hotel get passionate when the subject is so often politics?

“Washingtonians are private people in a very private city. Is poltics on everyone’s mind? Absolutely. Do they speak it openly and candidly? No. we keep everything really very tight-lipped,” he answered. “It is a topic of conversation whether you’re on one side or the other. It does come up in conversation, but we keep our political beliefs to ourselves and hope for the best.”

Freyberg admitted when he travels to Europe he queries the locals.

“The first thing I do when I get into a cab in London is ask if it’s true they talk about the political situation here in the States. They are. In France it’s the same.”

Back in D.C. people are now talking about the Dupont Circle area, but in a new way.

Comfort with conversation

Heated towels and TV in a Jacuzzi with a view. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

Dupont Circle Hotel suites offer a bathroom Jacuzzi tub with a skyline view and retractable shade, in-wall television and towel heater. The suites also have nespresso machines and mini-bars with complimentary soft drinks, vitamin water, juices and Acqua Panna. The chocolates left on the pillow after turn-down service in a tiny box that looks like a little classic suitcase.

Pillow chocolates via tiny vintage suitcases. (Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels)

The Dupont Circle Hotel is centrally located and convenient. There is a Metrorail train station a half-block away if you want to take the subway to the National Mall or back to Reagan International Airport. First time visitors arriving via Delta Airlines might be surprised to see how stylish and bright Reagan National Airport’s newer terminal is, with its soaring yellow arched girders, after their flight glides in over the Potomac River. D.C.’s recognizable, iconic monuments and the capitol dome itself are easily visible from the aircraft and even the airport, which is close enough to the city center to be a $16 UBER ride. Dulles Airport, for international flights, is 26 miles from downtown and about a 35-minute drive.


Michael Patrick Shiels is a radio host and travel blogger. Follow his adventures at Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at [email protected]

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