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Staycation: The Mansion on O Street

December 30, 2011

From the street, The Mansion on O Street looks like any other classic brick rowhouse in the neighborhood. Sure, its entrance is a little grander than most…

but there’s no hint of what lies within.

Welcome to one of the most intriguing places in Washington.

The Mansion on O Street is an interconnected series of 5 townhouses, with more than 100 secret rooms and over 32 secret doors — the website says 32 but one employee I talked with said they’ve counted over 60 and find new doors from time to time.

What is Mansion on O Street? It’s a private club, a concert venue, a hotel, a place for parties, a restaurant, the former home of the FBI, and a museum that doubles as one giant gift shop — everything is for sale. That rug you’re standing on? Buy it! Like your dinner plates? Ring ’em up! Want a nice bottle of wine? There’s a fully stocked wine cellar behind a secret door in the basement.

I visited Mansion as part of a champagne tour LivingSocial deal. For $13, we got a glass of champagne and free roam of the house — except for any closed doors with handles, which, we were warned, aren’t secret doors but private guest rooms. (There are lots of ways to tour the Mansion and the cheapest is to schedule a self-guided tour online for $5. Worth it!)

Part of the fun of wandering around the Mansion, besides taking in the gorgeous architecture, is finding some of these hidden entrances. They say if you can find four or five on your first visit, you’re doing pretty well. (Remember, this is out of 60-plus secret doors!) I think we found about 5 — but yanked on every shelf, dresser and suspicious-looking mirror to try to find them.

All of the guest rooms have a theme, including a safari room, a classic Victorian bedchamber, a rock-and-roll room and an entirely reconstructed log cabin that spans two floors.

As we tugged on one bookshelf, determined that a secret door lay behind it, we found out that there is a secret door but it’s locked, as it leads to a massive guest suite complete with 3 bedrooms, laundry facilities, a kitchen and a private entrance. Must be where all the bigwigs stay… the Mansion has more than 50 signed guitars from artists like Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan.

The guitars are just about the only things in the house not for sale. Everything else is fair game. New dress?

Before starting the self-guided tour, the bartender pointed out unique features of the ceilings, made out of different materials (styrofoam?!) and hand-painting. Look up!

Washington, DC isn’t known for being a weird or quirky city. We’re pretty staid and uniform. But The Mansion on O Street? This is where you need to take out-of-towners — I’m looking at you, New Yorkers — who like to complain that DC is boring and has no character.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2011 9:17 am

    I have never been!!! After reading this post, I will have to make a visit happen this spring!

  2. December 30, 2011 9:18 am

    I’m so excited to go!! This looks awesome.

    Did Kate go with you guys?

    • December 30, 2011 9:37 am

      Nope – but she should have! I’d definitely go back again to try to find more secret doors. You’re going to love it.

  3. emgusk permalink
    December 30, 2011 9:44 am

    Thought you’d also like to see my funny pictures from there: See you at lunch! xo

  4. Sisc Johnson permalink
    December 31, 2011 12:02 am

    This is the greatest place on earth! Awesome article and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. It’s truely magical!

  5. December 31, 2011 4:52 pm

    Ok this place looks so charming and full of character! Haha I’m {now) a new yorker but when I visited DC I loved it! Will have to keep this in mind when I go back!

  6. Natalia permalink
    January 7, 2012 9:42 pm

    These pictures are so cool? I was just wondering, could you please tell me what you do to get these effects in your pictures? Thanks! 🙂


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