The National Theatre first opened in 1835, supported by some of D.C.’s wealthiest patrons, who wanted their city to have a world-class theatrical institution. In the wake of the 1922 collapse of the nearby Knickerbocker movie theater during a snowstorm, the vintage limestone building was redesigned and reinforced for safety; its interior remained largely unchanged until a full-scale renovation in 1984. This renovation, quite fittingly, was overseen by a theater production set designer.
Since its original opening, virtually every great theater star has performed at the National, and a box on the left side of the stage has hosted every president and his wife; Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt were particular fans of the plays presented here. Today, the stage at this elegant, 1,676-seat theater hosts some of the biggest productions on Broadway.
Street parking around the theatre has a two-hour limit, so drivers are encouraged to seek out public lots in the area or valet park at hotels like the adjacent JW Marriott, the Willard InterContinental or the Hotel Monaco. National Theatre is set just a few blocks from the Metrorail’s Metro Center station (serving the Red, Blue and Orange Lines).