The story of the six-building complex of residences, offices, and hotel that has served as a Washington, D.C., power center from the time it opened in 1965.
In June 1972, five men broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office building, beginning a chain of events that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation two years later—and made “Watergate” synonymous with scandal. Journalist and political aide Rodota makes his literary debut with an entertaining, gossip-filled history of the architecturally innovative structures along the Potomac River. Advertised to prospective residents as “the Garden City Within a City,” the complex boasted a reflecting pool, luxurious baths (each with a bidet), views of the Potomac from private balconies, and state-of-the-art security—which, it turns out, did not prevent a spate of burglaries. It became a coveted address during the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, “second only to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Rodota writes, offering a fabulous French restaurant, opulent pastry shop, beauty salon, and four psychiatrists. The author profiles the personalities and interior design choices of many famous, and sometimes notorious, Watergate residents: politicians, lawyers, doctors, diplomats, and businessmen. Two women stand out: Martha Mitchell, the volatile, outspoken, hard-drinking wife of Nixon’s attorney general and campaign manager, John Mitchell; and socialite Anna Chennault, a wealthy widow described by her biographer as “extremely aggressive socially, and ambitious, and she wanted to be the queen, she wanted to be on the top of the social heap, and she worked it.” Other notables include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, newspaper editor Ben Bradlee and his wife, Sally Quinn; Condoleezza Rice; and Monica Lewinsky, who apologized to her neighbors for “intrusions” during the Starr investigation. Like the residences, the hotel attracted stars: Pearl Bailey, who cooked a roast for Henry Fonda in her suite’s kitchen; Shelley Winters, who breakfasted in the hotel dining room wearing a bathrobe and slippers; and Katharine Hepburn, who demanded that her room’s heaters be disconnected so her room would be cool enough.
A richly detailed history of a site awarded landmark status.