There are few buildings connected to a single event in the way The Watergate is connected to the scandal that eventually brought about the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Still, the Watergate complex, which includes a hotel, shopping center, apartments and office space, is iconic in and of itself, above and beyond the scandal that bares its name.
Designed by Luigi Moretti in the early 1960s, a modernist architect who was connected to Italy's Fascist party – he had done design work for Benito Mussolini – the complex sits on the Potomac River in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC, also home to the US State Department and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Because of the size and prominence of the large, multi-use project, it was in the newspapers and at the forefront of Washingtonians' minds even before the infamous burglary.
But when five people were arrested breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in June 17, 1972, including the security director for Nixon's re-election committee, the complex entered into national political lore. It was the beginning of a story that, slowly revealed over the next two years by two enterprising Washington Post reporters, would lead to Nixon's 1974 resignation.
The complex has attracted some of the bigger names in the District as tenants and guests over the years. Journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson told Playboy in 1974 that he was in the Watergate Hotel's bar during the burglary that fateful June night. Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky holed up in her mother's apartment in the complex after her affair with Bill Clinton became front-page news, reportedly next door to Senator, Presidential candidate and Viagra spokesman Bob Dole. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice currently lives in the complex, taking advantage of her short commute to work.
The 251-room hotel, which opened in 1967, was bought by New York-based private equity firm The Blackstone Group in 1998 for $39 million. Blackstone put the hotel up on the market in 2002, eventually selling it for a reported $55 million to Washington developer Monument Realty in 2004. The sale called for the hotel to be converted to condominiums, which will most likely begin next year, much to the chagrin of some tenants.
Recently, the admission by former FBI official Mark Felt that he was Deep Throat, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's famous anonymous source, has sparked an increased interest in the Watergate scandal. And, it seems, increased interest from private equity real estate firms as well. The non-descript parking garage used by Woodward and Felt for their late-night talks, then-located on Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, Virginia, was recently purchased by Boston-based private equity firm BeaconCapital as part of a $960 million deal for 10 suburban office buildings.