In June of 1972, an extravagant but otherwise forgettable hotel in Washington became infamous and synonymous with political scandal, leading to the only presidential resignation in United States history. What later came to be officially known as the Watergate scandal began at 1:55 AM on June 17th 1972, as security guard Frank Wills found evidence of a break-in and called the police.
The resulting arrest of seven men, all later found to be part of President Nixon’s reelection committee, led to one of the biggest scandals in American history. During the investigations it was revealed that the President and his Chief of Staff were recorded discussing using the CIA to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in, a fact which made President Nixon’s situation unsustainable. During the height of the Cold War, the United States of America was to lose a popular and just reelected President.
But political infamy is not what the Watergate Complex in Washington DC was all aobut. Here are 10 lesser-known facts we thought you’d like to know about the Watergate Hotel Complex!
In the 1950s, the World Bank considered building its international headquarters on the property where Watergate resides.
The construction of the Watergate complex was the largest renewal effort to use private funds exclusively in the District of Columbia’s history.
The name was derived from the terraced steps west of the Lincon Memorial that lead to the Potomac River.
The Watergate project faced serious opposition from city and zoning officials. But no opposition was more stern than that of a religious group known as Protestants and other Americans United for Separation of Church and State whose national letter-writing campaign to oppose the project flooded Congress’ and the White House’s mailboxes. Unfortunately for them, the project went forward as planned.
The Vatican owned a portion of SGI, the company which built the Watergate Complex.
To date, the Watergate has changed hands many times. However some of the hands it has gone through are very surprising: in addition to property management companies, the Watergate has been owned by a Coal worker’s pension fund company and a cruise ship company.
Monika Lewinsky hid out at her mother’s room in Watergate during the political scandal involving President Bill Clinton.
In 1970, a second Watergate Complex, named Watergate II, was proposed in Alexandria, Virginia across the Potomac River. It never materialized due to overwhelming opposition by city residents.
A surprising number of people who had ties– however oblique– to Richard Nixon stayed at the infamous complex. Amoung them, Anna Chennault, one of the first occupants of the building, was a Republican fundraiser who worked on President Nixon’s 1968 campaign. Many of the President’s aides also stayed at the Watergate, including Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans and John Mitchel, Nixon’s attorney general. His speech writer, transportation and secretary also called the Watergate “home”.
Just as with the most famous robbery in Watergate’s history, the first robbery that ever happened there was every bit as costly to it’s victim. In March 1969, Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, had thousands of dollars worth in jewelry stolen from her apartment.
With a complex historically as rich as the Watergate in DC, home to more political figures and parties than any other residential building in Washington DC, the mind reels at the possibility of its stories that will never be told.