Watergate design detail

Watergate Complex History

Overview & Index Summaries

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Overview

This is a guide, a loose index if you will, of the development and subsequent history of the Watergate Complex from its conception in 1960 through its 50th year celebration in 2015. If you are looking for something in particular or have stories or photographs or documents to share, please email.

Designed by noted Italian architect Luigi Moretti, the Watergate Complex design and construction took place from 1960 to 1971.

The Watergate complex is a group of five buildings in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 10-acre site contains two office buildings, three residential cooperative apartment buildings, and a hotel. While the hotel and one office building are connected, today these are independently owned, creating a complex of six separately governed and privately owned buildings.

Conceived as an idea in 1960, the groundbreaking for the 10-acre Watergate complex occurred in 1963. The first shovel went into the ground August 1963 as Riverview Realty, the leasing agent for the Watergate, began to build its rental office. In February 1964, ground was broken for Watergate East, the first of the what was originally 5 buildings. Over time, the buildings were purchased by different companies, resulting in there now being 6 individually owned and operated buildings.At the time, Watergate was the largest privately funded planned urban renewal development (PUD) in the history of Washington, DC. Designed by famed Italian architect Luigi Moretti, and originally developed by the Italian firm Società Generale Immobiliare (SGI), the project was the first to use the new mixed-use rezoning adopted by the District of Columbia in 1958. The Watergate complex was designed to be a "town within a city" to transform the commercial area, making it a home along the Potomac River for businesses and residents alike. There are several theories as to where the name originated.1

The first building, Watergate East, was formally dedicated on October 27, 1965. Residents of Watergate East took full ownership of their cooperative in March 1966. And in 2015, the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the complex and the opening of Building One (now Watergate East).

Indexes


Overview of the Complex

Due to the personal nature of some of these documents, please email if you would like a copy of those that are not linked. Be specific as to what you are requesting.

Location | The Site | The Vision | The Landscape Vision | The Town within a City | The Name
The Design | Approval Controversies and Construction | The Buildings | Les Champs
Watergate East | Watergate Hotel | 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW Office Building | Watergate West
W
atergate South | 600 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Office Building | Dedication | National Register
The First Burglaries - and other Scandals | A Place in History | Notable Residents
Società Generale Immobiliare (and the Vatican connection) | The Freeway

  • Watergate East (residence) opened October 23, 1965, with dedication on October 27, 1965.
  • Watergate Hotel opened March 30, 1967. The third building, 2600 Office Buidling opened at the same time and is connected to the hotel through their respective lobbies.
  • Watergate South (residence) opened in June 1968.
  • Watergate West (residence) opened in 1969, the day of the Nixon inaugural.
  • The second office building, 600 New Hampshire, opened in 1971.


The Principal Players

Due to the personal nature of some of these documents, please email if you would like a copy of those that are not linked. Be specific as to what you are requesting.

Architect: Luigi Moretti

Moretti and his Architecture

The Watergate Project

Summary of presentation by Mario di Valmarana, December 2005

Development

Sponsor: Watergate Improvement Associates

Aldo Samaritani, Chairman
Nicolas M. Salgo, President

Project Management: Ediltecno, S.p.A., Inc: Giuseppe Cecchi

Interview with Giuseppe Cecchi, Project Manager for the Watergate Complex. 15 Jun 2007. Reprinted with permission from The Italian Legacy in Washington D.C. by Luca Molinari, Skira, 2008.

Architects

Luigi Moretti (Italy)
Milton Fischer (USA)
William Graff, Project Architect

Financing:   John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, arranged by Donald H. Richardson Co., Inc., Byron K. Elliott, CEO

Lighting Consultant: Gerald Ewing

Landscape Architect: Boris V. Timchenko

General Contractor: Magazine Brothers Construction Corp.

Sales/Management Agent: Riverview Realty Corporation - Hal Lewis

Engineer: Royce Franklin Ward (CE) of Hageman-Harris (NY firm)

Structural Engineers: Heinzman & Clifton, Washington DC
Survey Engineers: Matz-Childs & Associates, Rockville, MD
Computer Program: Engineering Physics Co.


The Hotel

Manager: Gabor Olah de Garab


Oral Histories

Watergate East is collecting oral histories from residents, staff, and the development teams. The oral history project began in 2013 andended in 2015. Other oral histories of some Watergate residents are located in the Digital DC project at George Washington University.

Due to the personal nature of these oral histories, please email if you would like a copy. Be specific as to what you are requesting.

BERNARD BURT: charter member of Watergate Hotel Health Club and Foggy Bottom resident.

WILLIAM G. DAKIN: Watergate East resident since 1990; past WEI board member.

GEORGE ARNSTEIN: Watergate East resident since 1965; past WEI board member.

 

 


Foggy Bottom Neighborhood

Foggy Bottom Photographs
Images depicting the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Drawn from throughout Special Collections, these photographs depict the capital city's historic neighborhood bounded by 17th Street, Rock Creek Parkway, Constitution Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Foggy Bottom Association
The Foggy Bottom Association (FBA) was initially incorporated in the District of Columbia on June 19, 1959, as the Foggy Bottom Restoration Association. The present name was formally adopted and ratified May 13, 1965.

The purpose of FBA is to further the civic, cultural, social and economic welfare of the Foggy Bottom/West End community; preserve and enhance the residential character of the community; and promote historic preservation in the area.

The physical area of FBA is primarily in northwest Washington, DC and includes the interior of the area bounded by Rock Creek on the west, the Potomac River on the south; an eastern limit defined by an imaginary line drawn northward from the Potomac River to and along 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to 20th Street, and again northward on 20th Street to N Street; and westward along N Street to Rock Creek. This area mirrors that of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A.

Foggy Bottom News

Foggy Bottom Alerts
The purpose of this group is to enable the residents of Foggy Bottom to alert one another about issues and proposals that impact the neighborhood.

 


National Register of Historic Places & DC Historic Preservation

The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board "held a public hearing on February 24, 2005 on the application for historic designation of the property known as the Watergate or the Watergate Complex (and originally Watergate Towne), 2500, 2600, 2650 and 2700 Virginia Avenue and 600 and 700 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, hereby designates the property a historic landmark to be entered in the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites and requests that the nomination be forwarded to the National Register of Historic Places for listing." [Approval Decision]

On October 12, 2005, the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, listed the property in the National Register of Historic Places. [Approval Decision]

Area: Foggy Bottom
Built: 1962-1971
Architects: Luigi Moretti, consulting architect; Milton Fischer, associate architect; Boris Timchenko, landscape architect
Architectural Style: Modern Movement
Added to NRHP: October 12, 2005
NRHP Reference: 05000540

national trust placque


Footnotes

1 The question of why the complex is named Watergate is murky. The best explanation was provided in 2014 in interviews with William Graff (project architect) and Giuseppe Cecchi (project manager). Both agreed the name was already associated with the site -- because of theC&O canal gates (one located at the western end of the site, near what is now Thompson's boathouse and the Swedish Embassy and the location of the zero milestone for the C&O canal). The canal gates controlled water from Tiber Creek into the Potomac. Two lesser theories are the Water Gate Inn originally on the property and owned by the Normandy Farm proprietor, and the water steps leading from the Lincoln Memorial to the Potomac.



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