History - Watergate Complex
The chic of the 70's has been preserved in the building - inside and out. The Watergate complex in Washington has indeed been a little dusty, but the fantastic view over the Potomac River across to Arlington remains. The money has apparently also held.
It certainly feels like it, the moment people arrive at the front door, a doorman in a black suit greeted us with impecable manners. We travelled to the eleventh floor of the Watergate South building to ask a petite old lady who is 85 years old, but only looks 65, for an interview.
Tina Winston started the story by telling us about "the door". The door appears to be a completely ordinary beige colored door and one would not suspect this door lead to one of the biggst scandals in U.S. history: the Watergate Scandal. Tina Winston recently visited the Newseum, a journalism meusuem, with her daughter. When they saw the door, Tina remembered it was precisesly this door that was stowed away in storage by her husband Henry, but after it was broken into, the door disappeared at some point.
The break-in occured on the night of June 17th, 1972. Security guard Frank Wills noticed that a door into the office building had a piece of tape attached. Wills first thought an employee had put the tape around the door in order to save time without locking and unlocking the door all the time. However, that was against security policy so he took off the tape and continued checking the complex. But when he return on his next round, a new piece of tape appeared on the door. Wills then called the police.
Through its course, the scandal rocks the United States for two years until the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Nixon was forced out by the a storm of rage over the apparently unwinnable ware in Vietnam dividing the insecure nation into a deep crisis of understanding democracy. But the Watergate scandal may also be seen as a starting point for a new, confident, fearless form of investiagtive journalism. It served as an inspiration for generations of journalists because at the center of the scandal were not only Nixon and his aides, but also two local editors of The Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
Woodward first pursued a rountine matter of investigation burglaries at the Watergate Complex, which, also housed the headquarters of the Democratic National Party. The police arrested the five burglars found at the scene and they admitted they had broken in before. The "burglars" had improperly installed eavesdropping microphones a week before. One of the men was identified as Jim McCord who was on Nixon's reelection committee, responsible for security issues and maintaining contacts with the CIA.
Woodward and his colleague were sitting on a hot lead. The tracks lead to the so-called plumbers group in the White House that served to close leaks in their own ranks and release damaging information of the opposing political party, the Democrats. Bernstein and Woodward made the case that Republicans with access to Nixon's knowledge took advantage of the White House's resources to create an illegal campaign against the Democrats. The two journalists were under massive pressure from the White House and government to not release the information but the two men also had allies. A key role was played by an anonymous information, code name "Deep Throat" who called the journalists to give tips and pointers on if they were on the right track. Only shortly before his death in May 2005, was the informant's identity revealed to be Mark Felt, the deputy chief of FBI.
In the autumn of 1972, Nixon still had a good chance for re-election. But then the revelations came thick and fast, revealing a system of illegal campaign financing and narrow illegal links between the Republican party and the government. The White House repeatedly tried to intervene in the investigations by influencing and bribing witnesses. It turned out that Nixon's closest aides were implicated in the scandal, his campaing manager and former Attorney General John Mitchell, his chief of staff Bob Haldeman, and his advisor John Ehrlichman. Many other employess were accused over the course of the investiagtion leading to a special Congresssional Committee and impeachment proceedings against Nixon.
As the summer of 1974 wore one, it became increasing clear the Nixon no longer had the support of his fellow Republicans in Congress. Threatened with impeachment, Nixon became the first U.S. president in history to resign. Nixon escaped legal prosecution only because his successor Gerald Ford pardoned him for the sake of peace in a deeply troubled country.
Recently after 36 years, Berstein and Woodward wrote together again for the Washington Post. In their article, they describe how Nixon was worse than they had thought at the time. The Watergate was only a symbol for Nixons entire term. "During his five and a half-year presidency, Nixon started and contibued to five consecutive and overlapping wars - against eh anti-Vietnam War movement, against the media, against the Democrats, against the justice system, and finally to truth itself."
Henry Winston at that time was the Watergate building manager. The office suite broken into, 601, belonged to the Democratic Party at the time. However, he can no longer tell the story due to serious illness. His wife Tina says without the scandal, the Watergate would have just been a complex of apartments and offices - one house among many. "But after that, the Watergate had a certain aura," says Tina who has lived in the Watergate since 1974, " Many want to buy homes or rent now." Tina herself was the owner of a fashion boutique in the building flew in scarves from Paris and named her shop "Colette of Watergate."
Business is still being done at the Watergate to this day. Tina Winston works alongside her daughter in the real estate business. There of plenty of offers to sell and buy, for example, a luxury apartent with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, thick hardwood hickory floor, and every enough space for a piano offered at $895,000. Penthouses at the Watergate cost slightly more than three million.
The comfort and closeness to the White House have attracted many celebrities over the years. The former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had until recently an apartment there and so did former presidential candidate Bob Dole. A Supreme Court Justice also lives there but Tina did not disclose the name, things have to be a little discreet at the Watergate afterall.
- From an article by Damir Fras and holger Schmale of Berliner Zeitung Magazine June 17th, 2012.
1204 Watergate South View. Footage shot and edited by Charles Durfor