Look back to when the old Watergate apartments were the hottest place to live in Washington DC (1969)

The old Watergate apartments - Washington DC buildings

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The Watergate complex in Washington DC — consisting of several buildings including the Watergate Hotel, office buildings, and residential apartments — was originally built in the 1960s as a symbol of luxury and prestige.

The Watergate apartments, which opened in 1967, quickly became a sought-after address for high-profile politicians and diplomats — a credit to its central location and upscale amenities — as well as its sweeping views of the Potomac River and famous Washington DC landmarks.

Of course, the Watergate complex would later become infamous for the events that took place at the Watergate Hotel in 1972. The huge Watergate scandal, which resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, involved a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters that were located in the hotel.

Those events came to define the complex, and the name “Watergate” has become synonymous with political corruption and scandal… and dozens of other scandals or questionable situations since then have had the suffix “-gate” added.

Despite its association with the Watergate scandal (and maybe in some small part because of it!), the Watergate apartments continue to thrive today as a luxury residential complex in the heart of DC. The complex has undergone various renovations and updates over the years, but still remains a pretty piece of prime real estate.

Now let’s take a look back to some promo from way back when the Watergate apartments were new…

In Washington, it used to be Georgetown — now it’s the Watergate apartments

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (7)

Just everybody lives there

In the wintertime, Dr. Sam Johnson believed, swallows “conglobulate together” at the bottom of rivers. In this he was mistaken, but there is no mistaking the tendency of political leaders in Washington to conglobulate in mutually agreeable spots, depending not on the season but the Administration.

Under Kennedy, Georgetown was the right address. Under Nixon, it is the toothy structure shown here, a $70 million cooperative apartment complex called the Watergate, which has a view of the Potomac, several swimming pools, spectacular architecture with a nautical flavor, and a proximity (eight blocks) to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (1)

Any American who comes under the heading of “forgotten” may as well not apply. Membership in Watergate, which presently includes (on the G.O.P. side alone) three Cabinet members, two senators, Nixon’s chief of protocol and more than a dozen White House aides, is sharply restricted both socially and financially.

A typical resident is aged about 50 and arrives with more dogs than children. If he has a car, no problem, there is a garage underground. The annual parking charge is $3,500.

Photo: Lifeguard Linda Fox contemplates one of Watergate’s three pools (left). The choice apartments above and at left face the grassy banks of the Potomac, but those on the opposite side have a commanding view of the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge and lower price tags.

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (2)

White House West: Watergate apartments main attractions

Befitting its reputation as “White House West,” Watergate decided to open its second apartment house (a third is under way) on Inauguration Day, 1969.

Like its east wing counterpart, Watergate West looks rather like a ship with curved decks and rooftop smoke-stacks. In fact, Watergate East has even leaked a little. Both building facades are studded with crenelated panels reminding observers of dragon’s teeth, milk bottles or bowling pins.

Watergate apartment building in the 1960s

The interior of Watergate West’s free-form superstructure includes a number of “luxury features.” The lobby is resplendent with fake Chou Dynasty lamps and curtains handwoven in Swaziland. The elevators are flooded with Muzak, and the bathrooms are paved with marble and equipped with bidets and golden faucets.

The 143 apartments vary as much in design as they do in price (from $28,000 for a one-bedroom to $186,000 for a penthouse). Many living and dining rooms are trapezoids or obtuse-angled triangles, while a few entranceways are circles.

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (4)

Watergate has been gradually revealing its imperfections, however. Despite watchful doormen, security guards and 23 closed-circuit TV cameras, there have been several spectacular jewelry thefts. Low-flying jets are always censoring balcony conversations.

Residents unused to apartment living feel dwarfed and entombed by the sterile and pervasive glass and concrete. And with the confluence of polluted Rock Creek and the polluted Potomac only a block away, on some hot summer evenings, you can hardly smell the honeysuckle.

MORE: Nixon’s resignation & how the Watergate scandal made history (1974)

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (3)

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (5)

Old Watergate Apartments in Washington DC in 1969 (6)
Photographed by Michael Rougier

ALSO TRY THIS! Get the Watergate cake recipe with its cover-up icing (1975-1977)

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