Promising the Return of Luxury, the Watergate Hotel Opens June 14


It’s been a long time coming, but the Watergate Hotel, closed for almost a decade, will officially reopen June 14.

The Watergate coop-office-hotel complex along Virginia and New Hampshire Avenues NW is best known for the scandal that toppled a president. It gained worldwide fame because of a burglary at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee in 1972 and the ensuing investigation, leading to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Indeed, the hotel’s key cards read: “No need to break in.” Excerpts from Nixon’s speeches can be heard in the bathrooms.

Hotel rates start at $425 per night.

On June 14, VIPs, neighbors and other Washingtonians will attend a glitzy, black-tie, grand opening gala at the hotel. The idea is to bring sexy back to D.C. with some 1960s, Kennedyesque glamour.

Along with a $125-million renovation, the reconstructed, rejuvenated 336-room hotel honors its architecture and history with a new bar, restaurant and ballroom that recognize Italian architect Luigi Moretti, who designed the Watergate complex in the 1961. The hotel opened in 1967.

To salute the 1960s, the hotel asked “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant to make retro uniforms for hotel staffers. Interior designer Ron Arad took the lead on the lobby, Kingbird restaurant and The Next Whisky Bar; he also designed the guest rooms and the rooftop, Top of the Gate. Michael Santoro is the hotel’s executive chef. There is a cigar lounge and a spa, besides.

Behind all the construction and creativity are Jacques and Rakel Cohen of Euro Capital Properties, which bought the hotel in 2010 for $40 million.

“In its heyday, the Watergate Hotel was a playground for powerful people,” said Rakel Cohen, senior vice president of design and development for Euro Capital Properties. “My vision was to recreate that by celebrating Moretti’s original design and updating it with modern, luxurious details that guests and locals will value.”

According to the company, there is “27,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space catering to a multitude of occasions including corporate training sessions, weddings, galas and more. The 11 flexible indoor spaces include several rooms with natural light and water views, a brand new 7,000 square-foot Moretti Grand Ballroom that features state-of-the-art technology and several configurations, as well as an additional 10,000 square feet of outdoor terraces overlooking the Potomac.”

“I have a confession to make: our initial attraction to this project was actually the Watergate scandal,” Arad said. “It is fantastic that this starting point led us to work on a project that also has such a great architectural legacy. Working within such a significant period piece, you can’t ignore the context, but at the same time you don’t want to mimic it. Instead, you want to create something complementary, but most importantly, something new.” 

Over the years, the design and construction crews for the hotel endured several delays, including the partial collapse of the Watergate office parking garage in May 2015.

What about the significance of the date of the re-opening? While not quite part of the Watergate scandal, Attorney General John Mitchell demanded on June 14, 1971, that the New York Times cease publication of the “Pentagon Papers.” (The Times declined to do so.)

On a positive historical note, Flag Day is June 14.

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