TopOfTheCircle.com

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Dec. 11, 2006 — A lunch date with history

Today, I had lunch in a restaurant on the first floor of a hotel located right along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

The place: The Watergate Hotel.

For a generation of Americans, the word “Watergate” opens up memories of a period of history between 1971 and 1974 in which the power of the Presidency was used for domestic spying and abuse of authority.

What the whole scandal and the threads of the story have obfuscated is the fact that the Watergate is still functioning today as a hotel with retail space and a restaurant. At first glance, it is an inelegant complex of dirty concrete and glass, and looks like a 1970s-era woodcut from an aerial view.

But as was explained to us by members of the staff, the meeting rooms on the upper floors are designed that they all have a view of either the river, the white-marble Kennedy Center, or the bustle and buildings of Georgetown.

We were on the ground floor, and still got an excellent window seat to see the joggers on the opposite bank as the midday sun shimmered across the water.

Presently, the managers of the hotel are involved in litigation, trying to convert the apartments into high-priced condominiums. But you wouldn’t know that from the disposition of the staff. Nor would you know that it was the site of one of the greatest threats to our Constitution in the 20th Century.

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