The room is the same from which Alfred Baldwin watched the Democratic Party headquarters before Nixon resignation.
While his cronies raided the Democratic Party headquarters, Alfred Baldwin watched from room 214 of the hotel across the street in case the police arrived. Fifty years later, the Watergate Hotel allows guests to relive America’s most notorious political scandal in the very same room.
Renamed the “Scandal Room,” everything inside evokes the failed espionage operation orchestrated by the reelection campaign of then-President Richard Nixon (1969-1974), which led to the resignation of the Republican two years later.
It was in this place where Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent linked to the plot, was distracted on the night of June 17, 1972, watching television and did not warn his colleagues that a patrol car had arrived. A mistake for which the president would eventually fall.
Priced at around 1,500 dollars a night, the room “offers a unique experience for those who want to see with their own eyes where the Watergate coup was orchestrated,” the hotel’s general manager, Spaniard Manuel Martinez, told EFE Agency.
“Clients are attracted by the scandal that originated here,” adds the director as he tours the space, immortalized in fictions such as “All the President’s Men”, “Forrest Gump” or “Gaslit”.
The perfect balcony
The word Watergate, which everyone associates with the fall of Nixon, is actually the name of a complex of buildings erected between the 1960s and 1970s in Washington, on the banks of the Potomac River, housing luxury apartments, offices, and the hotel of the same name.
There is barely ten meters of separation between the semicircular balcony of the “Scandal Room” and the windows of the offices that at that time were run by the Democrats and that today are the headquarters of companies and law firms.
“From the balcony of this room, you can see right across the street, where the headquarters of the Democratic Party was,” Martinez says.
It was, therefore, the perfect place for Baldwin to act as a lookout while Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis snuck into the Democratic headquarters to plant microphones. But the plan had cracks.
“Two police officers showed up called by someone who saw suspicious activity late at night. Those people were arrested there and another one here at the hotel,” the director tells.
Half a century later, all sorts of objects carefully selected by the prestigious British designer Lyn Paolo, such as a typewriter, an old safe, and a red leather sofa, take the room back to that era.
A trip back in time
Nixon would have had a hard time falling asleep here. Everything is reminiscent of the twilight of his political career, including a copy hanging on the wall of his resignation letter, signed on August 9, 1974.
Also featured are a dozen newspaper covers for history, such as the famous “Nixon Resigns” from The Washington Post, and others from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Life, and Newsweek.
Not surprisingly, the work of the press was key to the break-in, which was initially considered a case of burglary, leading to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation.
Most notable was the investigation by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who revealed the White House’s attempts to cover up the scandal thanks to a tip from a source they dubbed “deep throat” and whose identity, that of retired FBI agent Mark Felt, would be revealed decades later.
Despite the aura of intrigue that surrounds the place, guests’ privacy is guaranteed in the “Scandal Room.” Manuel promises that the only microphone that has entered the room is the one used for the interview.