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Watergate Hotel Redux a Nod to Scandal and Clandestine Kitsch

Image: Watergate Complex

An exterior view of Watergate office building on Jan. 12, 1973 in Washington. BOB DAUGHERTY / AP, file

When the Watergate Hotel re-opens to guests this week in Washington it will offer a nod to clandestine kitsch —“confidential information” on flash drives disguised as 60s-era tapes and the phrase “if walls could talk” on black envelopes.

The newly renovated hotel is in the same complex that was once the site of the famous break-in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel and Office building in 1972. The ensuing political scandal helped lead to then President Richard Nixon’s resignation once it was learned officials in his administration were involved and tried to cover it up.

Image: The Watergate Hotel office building on May 31, 2005 in Washington
The Watergate Hotel and Office Building on May 31, 2005 in Washington. Joe Raedle / Getty Images, file

When guests check into the newly renovated hotel next week after it has its official black-tie opening on Tuesday, they’ll experience that history, with pens that say “stolen from The Watergate Hotel” and room key cards that read “No Need to Break In".

Watch: From the archives: Watergate Break-in

“We wanted to transport our guests to a glamorous time in history, back when The Watergate Hotel was a playground for powerful people,” Rakel Cohen, senior vice president of design and development at Euro Capitol Properties, the group that owns the hotel, told NBC News.

In its 60s and 70s-era heyday, the Watergate complex was a premier address for Washington’s political movers and shakers, including Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and stars like Elizabeth Taylor.

Jeb Stuart Magruder
Jeb Stuart Magruder is sworn in by Senator Sam Ervin, D-N.C., chairman, before beginning testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee in Washington, D.C., June 14, 1973. Magruder is the former Deputy Director of the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Charles W. Harrity / AP, file

“The hotel was a gathering point even after … the hijinks of 1972, the Watergate Hotel remained a gathering place for the Washington political elite and I assume that will resume,” Timothy Naftali, former founding director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, told NBC News.

Watch: Watergate Burglary Trial

After the famous break-in, anything emblazoned with “The Watergate” label became a hot commodity leading to thefts of hotel towels and robes and a boost in the sale of similarly labeled liquor at the complex.

Image: Watergate Office Building
The Watergate office building on May 31, 2005 in Washington. Joe Raedle / Getty Images, file

The hotel, which originally opened in 1967, has been closed for renovations since 2007, and was bought by Euro Capitol Properties in 2010. They started renovating the hotel in 2012.

Image: Watergate Hotel room
Renovated Watergate Hotel room, model room. The Watergate Hotel

Though the hotel was closed, the complex itself remained open. In recent years, it has counted among its residents former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Euro Capitol Properties’ said its goal is to make the Watergate into Washington, D.C.’s top luxury hotel again.

“We immediately saw the potential to return the hotel to a state worthy of its reputation of ‘Washington’s finest address.’,” Cohen said.

Image: Watergate Hotel rooftop rendering
Watergate Hotel rooftop rendering. The Watergate Hotel

The owners invested $125 million into the renovation, keeping the historical facade of the building the same but entirely transforming the inside, which was designed by Ron Arad and Moroso. Their goal was to create a luxury hotel that stayed true to the original architecture of the building, which was designed by Luigi Moretti to look like a sail.

The inside of the hotel has no straight lines, and there are circles on the floor and ceilings of the building to create an aquatic effect. Ninety-five percent of the rooms will have views of the Potomac River, and there will be a rooftop bar with a 360 degree view of the city.

The hotel will follow through with the 60’s feel with employees’ costumes designed by Mad Men designer Janie Bryant and 60s-themed and a bar called, “The Next Whiskey Bar,” named after The Doors’ “Alabama Song,” which has the lyrics, “Show me the way, to the next whiskey bar.”

Image: Watergate Complex
An exterior view of Watergate office building on Jan. 12, 1973 in Washington. BOB DAUGHERTY / AP, file

Naftali sees this hotel opening as an opportunity for Washington, D.C’s elite to once again gather at a historic site.

“The name Watergate is destined to live with us historically forever,” he said. “Thanks to the events of 1972, the name Watergate is permanently written on the map of the District of Columbia.”