Posts Tagged ‘Bob Woodward’

WatergateGarage2

The Watergate Garage

It is a short bike ride across the Potomac River and along the Mount Vernon Trail to get to the Rosslyn neighborhood in Arlington.  It is there that you will find a permanent historical marker outside the building located at 1400 Wilson Boulevard (MAP).  The historical marker, erected by Arlington County as part of its Historic Preservation Program, identifies a location most Americans have heard about, but very few could pinpoint.

The events that took place in parking space D-32 inside this building’s garage played a pivotal role in bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon.  It was here that a young Washington Post reporter named Bob Woodward clandestinely met with an informant, FBI second in command, Mark “Deep Throat” Felt, to obtain information for a series  of news stories about what would eventually come to be known as the Watergate scandal.

The marker outside the unremarkable parking garage reads, “Mark Felt, second in command at the FBI, met Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward here in this parking garage to discuss the Watergate scandal. Felt provided Woodward information that exposed the Nixon administration’s obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation. He chose the garage as an anonymous secure location. They met at this garage six times between October 1972 and November 1973. The Watergate scandal resulted in President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Woodward’s managing editor, Howard Simons, gave Felt the code name “Deep Throat.” Woodward’s promise not to reveal his source was kept until Felt announced his role as Deep Throat in 2005.”

If you want to see for yourself the historic site where these clandestine meetings were held, you will need to hurry.  There are plans to tear down the aging office building within the next few years to make way for eventual redevelopment, and the marker may soon be all that remains.

WatergateGarage3     WatergateGarage1

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The Yenching Palace

During a 13-day period in October in the year that I was born, a political and military standoff nearly turned into a worldwide nuclear conflict.  Known in this country as the Cuban Missile Crisis (it was known as the October Crisis in Cuba and the Caribbean Crisis in the former Soviet Union), leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union engaged in a tense confrontation in October of 1962 over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores.

In a nationally televised address, President Kennedy notified Americans about the presence of the missiles and explained his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba.  The President made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security.  However, 51 years ago today, disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba.  Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

So I took a bike ride to the location where many historians contend the agreement to end the crisis was negotiated, the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant.  Tucked between the D.C. Fire Department’s Engine Company 28 and a 7-Eleven, it was located at 3524 Connecticut Avenue (MAP).  The Yenching Palace was opened in the 1950’s by Van Lung, the son of a Chinese warlord, and remained a landmark in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of northwest D.C. for more than 50 years.

In its heyday, diplomats, politicians, movie stars and musicians dined there alongside neighborhood regulars.  In the early 1970s, Henry Kissinger was a regular visitor, Chinese diplomats often his companions. Kissinger used to drink Moutai — a powerful liqueur popular in China — and eat the duck.  A few of the other customers included Mick Jagger, Danny Kaye, George Balanchine, Ann Landers, Jason Robards, James Baldwin, Arthur (that’s how he signed the guest book) Garfunkel, famed architect I.M. Pei (whose signature is completely unreadable), Daniel Ellsberg, “Alex” Haig, Lesley Stahl, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and so many ambassadors and Senators it’s hard to keep track.  But perhaps the most famous customers and the most oft-told story about Yenching Palace is how emissaries representing President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev clandestinely met there on the evening of October 27th to negotiate during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and legend has it that they hammered out the final details, and avoided a war, in the second-to-last booth on the left.

The Yenching Palace closed – to the dismay of many regulars – in 2007 when the building was leased by the Lung family to a Walgreens – the first Walgreens to locate in D.C., in fact.  In a nod to the building’s history Walgreens attempted to recreate the façade of the building to imitate its original appearance.