With skillful research from old newspapers and magazines, oral histories from presidential libraries, and a few interviews, Rodota has fashioned an interesting story about the white concrete edifice that looks like a giant clamshell ... Yet the author does a good job of mixing historical facts with personal anecdotes to tell the story of what was both the most famous and most infamous hotel in Washington, DC, until the presidential election of 2016. Perhaps Rodota will follow this book with another hotel story entitled Tales from the Trump International, which might indeed provide some needed wowza.
Not surprisingly, the book is at its strongest when it re-creates the location’s most notorious episode. Indeed, Watergate—the scandal, not the building—was a much wilder story than we remember, taking place during an era when the nation’s capital was more village than city, with small, elite circles entertaining themselves with dinner parties and gossip ... The Watergate suffers at times from a suffocating level of detail, with lengthy digressions into Historic Preservation Review Board controversies and unnecessary asides like refinancing the mortgage on one of the buildings. Elsewhere, Mr. Rodota recounts the dozen or so Watergate residents who attended Tricia Nixon’s wedding, and the buildings themselves aren’t even fully constructed in the first 100 pages. Still, Mr. Rodota offers an informative, comprehensive account of one of America’s most famous building complexes.