In preparation for extensive renovations, the Watergate Hotel on Virginia Avenue is having a massive liquidation sale – offering years of Washington history to interested shoppers.
All removable items were for sale beginning Sept. 9, when the hotel invited the public to roam the building for Watergate memorabilia and bargain items. The hotel has been a hotbed of Washington culture for several decades, and many at the sale said they were searching for a piece of history.
The large-scale renovation, which will begin in mid-October, will transform the building into an expensive luxury hotel. Formal operations ended Aug. 1 in
preparation for the sale.
Located in the Watergate complex, the hotel attained fame in the early 1970s when several burglars were caught in the Democratic National Committee headquarters, in what was later determined to be a covert operation for then-President Richard Nixon. Though the crime did not take place in the hotel, the burglars slept there.
Don Hayes, president of National Content Liquidators – the company overseeing the liquidation – said nearly everything in the building was for sale including silverware, sconces and Watergate signs. Some of the most expensive items included a baby grand piano that sold for $7,500, and a 19th century oil painting for $12,000.
So far the sale has brought in more than $1 million, said Mike Lundsford, CEO of the liquidation company. “(The success is) because of the name. People are familiar with the name,” Lundsford said. “The hotel (has) been there for a very long time, and the quality of the merchandise is excellent.”
Ray Brennan, who was shopping for lamps and phones with the Watergate insignia, said the reputation of the building sparked his interest in the sale.
“I’m here because I grew up with the Watergate,” Brennan said, gesturing with a wooden wall ornament. “Do I need this? No. But it’s from the Watergate Hotel.”
Linda Clossman, who was working at the sale, said that one restaurant owner bought more than $4,000 worth of kitchenware at the sale.
“He was real happy to get that amount for those prices because – of course – those items cost a lot of money new and he was real happy to find them used,” Clossman said. “They want memorabilia at a bargain price.”
Watergate resident Woody Kelley was looking for items to refurnish his apartment next door. He said he came for the bargains rather than the historical importance.
“There’s nothing sentimental about (the merchandise). It’s reasonable furniture, it’s not beautiful,” Kelley said. “The price is good.”
Other shoppers said their goal was to find pieces with the Watergate logo. Rachel Fey and several friends said they were disappointed to discover few such items remaining.
“We’re here because it’s the Watergate,” Fey said.