By Jan Conway, Nyumbani Vice President
The beautiful and historic Watergate Hotel will be the site of this year’s Nyumbani Benefit and Gala. We are looking forward to a great turnout on Friday, September 22, as we celebrate 25 years since the founding of Nyumbani’s Children’s Home by Father Angelo D’Agostino.
Nearly everyone in Washington is aware that the Watergate is steeped in political history, but did you know that it also has a deep connection to Nyumbani? When the Watergate East apartment building was first opened in October 1965, many Washingtonians marveled at the brilliant design of world-renowned architect Luigi Moretti. Moretti, who is sometimes referred to as the “Frank Lloyd Wright of Italy” had been hired by the Italian real estate company Societa Generale Immobiliare (SGI) to design the complex’s buildings. The Watergate property in Foggy Bottom was one of SGI’s first forays into the United States real estate market. Moretti’s strikingly contemporary design was intended to be a “living shape” that would bridge the gap between the neoclassical architecture of the buildings lining the Mall and the Potomac River.
SGI’s project manager during construction of the Watergate complex was a gentleman by the name of Giuseppe Cecchi, a recent transplant (at the time) from Milan, Italy. Overseeing the construction of the Watergate’s three apartment buildings, two office towers, and hotel was a major undertaking, but the success that ensued has been unmatched – the complex became synonymous with style, class and luxury. Cecchi went on to become one of the Washington area’s most successful real estate developers, founding the IDI Group in 1975. IDI’s luxury residential projects include the Rotonda at Tysons Corner, The Belvedere in Rosslyn, Leisure World of Maryland and Leisure World of Virginia, mixed-use projects throughout Northern Virginia, and hotels such as the Vista International and Washington Renaissance.
Giuseppe and his wife Mercedes met Father D’Ag in 2003 following Mass at a church in McLean, Virginia, and struck up a conversation about the goings-on and good works at Nyumbani. Because Father D’Ag was scheduled to return to Nairobi that day, the couple followed up later by meeting with Joe D’Agostino (Father D’Ag’s brother). Joe tells the story that “we talked about Nyumbani and Angelo, the children, the staff, what they were planning, what they needed, all of it. A few days later, a most generous donation made its way into Nyumbani’s coffers, and a beautiful friendship was born.” Since that time, the Cecchi family has been among Nyumbani’s most loyal friends and followers, contributing tens of thousands of dollars and spreading the word and their influence to further the cause. In 2011, Giuseppe’s contributions were acknowledged by the Nyumbani Board at a luncheon in his honor, and we are grateful for everything he has done to support us over the years.
The new, redesigned Watergate hotel stays true to Luigi Moretti’s original design, and it will be a fun and elegant site for our annual gala. Our event will be held in the Watergate’s Moretti Ballroom, where we will celebrate 25 years of Nyumbani. Close to the ballroom is a board room named after Giuseppe Cecchi, an honor that is right and fitting for a man who played such a large role in the hotel’s birth and success.
Buy your tickets for the 2017 Annual Gala at the Watergate Hotel here!
We hope to see you on Sept 22nd as we celebrate a quarter century.
*Article originally published in Nyumbani USA Summer 2017 Newsletter