In This House, They Now Know, Lived Deep Throat
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Sutton Place in central Fairfax County is a neighborhood of walkers. Joan Bottrell was striding along Wynford Drive when a neighbor passed by and asked, "Do you know you live in a famous house?"
That was how Bottrell learned last week that her brick rambler at 3216 Wynford Dr. was where Deep Throat -- W. Mark Felt -- lived with his family during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Felt, an FBI official, was Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's secret source for articles that helped lead to President Richard M. Nixon's resignation in 1974.
Bottrell, a real estate agent with Avery-Hess, said that when she bought the home in 1994, neighbors told her it once had belonged to Felt.
"I didn't think anything of it," said Bottrell, who said she did not remember reading about Felt during the Watergate years. She said she did not connect Felt and Deep Throat until the neighbor told her about the revelation.
Built in 1965, the five-bedroom, three-bath house sits on an acre along Wynford, which is off of Prosperity Avenue just south of Route 50, less than two miles west of the Capital Beltway. The house, assessed this year at $511,760, still has the swimming pool where Felt and his wife, Audrey, hosted neighborhood parties.
"He looked more like a movie star years ago than an FBI man," said Helen C. Swindler, one of the few neighbors remaining from the years when the Felt family lived on Wynford Drive, in the late 1960s and 1970s. Swindler's house is four doors down from Bottrell's.
At one of those pool parties, when speculation about Deep Throat's identity was rampant, Swindler said she approached Felt with The Question.
"Could you be Deep Throat?" Swindler said she asked Felt.
"Helen, no," Felt replied.
Swindler said she had no reason to believe Felt was not telling her the truth. "He was very calm about it after I asked him," she said.
Felt's next-door neighbors, Dexter and Jacqueline Benson, said they knew Felt was a senior FBI official but said they did not ask him if he was The Post's source.
"It had been rumored before, but Mark never said anything about it and we never asked him," said Jacqueline Benson, a former deputy superintendent of the Fairfax County schools system. "You wouldn't have known anything by his behavior. We assumed the rumors were wrong."
Benson said Felt was an ordinary suburban neighbor and, like many who lived on Wynford at that time, a World War II veteran. Audrey Felt, a stay-at-home mother of two children, talked to Jacqueline Benson about her favorite soap operas. The Felts were listed in the white pages of the phone book as late as 1970-71 but were not listed in the 1972 book, according to the Fairfax City Regional Library.
The Bensons, who moved into their home on Wynford in 1964 and still reside there, said they were the first to put in a swimming pool and persuaded Felt to do the same. The Felts, who had a son, Mark, and daughter, Joan, often invited the Bensons and their children over for hamburgers on the patio, and the Bensons had the Felts over, too. Dexter Benson was a cavalry officer at Fort Myer.
Jacqueline Benson said: "I think he was a very honest and caring person. What he did was best for the country."
After the Felts' children left home, Swindler and Benson said, Felt and his wife wanted a smaller home, so they moved to a condominium at the Watergate at Landmark in the city of Alexandria.
Audrey Felt died in July 1984, when the couple was living in Alexandria, according to death records. Felt later moved to Northern California, where he surfaced last week when the Deep Throat story broke.
Swindler was interviewed minutes after she had finished reading Woodward's account of how Felt became Deep Throat in the June 2 Post, which mentioned that Woodward had visited the Felts on Wynford before Watergate to seek career advice.
"I was excited about the news," Swindler said. "I was like, 'Oh, wow.' I think he's a hero. He felt he did what he had to do."