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Along Parade Route, the High Are the Mighty

By Saundra Torry
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 14 1997; Page B01

The power perches along the historic route of the parade that will mark the nation's 53rd inauguration on Monday come in all shapes and sizes -- grand and modest, invitation-only and first come, first served.

There's the corner window of Crestar Bank President Peter Nostrand's fifth-floor office, at 15th Street and New York Avenue NW, where some of the 1,200 guests invited to Crestar's inaugural bash will be able to catch the parade as it turns up 15th Street toward them before swinging west to the White House.

For those with a tenant pass, there's the 12,000-square-foot terrace atop the Mills Building, 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. -- a bit blustery perhaps, but it has a panoramic view that sweeps from the Potomac River to the White House and beyond.

And anyone still can try for a lunch reservation at Les Halles, 1201 Pennsylvania Ave., where diners may be able to glimpse the procession through a gap in the bleachers that now line the avenue's sidewalks.

"It's a day to celebrate America," Crestar's Nostrand said. "We have corner windows all the way up five floors, and lots of us will have our noses pressed up against them on Inauguration Day."

President Clinton, ensconced in the enclosed reviewing stand erected in front of the White House, no doubt will have the best view. But along the 1.7-mile parade route from the Capitol to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., there's plenty of competition for second-best.

Those with enviable vistas -- hotels and restaurants, private offices and just plain folks -- are primping and planning for the one day every four years when power is no longer measured by the size of your office but by whether it looks out on the Avenue of the Presidents.

"Not only does my office look out on Pennsylvania Avenue, but my balcony, the FTC's balcony, does, too," said Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Varney, who campaigned for Clinton in 1992 and was a top aide at the White House.

Varney plans to bring her husband, Tom Graham, and her sons, John, 9, and Mickey, 6, to see the parade from the FTC's windows. "It is history, and it is happening" in front of them, she said. "It is something they will be able to remember."

Tom Warner, president of Warner Plumbing Services, in the District, shares that spirit of anticipation for "the excitement, the pageantry" of the day. Since 1961, in a tradition started by Warner's father, the family company has rented the top-floor restaurant of the Hotel Washington, at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, to entertain friends and customers with a bird's-eye view of the procession.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a Republican or Democrat" being sworn in, Warner said. "We are just glad we are Americans."

Invitations to any aerie along the avenue are much sought after.

"The demand for access to the roof deck far exceeds the capacity," said Larry E. Hinman, general manager at 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. "I have tenants calling me, begging me for more passes, which I can't always accommodate without running into fire restrictions."

Some employers along Pennsylvania Avenue, including the National Archives and the law firm of Crowell & Moring, have resorted to lotteries to choose employees who can use the limited number of viewing spaces available.

And those with good sight lines for sale have been deluged with requests.

The Willard Intercontinental Hotel has been booked solid for the inaugural weekend since shortly after the last inauguration, according to spokeswoman Ann McCracken. Ordinarily, the least expensive room on the avenue goes for $380 a night, and McCracken wouldn't even talk about the price for the four-day minimum inaugural stay.

The Hotel Washington, where the tab starts at $156 a night, has been sold out for the weekend since Clinton was reelected in November. During the last inaugural parade, the president and first lady got out of their car and walked the last blocks to the White House, right past the hotel. Thrilled Arkansans, who had booked most of the rooms, threw their windows open -- flouting Secret Service warnings.

"The Secret Service finally had to give up" trying to get them closed, said Muneer Deen, the hotel's general manager. "There were just too many."

Still, those with great views must adhere to exacting security requirements. The Secret Service has allowed private buildings to use balconies and terraces but "has asked hosts to be extra diligent . . . about taking adequate precautions," according to Bernard Murray, spokesman for the Secret Service's Washington field office.

At 1700 Pennsylvania Ave., for instance, entrances will be locked and only those with "access control keys" will be able to get in, according to Hinman, the general manager. Entry to the roof terrace will require a special pass, he said, and "the Secret Service has made clear it will have . . . individuals posted" on the terrace.

Windows at the Willard, one of the few buildings along the route where the windows actually can be opened, will be locked shut by management this week, McCracken said.

Federal government buildings along the parade route will be closed Monday, and a special one-day pass issued by the General Services Administration will be the only pass that will get an employee in, according to a GSA spokesman. Agencies must forward a list to the GSA of people who will be in the buildings.

As for private parties along the route, invitations to most of them are "nontransferable," and some hosts have asked guests to supply not only their names but also their Social Security numbers when responding.

Name a business with windows overlooking the parade route and it's likely someone there is throwing a party. The law firms of Latham & Watkins; Crowell & Moring; and Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan have invited clients and friends to watch the festivities. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an architectural firm that contributed to the rebirth of Pennsylvania Avenue, also is throwing a viewing bash.

A charitable foundation that supports educational projects at the National Archives has invited guests to watch history from a historic place, under crystal chandeliers on the Archives mezzanine.

The various hosts along the parade route are in the final throes of preparation.

The window washer at the Hotel Washington is polishing away, room by room, so that no speck of dirt gets between a guest and a parade vista.

At Sutherland, Asbill, 1275 Pennsylvania Ave., a memo was circulated last week telling lawyers to clean up their offices. "You have to worry about leaving client information in the open," said partner Hamilton Fox. "Which means the offices get cleaned every four years."

Meanwhile, Latham & Watkins, perched on the top floors at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., is going to the extra expense of building bleachers on its 13th-floor terrace, which is set back from the street so far that guests couldn't see without a boost to higher ground.

As Monday approaches, the excitement is building.

For a fortunate few, a fabulous parade view requires nothing more than stepping out of a living room onto a balcony. Rose McCullough, whose 11th-floor condominium at Market Square, 801 Pennsylvania Ave,, looks east toward the Capitol, is having a casual gathering.

"The inauguration here is celebrated in a different way than across the country," said McCullough, who has lived in Washington for 11 years. "Here it is almost like a Fourth of July. It is like a special holiday."

Said Crestar's Nostrand: "It really is a patriotic experience. It gives you a greater appreciation of the United States."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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