City Cast

The Best D.C. Spy Stories

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on June 5
outside of Mayflower HOtel

The Mayflower Hotel is a notorious spy hangout. (Asiir/Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. is the epicenter of spy activity in the U.S., but where exactly are they doing business, and how are they going about it?

Bob Wallace, who literally wrote the book on spy sites in D.C., took the City Cast DC podcast for a walking tour of the city’s most infamous spy sites and stories.

The Mayflower Hotel: Back in the ‘30s, the Japanese Naval Attaché would throw parties here to cultivate information and potential spies ahead of World War II. Then in the ‘40s, a German defector used the Mayflower as his secret spot to meet the FBI and foil German plots.

Lafayette Square: Bob calls this “the epicenter for spying in America.” There are almost a dozen places around the square where spy activity occurred, starting with First Lady Dolley Madison. Bob says she was the “first intelligence officer to do U.S. aerial surveillance” by standing on top of the White House to scan for enemy troops during the War of 1812. Lafayette Square is also where Confederate scout Thomas Conrad disguised himself as a clergyman to survey and attempt to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln.

Georgetown: Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent who became a double agent for the Soviet Union, left dead drops in a Georgetown mailbox, using chalk markings on it as a signal. The old Georgetown Pharmacy was another popular place for info drops during the ‘50s.

D.C. has a lot more dirt when it comes to spy stories. Listen to the full interview for more.

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