On October 21, 2016, an entity called the Cherry Revocable Trust purchased two adjacent buildings in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for twenty-three million dollars. The buildings, which previously had housed the Textile Museum, were to be converted into a private residence—at twenty-seven thousand square feet, the largest in the city. In January, it was revealed that the anonymous purchaser represented by the Cherry Revocable Trust was Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon. The finished property will have eleven bedrooms, twenty-five bathrooms, five staircases, and a large ballroom suitable for gatherings of Washington’s notables. It will be, in the words of the journalist Ben Wofford, “a veritable Death Star of Washington entertaining.”
In July, Jeff Bezos became the richest man in modern history, when his net worth topped a hundred and fifty billion dollars. In September, Amazon became the second company, after Apple, to achieve a trillion-dollar valuation. These two milestones in the history of this country and capitalism passed with little fanfare outside the business world, preoccupied as we are by the antics of the pretend mogul who resides in the White House. But Bezos, an actual mogul, has also been making moves in Washington, none more high-profile than his purchase of the Washington Post, in 2013. More quietly, Amazon is investing heavily in the area. Fairfax County, Virginia, is now home to the East Coast campus for Amazon’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services, which is widely expected to win a contract with the Department of Defense worth ten billion dollars over ten years. About five miles away, in Loudoun County, Amazon is building a six-hundred-thousand-square-foot data center to anchor the company’s nearly thirty centers in the area. Between May and July, Amazon, advertised more than eight hundred jobs in the Washington area, most in Northern Virginia. That’s more openings than the company has advertised anywhere else in the country, save Seattle, its headquarters and original corporate office.
There is more. By the end of the year, Amazon is expected to announce the outcome of its long-running search for a second headquarters, or HQ2, which will supplement its office in Seattle. HQ2, Bezos has said, will be a “full equal” to the Seattle office, employing fifty thousand white-collar workers, each earning more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, on average. The company’s short list includes Chicago, Austin, Newark, and New York, but many observers and speculators are betting that it will land in the Washington area. Last week, the gambling Web site Bovada had Northern Virginia as a heavy favorite. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that the company has been having “advanced discussions” about selecting Crystal City, in Arlington County, Virginia.