Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cedar Cabin - Home of the Camp David Commanding Officer

Cedar Cabin - 1980s

The Commanding Officer of Camp David is required to live on-site in Cedar Cabin. The four bedroom one-story building was built in 1957.   Lt. Thomas E. Wyncoop was the first commanding officer to live at Camp David.  When the President is at Camp David, family members of the Commanding Officer are restricted to the immediate area around the home.

In 2003, $109,000 was budgeted to renovate the aging cabin. Here is a description of the renovation project as described in the FY 2003 Navy Budget Estimates for Military Construction:
"This project will provide improvements and repairs to one unit for the Commanding Officer at NSF Thurmont, Maryland. Improvement work includes enlarging the living room, dining room, bathroom,sunroom, front stoop and porch; relocating and modernizing the kitchen; relocating main entry door; reconfiguring a coat closet; converting the existing two car attached garage into a family room with fireplace; all mechanical and electrical work associated with architectural and structural changes; construction of a detached two car garage, trash and recycle bin, a patio and the addition of walkways and outdoor lighting. Improvement work will increase square footage within statutory levels. Repair work includes replacement of HVAC, windows, and downspouts; repair of wood siding."
Cedar Cabin - 1980s

Cedar Cabin - 1958
Cedar Cabin - 1961
Google Maps view of Cedar Cabin - The Commanding Officer's residence

Sources:  Eisenhower Presidential Library; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; US Navy; Camp David Tour; Google Maps; MLive

Monday, August 30, 2010

Skeet Range

President Eisenhower  / President George H.W. Bush and son Jeb on the Camp David Skeet Range

President Eisenhower installed the skeet range at Camp David in the 1950s.   According to the Trap and Skeet Shooting for Fun book, he spent much time trying to improve his shooting skills on the range.  He noted that his best score was 20 out of 25 targets.  This March 1960 Eisenhower diary references a couple trips to the skeet range.

As this March 1960 photo shows, sometimes President Eisenhower would practice shooting outside the Aspen Lodge

President Kennedy with David Niven and Ben Bradlee shooting skeet at Camp David in 1963

Many presidents and their guests have enjoyed practicing their skills shooting clay birds on the skeet range over the years.  This 1970 newspaper article describes a visit to Camp David by an "exuberant" 21-year old Prince Charles who "easily bested" David Eisenhower at skeet shooting, one of his favorite sports.

Steve and Susan Ford at the Camp David Skeet Range on Labor Day Weekend in 1974

I came across a website with a message board that described an incident at the Camp David skeet range during the Reagan era:
"Reminds me of the story my buddy told me that happened while he was a Marine stationed at Camp David during the Reagan years. One day VP Bush and his sons showed up and wanted to go out to the range to shoot. My buddy was charged with assembling the presidential shotguns and ammo and they proceeded to shoot. Well, one of the sons (I can’t remember which one but IT WAS NOT our latest President), placed a different gauge shot shell into the 12 gauge and squeezed off. According to Mike, he could have been killed but apparently got dusted up a bit. Well, the CO wanted to throw the book at Mike for somehow getting different shells mixed with the guns but Old man Bush stepped in and said to forget the whole matter."
I tend to believe this account since I found a separate reference to Jeb Bush narrowly escaping injury at the Camp David skeet range when the barrel of a Remington shotgun exploded.

President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Md., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

2013 UPDATE:  In a 2013 interview with The New Republic, when asked if he ever fired a gun, President Obama replied "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time. Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there."  This claim generated some controversy, as noted in the Fact Checker blog in the Washington Post. At the time, no photos had surfaced of the President shooting skeet except the one on my White House parody site, which was briefly posted by The New Republic and then quickly deleted.  The White House released the above photo on February 2, 2013.

Google Maps view of the Camp David Skeet Range

I wrote a related post about how the satellite view of the skeet range has changed over the years.

Sources:  Camp David Tour; US Navy; The White House; Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library; Cecil Stoughton: Portrait of Camelot -A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Trap and Skeet Shooting For Fun; Rome News-Tribune; Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission; Google Maps; The New Republic

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Birch and Dogwood Cabins

Much has been written about the President's cabin Aspen Lodge.  I was curious about the other guest cabins at Camp David.  The most prominent guest cabins (not including Aspen, Laurel, or Hickory) are the Birch and Dogwood cabins.  These two cabins are located equal distance from the Aspen Lodge.  In a 2007 book Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait, she refers to Birch and Dogwood as the "dignitary" cabins.

Original Birch Cabin (on the right) from the 1950s
Birch and Dogwood started out as single-room cabins when Camp David was first constructed.

 In 1970, it became clear that many of the aging guest cabins would need to be rebuilt due to termite and fungus damage.

Birch and Dogwood were the first to be rebuilt at an estimated cost of $145,000 in 1970-1971.

The new Birch cabin has two bedrooms, two baths, a large living room that opens out to a patio, vaulted ceilings and a large stone fireplace.

During the 1978 peace negotiations held at Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Begin stayed at Birch.  Gerald Ford also stayed at Birch Cabin when he visited Camp David while serving as Vice-President.

Menahem Begin and Zbigniew Brzezinski play chess outside Birch Cabin - September 1978

In 1971, Tricia Nixon and Ed Cox stayed in newly-refurbished Dogwood cabin at Camp David for their honeymoon following a wedding ceremony held in the Rose Garden at the White House.   In 1973, Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev stayed in Dogwood cabin as a guest of President Nixon.

Also in 1973, Rose Woods, who was President Nixon's secretary, spent a weekend in Dogwood Cabin transcribing the tapes of Nixon's White House conversations about Watergate.  She later testified that the eighteen and a half minute gap in the tape could have accidentally occurred when she leaned over the tape machine to answer the phone.

 In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat stayed at Dogwood during the peace summit.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat outside Dogwood cabin in 1978 

Presidents Carter and Sadat meet inside Dogwood Cabin in September 1978

Harold Brown and Cyrus Vance meet with Anwar Sadat and the Egyptian delegation on the deck of  Dogwood cabin

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Dogwood cabin in September 2003

At the 2012 G8 Summit, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was assigned to Dogwood cabin and French President Fran├žois Hollande was assigned to Birch. 

Prime Minister Medvedev outside Dogwood cabin - May 2012

President Hollande greets Canadian Prime Minister Harper outside Birch cabin - May 2012

Inside Birch cabin - May 2012

Below you can see how Birch and Dogwood cabins are diplomatically located approximately the same distance from the Aspen Lodge.

Google Maps view of Birch and Dogwood Cabins at Camp David

Sources:  Eisenhower Presidential Library; National Archives; Jimmy Carter Library; Google Maps; Camp David TourThe President is at Camp David; Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait; Daytona Beach Morning Journal; White House; @damedvedevPrime Minister of Canada

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Evergreen Chapel at Camp David

Evergreen Chapel

In 1991, the Evergreen Chapel was dedicated by President George H.W. Bush. It was built using funds raised by a nonprofit corporation formed by Kenneth Plummer, president of the National Lay Leaders Association of the United Methodist Church.

The Wagner Roofing website acknowledges the role that their founder's wife Evelyn Murray played in the construction of the Evergreen Chapel:
"Evelyn was instrumental in the fundraising for the beautiful non-denominational Chapel constructed at Camp David during the Reagan Administration. Evelyn delights in relating the history of the Chapel, discussing its design and recalling the marvelous dedication ceremony that she was able to attend. She even owns some of the stained glass used in the Chapel. "
President Reagan made the first contribution of $1,000 and selected the site location within Camp David. The rustic octagonal building made of wood and stained glass can seat up to 150 people.

The chapel's faceted and stained glass windows were created by Rudolph Sandon, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. after World War II and wanted to donate the windows "because America had been good to him".

The window on the side of the chapel where the President sits is the "Tree of Knowledge" and includes the presidential seal, a dove, a sheaf of wheat, and other symbols. On the opposite side of the chapel is the "Tree of Life". The symbols were designed to be open to interpretation by people of varying faiths.

The Tree of Knowledge (Rudolph Sandon)

The Tree of Life (Rudolph Sandon)

Kenneth Plummer, Rudolph Sandon, President and Mrs. Bush on the day of the dedication. (4/21/1991)

Additional details about the history, architecture and windows of the chapel can be found in this Evergreen Chapel pamphlet.

Architectural drawing of the Camp David Chapel

The chapel bell is from the USS Endicott, a Navy destroyer launched around the same time that President Roosevelt established Camp David (which he originally named "Shangri-La").

The pipe organ has two keyboards and 827 pipes ranging in size from 6 inches to 20 feet tall.  The organ was built by the Moller Pipe Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD. The chapel also has a Yamaha grand piano. You can read more about the Camp David organ in the Pipe Organ Database.

President Bush at the dedication service of the new Camp David chapel - April 1991

The Evergreen Chapel holds two weekly Sunday services. The 8AM Catholic mass is performed by contract priests from Mount Saint Mary's University. The Protestant service follows at 10 AM and is performed by the Camp David chaplain. The chapel is open to the 400 military personnel serving at Camp David along with their families.  On average, around 50-70 people are in attendance.

In 1992, the first wedding ceremony was performed at the chapel when Dorothy Bush LeBlond exchanged vows with Bobby Koch.

President Clinton wrote in his autobiography about his last trip to Camp David :

"Don Henley gave us a wonderful solo concert after dinner in the Camp David Chapel. The next morning was our family's last service in the beautiful chapel, where we had shared many services with the fine young sailors and marines who staffed the camp and their families.

They had even let me sing with the choir, always leaving the sheet music in Aspen, our family cabin, on Friday or Saturday so that I could review it in advance."

President George W. Bush and his family attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Evergreen Chapel for all eight years of his administration.

The Bush family at an Easter service at the Evergreen Chapel in 2006

President Bush greets military personnel outside the Evergreen Chapel - April 2006

According to press secretary Robert Gibbs at a White House briefing in December 2009, President Obama has attended church fairly regularly up at Camp David where "he's comfortable in and has enjoyed attending."

11/25/2013 Update:  Camp David is seeking a new music director for the Evergreen Chapel

View of Evergreen Chapel from the road

Close-up of the stained glass window inside Evergreen Chapel

Google Maps Earth view of Evergreen Chapel at Camp David

Sources: The President is at Camp DavidMy Life: The Presidential Years; Camp David Tour; George Bush Presidential Library; The White House; US Navy; www.mongiello.org; GPO; Peabody Institute; Google Maps; @SylviaCarignan; The Times Leader; Barbara Sandon Norris

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Camp David golf hole near the Aspen Lodge - 1961

There is no golf course at Camp David.  There is a driving range near the helicopter landing zone and there is a single golf hole with multiple tees just outside the President's Aspen Lodge.

Wanting to enjoy his favorite game at Camp David, President Eisenhower asked golf architect Robert Trent Jones to design a golf hole modeled after greens at his favorites golf courses: Augusta National and Burning Tree.

This 1955 Sports Illustrated graphic shows four tees

Just about every source on the internet states that the golf hole has three tees.  However, I came across a Sports Illustrated article written in 1955 that describes a hole with four tees.  According to the article, Jones had about 140 yards to work with.  He built a green and created four tees: 
  • Tee #1: 100 yards distant and 15 feet above the level of the green 
  • Tee #2: 140 yards distant, 20 feet above
  • Tee #3: 120 yards distant, 20 feet below
  • Tee #4:   80 yards distant and 15 feet below

White House photographers took approximately 290,000 photos while President Ford was in office.  The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library is in the process of digitizing all of the photo contact sheets.  So far, they have completed the year 1974.  Lucky for us, President Ford spent Labor Day Weekend at Camp David in 1974.  Here are some photos of him playing golf that weekend.

President Ford playing golf at Camp David on Labor Day Weekend - 1974

President Ford playing golf with Mike Ford at Camp David - June 1975

The McDonald Design Group of Jessup, MD lists the "Camp David Presidential Retreat" as one of their clients.  According to their website, the "Renovation of the short game practice facility" was completed in 1996.  That explains why the satellite image of the Camp David golf green shows a different layout than the one above pictured in Sports Illustrated.
Driving range is located in the helicopter landing zone 

President Eisenhower had a driving range built near the helicopter landing zone.  On the photo to the right, you can see the 250 yard marker in the left background.

The PEI Online Journal reports that New Jersey based Savage Associates were contracted to bury the above-ground fueling system near the Camp David helicopter landing zone because President Clinton kept hitting it with a golf ball.

Related post: I wrote about the tradition of driving golf carts around Camp David in another post.

President George W. Bush throwing a baseball in front of the Aspen golf hole - October 2001

Google Maps satellite view of the Camp David golf green

Google Maps satellite view of the driving range / helicopter landing area at Camp David

Sources:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; Eisenhower Presidential Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Sports Illustrated; PEI Online Journal; McDonald Design Group; whitehouse.gov; Google Maps; National Archives

Monday, August 16, 2010

Laurel Lodge at Camp David

Laurel Lodge is located about a quarter mile down the hill from the Aspen Lodge. Most official meetings and meals at Camp David take place at the Laurel Lodge.  Laurel has three conference rooms, a kitchen, a spacious dining area, and a small presidential office. The lodge was built in 1972.

The Nixon Daily Diary entry for May 6, 1972 includes the entry: "The President went to the New Laurel Lodge construction site". On August 8th, President Nixon hosted a dinner in the new Laurel Lodge  for members of the Cabinet, White House staff, and the Committee for the Reelection of the President.

The "new" Laurel Lodge replaced a smaller Laurel Lodge, which was then renamed Holly. A separate blog post features information about Holly Cabin, the original Laurel Lodge,

The newly-built Laurel Lodge in 1973 (Background information on this photo can be found in the Nixon blog post)

Laurel Lodge - 2012

In the early seventies when the new Laurel Lodge was being designed,  President Nixon requested that a small lounge be converted into an office for the President's use. 

President Ford discusses campaign strategy at his Laurel office  - Aug 1976     (Can you spot Dick Cheney?)

President Bush at work in his office - 1992  

Laurel Lodge is a favorite location for presidents to deliver their weekly addresses to the nation.  President Reagan delivered 150 weekly five-minute radio addresses from inside his Laurel office.

President Reagan gives a radio address to the nation - Oct 1982
President Clinton and President Bush also gave weekly radio addresses from Camp David

Laurel Lodge has been the site for many meetings over the years. There is a patio outside where tables and chairs can be set up so guests can have lunch outside.

President Ford hosts a luncheon for Indonesian President Suharto at Laurel Lodge - July 1975

President Carter hosts a luncheon for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with U.S and Egyptian officials - February 1978

President Carter gives a tour to Israeli Prime Minister and Mrs. Begin. (Laurel Lodge is in the background) - 1978

David Stockman helps President Reagan prepare for an upcoming Presidential debate - October 1984

President Clinton watching football with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Laurel in January 1998 (Read more about this)  (Photo Courtesy; William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

President Bush meets with National Security advisors from Laurel Lodge conference room on Sept 22, 2001 

President Bush meets with CIA director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and Andy Card - Sept 29, 2001

President Bush meets with Republican Congressional leaders - Jan 2002

Hillary Clinton writes about the Laurel Lodge in her book Living History:

"The center of Camp activity is the largest lodge, Laurel, where we gathered to watch
football, play games, sit in front of the two-story brick fireplace and eat our meals together.
After spending time there, I thought that the central room in Laurel could be more
functional and take better advantage of the view. There were few windows on the long
back wall facing the woods, and a large pillar blocked the flow of traffic through the
room. I worked with the Navy and my friend Kaki Hockersmith, an interior decorator
from Arkansas, to develop plans for a renovation that got rid of the pillar and added windows
to bring in more light, opening the room to the changing seasons outside."

President Bush meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in March 2003

President Bush talks to members of the Armed Forces on Christmas Eve in 2001 and 2003 

President Bush meets for lunch with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Defense Policy and Programs team and the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Policy team in August 2007 in Laurel Lodge 

President Bush was interviewed at Laurel Lodge in 2007

President Obama in his Laurel office - August 2011 

President Obama greets the leaders arriving for the G8 Summit at Camp David - May 2012

The G8 Summit working sessions were held in Laurel Lodge

G8 Leaders also met on the patio outside the Laurel Lodge

President Obama hosted a working lunch on food security at the G8 Summit

President Obama greets the GCC leaders in front of Laurel on May 14, 2015

Laurel Lodge and nearby cabins - Google Maps

Sources:  Nixon Presidential Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Jimmy Carter Library; Ronald Reagan Presidential Library; George Bush Presidential Library; William J. Clinton Library; National Archives; The White House; CBS; Google Maps; The President is at Camp David; European Commission; Reuters; Getty