Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Aspen Lodge - The President's Cabin at Camp David

Aspen Lodge in 1961

Since 1942, fifteen Presidents have occupied this cabin at Camp David. The Aspen Lodge was originally named "The Bear's Den" by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It had a kitchen, living room, dining room, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and five fireplaces. A screened-in porch was connected to the living room and led out to a flagstone patio. A pond was built so there would be water available in case of a fire.

The lodge sits on top of a hill on a three-acre clearing. The large living room windows provide a magnificent view of the surrounding forest and countryside.

A 1959 renovation added additional bathrooms, a new hallway entrance, and air conditioning.  The sun porch was enlarged and a  lower terrace was added along with picnic tables and an outdoor cooking area. The cabin was renamed "Aspen Lodge" in honor of Mrs. Eisenhower who was born in Colorado.  The Eisenhower Library Camp David page has the original memo suggesting the name change. Separate blog posts describe the underground bomb shelter and the three-tee golf green that President Eisenhower added.

Aspen Lodge layout in 1959

Front driveway entrance to the Aspen Lodge - 1962

                   Aspen Lodge 1961:   Lower terrace                                                                Upper terrace                                       

Outdoor cooking area next to Aspen's upper terrace - 1961

Aspen Lodge - 1965 - Living Room and guest bedroom

President Nixon added a new swimming pool and an office to the Aspen Lodge during his presidency.

The new Aspen pool in February 1971

Apparently, Nancy Reagan made numerous enhancements to Camp David.  In her memoirs she wrote "For me, one of the best parts about Camp David was that there wasn't a whisper of controversy about the renovations I made there and because the entire place is off-limits to the press, nobody ever knew what I did.".  We do know she had the windows at Aspen lowered to improve the view;  had some furniture slip-covered and painted; and made landscaping improvements.

Here are some Presidential photos that feature the Aspen Lodge over the years.

FDR and guests dining at Aspen Lodge in 1942                      President Truman in his convertible outside Aspen in 1949

The Eisenhowers playing Scrabble at Aspen in 1954                   President Eisenhower cooking outdoors at Aspen  - 1960

President Kennedy with naval aides in April 1961

President Johnson meeting with advisers in April 1968 

President Nixon with Bob Hope in 1972

President Ford and family in the Aspen Lodge

Susan Ford in her bedroom in Aspen Lodge - March 1975

The Carters host a lunch for President and Mrs. Sadat at the Aspen Lodge - February 1978

President Carter meets with Menahem Begin and  Anwar Sadat in his Aspen study - September 1978

President Reagan working at Aspen Lodge in Feb 1981

President Reagan writing the State of the Union Address at Camp David - 1985

The Bush family watches as Thanksgiving pies are prepared in the kitchen of the Aspen Lodge in 1989

President Bush hosted President Gorbachev at Camp David in 1990.

President Clinton on terrace with Yasser Arafat in July 2000;  Inside Aspen with Dennis Ross and Madeleine Albright

President and Mrs. Bush in a People Magazine interview in the Aspen Lodge

President Bush meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Aspen Lodge in September 2003

In his 2010 book, Decision Points, President George W. Bush describes Aspen Lodge:
"Its interior is simple but comfortable. The wooden structure has three bedrooms, a perfect size for our family; a sunlit living room where I watched football with my brother Marvin and friends; and a stone fireplace beside which Laura and I liked to read at night".
He also wrote that in the summer of 2007, Henry Hager met with him in the Aspen Lodge to ask for his permission to marry his daughter Jenna.

President Obama having a water gun fight with daughter Sasha on her birthday weekend at Camp David - June 2011

President Obama meets with G8 leaders in the Aspen Lodge in May 2012

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel held a bilateral meeting on the Aspen terrace;   Golf carts parked in front of Aspen

While trying to find some recent information about the Aspen Lodge, I came across a website for Blue Dolphin Pools and Spas that describes its Telescope Casual line of patio furniture as follows:
"Style, durability and weather resistance is what Telescope Casual is all about.  Steeped in history, the company has been the manufacturer of choice for many revered political figures including President John F. Kennedy.  Telescope Casual products are still favored by many first ladies adorning their homes as well as Camp David."
According to this article, President Clinton lounged on their deck chairs at Camp David during his term in office.

Aspen Lodge - Google Maps satellite view

Sources:  Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library; Harry S. Truman Library; Eisenhower Presidential Library; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library; Richard Nixon Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Jimmy Carter Library;  Ronald Reagan Library; George Bush Presidential Library; The White House; The President is at Camp David; Lakeland Ledger; Decision Points; National Archives; Washington Institute for Near East Policy; People Magazine; Life; UPI; Google Maps


  1. Cool place. Wish i could go there!

  2. I'm really glad President Obama and Sasha appear to be having such a good time on her birthday weekend. Family is special...

    1. I agree totally. President Obama has a difficult job, probably more stressful than any other previous president. Perfect place to retreat to every weekend Mr. President.
      (hint, hint!)

  3. Brings back memories. Worked there for 5 years.

  4. What a beautiful and peaceful place.

  5. Trump, his wife and child along with his inlaws (including his communist Father-in-Law) will be staying there for the first time tonight even though he said this about it just before he was elected. "

    “Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it,” Trump said in an interview with a European journalist just before taking office. “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”

    1. And on June 18, 2017, our President, Donald J. Trump said:

      "Camp David is a very special place. An honor to have spent the weekend there. Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!"

      As I'm sure you are well aware, in that era, many people joined the Communist Party out of “career ambitions” and to better their lives. Viktor Knavs, FLOTUS Melania Trump’s Father from Slovenia, was a traveling car salesman for a state-owned car and motorcycle dealerships. They were comfortable, but not wealthy.

      Isn't it wonderful that our First Lady is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become First Lady! What a wonderful thing, to love our Country so much, to become a citizen. Hopefully many of our naturally born citizens will also start showing the love and pride that we have been blessed by our living in this wonderful Country.

    2. Please stop trying to give that man any positive credit. He incited a violent mob of domestic terrorists to invade our gov't, our US Capitol, because he is too weak and deranged to accept defeat. Worst, most dangerous President ever.