Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chestnut and Eucalyptus Cabins

Chestnut Cabin in 1956

Chestnut cabin is located near the Hickory Lodge. According to the Camp David Tour site, the Chestnut cabin originally housed the 24-hour telephone switchboard.  The staff who operated the switchboard also lived in the cabin. The only other reference I found to Chestnut cabin was in The President is at Camp David. The book describes Chestnut during the Ford Administration as a place you could obtain cribs, strollers, and high chairs.

Eucalyptus is the medical cabin / infirmary at Camp David and was built during the Carter administration.  It replaced the original camp dispensary which had to be torn down because of structural problems caused by years of moisture damage and termites.

In 1991, President Bush experienced shortness of breath while jogging at Camp David.  He was taken to Eucalyptus for an examination where it was discovered he had suffered an atrial fibrillation, which is a rapid irregular heartbeat. He was later flown to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for additional tests.  First Lady Barbara Bush describes this incident in her book Barbara Bush: A Memoir.

Sources:  New York Daily News; The President is at Camp David; Camp David Tour; Barbara Bush: A Memoir; The New York Times; U.S. Navy; Jimmy Carter Library

Hiking and Biking

Camp David has numerous winding paths that connect all of the guest cabins, lodges, and camp facilities. Many guests have enjoyed riding bikes or taking long strolls on these paths.

There is also a nature trail that starts near the entrance and winds its way around the camp as shown on this 1971 map. This newspaper article describes how President George H.W. Bush used to enjoy running on the nature trail with his dogs.

Laura Bush, in her book Spoken from the Heart, recalled walking a two-mile perimeter trail with a steep hill at the end that she nicknamed "Big Bertha".

During the Camp David peace negotiations, President Carter would often ride his bike around camp and President Sadat would go for a long hike every morning.

Bikes are a convenient way to get around the camp and are readily available to guests.  This 1979 newspaper article describes an incident when Carter advisor Clark Clifford tried his hand at riding a bike for the first time in many years. Having never used modern-day hand brakes, he tried to stop on the way down a steep hill but only ended up pedaling backwards until he finally had to bail out in the dirt.

Here are some photos of hiking and biking at Camp David over the years.

President and Mrs. Ford, daughter Susan, and Liberty take a walk around Camp David  in August 1976

President and Mrs. Carter go for a bike ride at Camp David

 President Carter talks to members of the Israeli delegation;     Presidents Carter and Sadat go for a walk.                   

The Carters take a stroll in April 1978;  President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1986

President Bush and Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark ride bikes; President Bush and Prime Minister Abe of Japan 

President and Mrs. Bush take a four mile walk around Camp David with Marvin Bush, Andy and Kathleene Card -  2002 

Sources: Spoken from the Heart; Eugene Register-Guard; Lakeland Ledger; The President is at Camp David; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Jimmy Carter Library; Ronald Reagan Library; White House; National Archives

Monday, September 27, 2010

Walnut, Hawthorn, Sycamore, and Linden Cabins

Walnut cabin in 1962

Walnut, Hawthorn, Sycamore, and Linden cabins were original cabins that were rebuilt in 1956, with indoor plumbing installed. Walnut was the largest of the four cabins with two bedrooms, a lounge, and a bath.  The other three were one-room cabins with a bath. If you look at the Google Maps satellite view of the cabins below, you can see that some of them have since been rebuilt/enlarged since these pictures were taken. 

Hawthorn cabin in 1962 (the original Laurel cabin - now called Holly - is on the right)

Sycamore cabin in 1962 (Linden cabin is in the background)

Linden cabin in 1961

The four cabins are part of a group of guest cabins located near the Laurel Lodge.  Below is the berthing assignment list from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's 1959 visit that includes the four cabins.

Page from the Camp David Operations Plan 2-59

Google Maps satellite view of Walnut, Hawthorn, Sycamore, and Linden cabins

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010


President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Hawke pitch horseshoes at Camp David - June 1989

President George H.W. Bush had a horseshoe pit built at Camp David in 1989 much to the delight of the horseshoe industry.  However, pitching horseshoes has been an activity available at Camp David ever since the Eisenhower era as shown on page 3 of this Guidebook to Camp David from the Eisenhower Library.

Presidents Bush and Gorbachev - June 1990

In June 1990, President Bush hosted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at Camp David.  While touring the camp, they stopped and pitched some horseshoes.  It was reported that Gorbachev's first toss was a ringer.

President Bush had the lucky horseshoe mounted on a plaque and presented it to President Gorbachev at dinner that Saturday evening.  Later, it was discovered that a second horseshoe had gone missing after the Soviets had departed.

Mrs. Gorbachev and Mrs. Bush were also spotted playing horseshoes on that visit.

President Bush's pitching style has been described as "one that is recommended for picnic-level players".

 A detailed description of his technique can be found in this 1996 newspaper article.

President Bush and British Prime Minister John Major - June 1992

The Camp David Tour website describes a clearing between the Presidential and staff areas of the camp where recreational activities such as volleyball, badminton, archery, and horseshoes have been located.
The two Google Maps below shows a clearing area and what could be the horseshoe pit.

Clearing between the Presidential and staff areas of the camp

Closer view of possible horseshoe pit

Sources: George Bush Presidential Library; Camp David Tour; Chicago TribuneLos Angeles Times; The New York Times;  Rome News-TribuneEisenhower Presidential Library; Google Maps

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rosebud Cabin

Rosebud cabin (from CBS News video - 2021)

Rosebud cabin was built in 1958.  As you can see on this map, it is located near Cedar cabin, the Camp Commander's residence, away from all of the other guest cabins.

In 1959, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Camp David, the Rosebud cabin was used to house agents from the U.S. Secret Service and the Soviet Security team. The graphic below shows the Rosebud cabin being assigned to security personnel for the Khrushchev visit. The list came from the Camp David Operations Plan for that visit.

Cabin Assignments for 1959 Khrushchev visit

Likewise, for the 1973 Brezhnev visit, the "traveling heads of the U.S. Secret Service and Russian Secret police shared a cabin in the pines called Rosebud" according to this June 21, 1973 newspaper article.

Early photo of Rosebud cabin


CBS News interviewed First Lady Jill Biden at Camp David in December 2021. Here are some screenshots from the video:

Inside Rosebud cabin

Rosebud cabin location

Google Maps satellite view of Rosebud cabin.  The larger Cedar cabin is on the left. 

Sources:  Camp David Tour; Eisenhower Presidential Library; The Free Lance-Star; Google Maps, CBS News

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


President Ford and daughter Susan on the trampoline over Labor Day weekend - 1974

There is not a lot of information available about the trampoline at Camp David.  I don't know when it was first set up or whether one is still there.  I did find a newspaper story from 1967 describing a visit to Camp David by Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt and his wife in June of that year.

Mrs. Holt described President Johnson's  daughter Lynda Bird as a "fantastic girl" who spent the weekend in the swimming pool and on the trampoline.

The only other trampoline information I found was about President Ford and his daughter Susan.  They were photographed playing on the trampoline during a Labor Day weekend trip to Camp David in 1974.

According to this article, President Ford showed up at a meeting with National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft with a bruise under his eye and told him he got it while jumping on the trampoline at Camp David.

SourcesGerald R. Ford Presidential Library; The Age; History News Network

Monday, September 20, 2010

Poplar Cabin - The Camp Office

Poplar Cabin
Of the two maps that I found of Camp David, one shows Poplar cabin near the Hickory Lodge.  The other map labels the same cabin location as just the "Camp Office".  The only reference I could find about Poplar cabin being the camp office came from the former website Camp David Tour.

According to that website, Poplar started out as a sickbay and supply office and was converted to the camp office when the officer-in-charge began residing full-time at the camp.  An office for the commanding officer (CO) and executive officer (XO) was added to Poplar in 1970.

Google Maps satellite view of Poplar cabin (center).  Hickory Lodge is on the left. 

Sources:  Camp David Tour; U.S. Navy; Google Maps

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bowling at Camp David

President George W. Bush and family bowling at Camp David in 2001

David and Susan Eisenhower - 1960
President Eisenhower installed a two-lane bowling alley in the Hickory Lodge.  I found a number of references on the internet related to presidential bowling at Camp David:

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met with President Eisenhower at Camp David in 1959, he wanted to see the bowling alley.  Khrushchev was more interested in the automatic pinsetter than in bowling a game.

President Johnson bowled his first game ever at the bowling alley at Camp David.

According to a newspaper account, President Nixon, who had a bowling average of 165, liked bowling at Camp David.  He believed that bowling helped relieve backaches and improved his vision and muscle coordination.

However this book reports that with the exception of the pool, Nixon did not really use the recreational facilities very much.  But, being "conscious of his stiff public image", Nixon wanted his  press secretary Ron Ziegler to "slip word to the press" that he had taken up bowling at Camp David.

Chelsea Clinton and a "busload of friends" celebrated her 16th birthday at Camp David.  After a birthday dinner in the Laurel Lodge, they went over to Hickory to watch movies and go bowling.

The book From Mount Vernon to Crawford states that the two-lane bowling alley was renovated while President George W. Bush was in office.

President Obama bowled at Camp David the weekend prior to his birthday in August, 2009.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reported that he bowled a 144 including three strikes and a nine in the last four frames.

Here is paragraph about the use of the bowling alley during the 1959 Khrushchev visit taken from the official Camp David Operation Plan that describes the weekend activities in detail:

Page 4 of the "Camp David Operation Plan 2-59" 

President Bush shows Mexico President Salinas the bowling alley- Oct 1, 1989 (Bush Library)

President Clinton and  Secretary of  State Madeleine Albright practice bowling in January 1998  (Courtesy; William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

Sources:  Camp David Tour; Living History; Eugene Register-Guard; The President is at Camp David; Gadsen TimesThe Swamp; From Mount Vernon to Crawford; Eisenhower Presidential Library; William J. Clinton Presidential Library; Bush Library; George W. Bush Library

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Maple Cabin

Maple cabin - 1961

Maple started out as a one room cabin.  A second room and bath were added in 1954.  In 1969, the cabin caught on fire when someone was trying to thaw a frozen pipe.  The interior was repaired, but the cabin ended up being torn down and completely replaced in 1972.

The President is at Camp David quotes a visitor's description of the new Maple cabin:
"larger, more elaborate, and more modern than the older ones, with a vaulted ceiling, a large living room with a high glass wall opening onto a patio in the woods, two bedrooms, a huge fieldstone fireplace with a large supply of extra logs, neatly cut, arranged by the door."
President Nixon used a room in the Maple cabin as an office until he had a small office built in Aspen.  He delivered a Veteran's Day radio address from Maple in 1971.  President George W. Bush chose Maple Cabin to meet with Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi to discuss the Japanese economy in July 2001.

Along with Birch, Dogwood, and Red Oak, the Maple cabin is one of the "VIP guest" cabins. The photo below shows the relative location of the Maple cabin to the Aspen Lodge.

Maple cabin is visible from the outdoor cooking area at the Aspen Lodge

President Kennedy and President Eisenhower in front of Dogwood cabin - Maple cabin is on the right - 1961

Dogwood and Maple cabin (on the right) - 1962

Google Maps satellite view of Maple Cabin (on the right).  Dogwood Cabin is on the left.

Sources:  The President is at Camp David; Camp David TourThe Lewiston Daily Sun; New York Daily News; The New York Times; John F. Kennedy Presidential Libary; Eisenhower Presidential Library; Google Maps

Monday, September 13, 2010

Swimming Pools

Swimming pool at Aspen Lodge

There are two swimming pools at Camp David.   One is a figure-eight shaped pool located at the Aspen Lodge; the other one is a lap pool located on the far side of camp in the staff area near the gym.  The lap pool in the staff area was constructed when the camp was first built.  Because of its location, it was not used very often by the visiting presidents.

Original lap pool at Camp David located in the staff area of the camp;    Former bath house near the pool            

Aspen Lodge - before the pool

President Nixon wanted to have a new pool built near the Aspen Lodge.  He wanted it located in front of the main terrace to the left of the steps leading down.  Unfortunately, that also happened to be the location of the underground bomb shelter (which will be the subject of a future post).

The new pool cost $238,583, partly because they wanted to match the stone around Aspen Lodge and had to reopen the nearby quarry to get matching stone for the dressing room and the stone wall around the pool area.  For convenience, they installed nearby telephones with extra long cords so the President could talk on the phone poolside. The underground bomb shelter also had to be reinforced for an additional cost of $261,417.

The 40ft x 20ft pool was superheated and was used by President Nixon on a snowy December trip to Camp David.

Steam rises from the heated pool in February 1971

President Ford goes swimming over Labor Day weekend in 1974

President and Mrs. Ford with their dog Liberty - October 1974

The next two photos show the furniture, deck, diving board, and the nearby surroundings of the Aspen pool during the Carter Administration. President Carter wrote in his autobiography Sharing Good Times that his wife Rosalynn used to practice fly-fishing for hours by casting into the swimming pool at Camp David.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and President Carter chat next to the Aspen pool - Sept 1978

This photo taken from the opposite direction shows the side view from the pool deck

President Obama and daughter Sasha enjoying her birthday weekend at Camp David - June 2011

While searching for some more recent news about the Camp David pools, I came across a website for Hohne Pools which proudly states:
"The Hohne latest client list includes the Secretary of the Navy for President of the United States pool at Camp David, the US Secret Service indoor training tank, used for the Presidents water safety training, the US Embassy in Cameroon, West Africa and the US Naval Academy."
On another page of the Hohne website,  they refer to "creating works of art for Camp David".  However, their yellow pages ad says they were "Invited to specify all renovation and repairs to the Presidential pools at Camp David".  So, it is hard to determine exactly what they have done to the pool there. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly), there were no photos of the Camp David pool on their website. A PDF on their site indicates that work was done on both the President's pool and the staff pool at the retreat.

Staff pool at Camp David. The enclosure was added at some point during the Obama Administration.

I also happened to notice in the Google Maps satellite view what appeared to be a hot tub nearby.  A quick Google search confirmed it.  The Hot Tub Oasis website has a "Master Spa at Camp David" page that tells us:
"The White House has chosen a Master Spa LSX1050 to be installed at Camp David, in Maryland."   and also  "Master Spas is proud to have world leaders soak in the "Ultimate Relaxation Machine™". 
Again, no actual Camp David hot tub photo on their website.  The Hot Tub Oasis website does not say when the new hot tub was installed at Camp David, but a comment on a discussion board in 2007 refers to the hot tub as "President Bush's".

Google Maps satellite view of the pool at the Aspen Lodge. 

Google Maps satellite view of the staff pool. (Prior to the addition of the pool enclosure)

Sources:  LBJ Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; Richard Nixon Library; The White House; Camp David TourThe President is at Camp David; The Milwaukee Journal; Sharing Good Times; U.S. Navy; Google Maps