Thursday, October 28, 2010

Camp David on

The first website was launched in October 1994.  The official White House website was redesigned multiple times during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.  Below are the Camp David pages from each administration.  You can visit each original website page by clicking on the screenshot image.

Clinton Administration:

Bush Administration:

Obama Administration:

Thursday, October 21, 2010


President Obama playing basketball at Camp David in July 2009

The photo above shows President Obama playing basketball with senior staff and their family members at the Leatherwood Court during a retreat at Camp David on July 18, 2009.  President Obama was reported to have played basketball on his first trip to Camp David in February 2009 and on subsequent trips.

In January 2009, Black America Web reported that President Obama would "become the first president in history to build a basketball court at Camp David".  They reported they received information from an unnamed source that Resilite was working on a project at Camp David taking measurements for wall padding for a basketball court.

I could not find any follow-up stories confirming this and a quick search on FedBizOpps found no basketball court-related materials for Camp David (a long shot, I admit...). So, did President Obama build the basketball court pictured above at Camp David?  The question remains unanswered.

In August 2009, Boston University basketball player Sherrod Smith got the chance to play basketball with President Obama at Camp David. The story, photo and video about this opportunity is on the BU website.

Captain's Cup Dodge Ball at Leatherwood Court at Camp David

Sources: The White House; Black America Web;  Baller-in-Chief; The Swamp; ESPN; Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC)

Friday, October 8, 2010

1959 Guidebook to Camp David

1959 Guidebook to Camp David

The Eisenhower Presidential Library has a Camp David page containing photos and interesting links to documents related to Camp David.

The above guidebook describes a 1959 Camp David with four guest cabins in the White House Staff area: Sycamore, Hawthorn, Walnut, and Laurel.  It also includes a description of recreational facilities available and some photos of the guest cabins.

Source:  Eisenhower Presidential Library

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Movie theater in Hickory Lodge - May 2001 (National Archives)

Movies are shown in several locations around Camp David.  President Eisenhower enjoyed watching movies in the Aspen Lodge and had a projection booth installed along with a motorized screen that retracted into the living room ceiling.   Eventually, the use of VCRs and DVD players replaced the need for the projector.  However, when President Reagan was in office, he still preferred using the film projector at Aspen over the VCR and enjoyed watching old movies from the 1930s and 1940s. The Ronald Reagan Presidential library has a list of all of the films he viewed while in office including 344 movies at Camp David! 

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan watching "Lord Jim" in 1985 (Reagan Library)

Movies are also shown at a small theater inside the Hickory Lodge. The 2007 book What A Party! describes a 1998 "Good Will Hunting" screening weekend at Camp David attended by a group including Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, and Gwyneth Paltrow.  After having dinner at Laurel Lodge,  the group headed off in golf carts to the theater in Hickory where "everyone sits on couches or overstuffed chairs and in the front row are two love seats."  

Hillary Clinton writes in her memoir that her daughter Chelsea and a "busload of friends" celebrated her 16th birthday at Camp David.  Following a birthday dinner at Laurel Lodge, they headed over to Hickory to watch movies and go bowling.

During the 1978 Camp David peace negotiations, a movie projector was set up in Holly and 58 films were shown there over the 13-day summit.  Laurel Lodge also has a big-screen TV.

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met with President Eisenhower at Camp David in 1959, the two leaders watched a U.S. Navy movie about the nuclear submarine Nautilus; they also watched a Western. The following is a list of movies that were available for viewing during that visit:

From the "Camp David Operation Plan 2-59"

Presidential diaries also give us a glimpse into the movie-watching activities at Camp David.  Here are some entries from Richard Nixon's diary over two weekends in September 1970 and Jimmy Carter's diary from 1977.

Excerpts from President Richard Nixon's Daily Diary - September 1970

Excerpt from the Daily Diary of President Jimmy Carter

Sources:  The President is at Camp David;  What A Party!; Living History; Time; Eisenhower Presidential Library; Nixon Presidential Libary; Jimmy Carter Library; Ronald Reagan Library; National Archives

Friday, October 1, 2010

Horseback Riding

President Kennedy, son John Jr., and daughter Caroline - March 1963

President Kennedy began using Camp David regularly in the Spring of 1963.  He had a bridle path cleared along the inside of the camp perimeter fence and a pony ring built for his daughter Caroline's pony, Macaroni. A stable was also built for the horses that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had arranged to be transported to the camp.

This 1963 newspaper article about a Presidential visit to Camp David reports that President Kennedy's helicopter "landed on a recreation field which had been temporarily converted into a riding ring for Mrs. Kennedy and five-year-old Caroline".

Susan and Steve Ford and friends rode horses at Camp David over Labor Day Weekend in 1974

The Reagans also enjoyed riding horses at Camp David.  However, President Reagan was reportedly "appalled" to find that Richard Nixon had paved over many of the old riding trails so that he could ride around in a golf cart instead.  Reagan had the trails restored and the National Park Service rangers brought  in horses from nearby stables.  Over time, the Reagans extended their rides to include some trails outside the camp perimeter fence.

                          President Reagan in 1983                                 Riding with Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo in 1981

President Reagan and Vice President Bush ride horses at Camp David in July 1981

President and Mrs. Reagan, son Ron Reagan and wife Doria - October 1983
July 1984

In the book The Reagan Diaries, President Reagan wrote on October 3, 1981:
"Windy & cold but we rode & for the first time went out a back gate into the Catoctin National Forest. Followed an old road that led to a stone ruin of what was a summer hotel in 1933 when the lady owner Bessie Darling was murdered by her doctor boyfriend. During World War II it was used for briefing foreign intelligence officers. It's a tumbled ruin now." 

I wanted to see if I could find the path President Reagan took that day out the back gate at Camp David to the ruin of the old hotel. According to the National Park Service website, Bessie Darling ran the old Valley View Manor. They have a map on their website that shows the location. A quick check on Google Earth revealed the Camp David back gate and a path that led into the direction of the old Valley View Manor.  Below are some screen shots that show the back gate, the path to a clearing, and the ruins of Bessie Darling's house.

Camp David back gate

Trail leading out the back gate to a clearing. The Valley View Manor ruins are further past the clearing

I came across an interesting blog post written by someone who hiked to the Bessie Darling house on the Halloween anniversary of her murder. It is difficult to view the actual ruins on Google Maps since they are in a heavily wooded area. But who needs Google Maps when you have photos of the actual site?

          Bessie Darling's house - The Valley View Manor                                        Ruins of the house in 2008

The path from Camp David to the clearing is easily visible. The old road that President Reagan rode on past the clearing to the Bessie Darling House is obscured by trees. I could not find any documentation on the clearing or whether it is related to Camp David or not. Below are some close-ups of the clearing on Google Maps and Bing Maps.

Close up view of the clearing - from 2007 Google Maps

The 2007 image above shows the clearing on the way to the Valley View Manor. There appears to be a  building on the left (see closeup view from different angle). The same area displayed in a more recent Bing Map below looks like there might be some construction going on in the area of the clearing.

View from Bing Maps - March 2012

I went back to Bing Maps a month later and noticed that the map image had changed and a prominent paved path leading to the back gate at Camp David was now visible.

View from Bing Maps - April 2012

Sources:  John F. Kennedy Library; Ronald Reagan Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; The President is at Camp David; From Mount Vernon to Crawford; Camp David Tour; Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The Modesto Bee; The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage;  The Reagan Diaries; National Park Service; Mongoose of Mystery; Google Earth; The White House