Martha's Vineyard Prepares for Possible Obama Vacation

OAK BLUFFS, Mass. -- If the first family has plans for a summer vacation, the White House isn't saying. But try telling that to the well-connected residents of this small community on the picturesque island of Martha's Vineyard.

Sources along the seashore paradise say President Obama has rented a home in the East Chop neighborhood of Oak Bluffs -- a town on the island's northeastern shore that is rich in African-American history.

Notable black Americans have owned homes in Oak Bluffs, including writer Dorothy West, former Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke, and New York Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the first African-American congressman from the East Coast since Reconstruction. Other celebrities, including Spike Lee and Oprah Winfrey, have been frequent guests in the island community.

The White House has played the Obamas' vacation plans close to the vest amid widespread rumors that the family will spend a couple of weeks in Oak Bluffs this summer. The White House told FOXNews.com the president has "made no plans," and has suggested that he may not take a vacation at all. But ask whether the "first family" will go to Martha's Vineyard, and you are referred to Michelle Obama's office, which has not returned repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

In Oak Bluffs, meanwhile, they're gearing up for Washington royalty.

The Obamas' popularity on the island is palpable. Art galleries lining Vineyard Haven's main street are adorned with paintings of the president. The Crocker House Inn is arranging a Michelle Obama "welcome bag" filled with island delicacies and local flowers. And Mocha Mott's coffee shop is brewing a special roast called "Mochabama" -- a blend of black and white chocolates, store owner Tim Dobel told FOXNews.com.

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"His visit would be great for business," said Andrew Gilmore, a worker at the island's landmark retail store, The Black Dog.

"I hear the president's coming here from credible sources," Susan Goldstein, owner of the luxurious 40-room Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, told FOXNews.com.

"You cannot go shopping at the local supermarket without there being conversation about it," she said, adding that hotel reservations have increased "significantly" during the two weeks of August when Obama and his family are rumored to be visiting.

Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce executive director Nancy Gardella could not confirm that the president will be staying here this summer, but said "people are definitely talking about it."

Gardella said she is working to create a Web site where islanders can post activity suggestions for the first family, such as a kayaking trip out to Cape Poge in Chappaquiddick or a trip to the island's most popular ice cream store.

"The vineyard has a long history of presidential hospitality, and we would be thrilled to welcome the president and his family," she said.

Bill and Hillary Clinton made several trips to Martha's Vineyard in the 1990s, often staying at friends' homes in Edgartown.

Though the island has an eclectic mix of people, Gardella and others said Martha's Vineyard has long appealed to the rich and famous because "you can walk around without having a shave and nobody cares."

"The vineyard is really the whole world on an island," said Goldstein. "You get every walk of life here. It's a tremendous validation that someone who can go any place in the world chooses to come here."

While residents express excitement over a possible presidential visit, the question most whispered in local taverns is: From whom might Obama be renting a vacation home?

"No oyster knife has cracked that one open just yet, but all bets are on Ron Davenport, Wayne Budd, or Charles Ogletree," said a local businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Obama, who does not own a vacation home, visited Martha's Vineyard last August to attend a campaign fundraiser at the waterfront home of Ron Davenport -- chairman of Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcasting Corp., the largest African-American-owned communications network in the United States.

The president has stayed at the Oak Bluffs home of Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree -- a close confidant -- on several occasions, beginning in 2004 after the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett also has a home in Oak Bluffs.

Attorney Wayne Budd,  a longtime Justice Department prosecutor appointed U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts in 1989, then Associate Attorney General of the U.S. in 1992, serving under both Bush and Clinton told FOXNews.com that "to the best of our knowledge, the president and his family are not staying at our home in Oak Bluffs on MVI, although we would be more than happy to host them if they so desired."  

Residents and local business owners told FOXNews.com that Alan Schweikert of Ocean Park Realty in Oak Bluffs is discreetly arranging housing for the president's entourage of aides and Secret Service agents.

But Schweikert, who coordinated housing for Bill Clinton's staff during his presidency, refuted that claim, telling FOXNews.com that "nothing has been formally arranged."

Planned visit or not, residents say the buzz over an Obama retreat is a boost to the island's economy.

"We're just perpetuating that rumor," said Jeff Kristal, owner of the Crocker House Inn in Vineyard Haven.

"Rumors are good for business."

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.