Published February 15, 2012
Presidents have long had retreats where they could go and escape the pressures of the job.
President Bill Clinton had Martha's Vineyard -- more of a vacation hotspot than a compound. President Obama often goes back to his roots in the Kenwood-Hyde Park area of Chicago, or Hawaii, where he grew up.
But there are several famous -- and not so famous -- retreats that carry a rich history worth checking out on your own.
President’s Day weekend is just around the corner. To mark the occasion we thought we’d take a look at some getaways U.S. presidents have found solace in during good times and bad, and where you can follow in the steps of the nation's leaders.
We’re talking about everything from lodges to fishing holes and oceanside compounds. Some are open to the public. Others are private, but if you're lucky you can get a sneak peek..
Roosevelt’s Little White House, Warm Springs, Georgia
“FDR was struck by polio before becoming president, he was still governor of New York, and he had heard that polio patients were coming to that part of Georgia to swim in the naturally warm spring water for therapy because it made them feel better,” Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, told FoxNews.com. “Of course it didn’t cure polio, but he loved the area, and he built the Little White House so he could live nearby.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1932 and eventually added the pools where he swam for therapy . These days, the pools are kept empty for preservation, but if you reserve tickets early enough, you can take a dip in them on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends when they refill the pools.
But Warm Springs wasn’t just a place where he went for physical therapy – he did a lot of thinking there as well.
“A lot of his New Deal policies came from his experiences of being in rural Georgia,” Hatcher said. “One of them was the Rural Electrification Act. And then just working with the farmers and seeing what it was like for average people, you know, a lot of his ideas of how to help people during The Great Depression came about from being here.”
On April 12, 1945, FDR was posing for a portrait in the Little White House when he suffered a stroke. He died a few hours later.
“That ‘Unfinished Portrait’ is still there,” Hatcher said. “The house has been left pretty much just the way it was when he died. There’s even a note that his cook wrote on the wall that day. And the museum is really neat because it has his convertible there that was equipped so he could drive with his hands because he couldn’t use his feet. There’s also a cane collection because people from all over the world would send him canes, which are really cool, because they are all so different.”
Just down the road from the house is F.D. Roosevelt State Park, the largest in Georgia with more than 9,000 acres.
The park is now open to the public and has miles and miles of hiking trails, and visitors can stay in historic cabins built in the 30’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Truman Little White House, Key West, Florida
While we’re on the subject of “Little White Houses,” Harry S. Truman had his own version of one down in Key West, Florida.
Originally built in 1890 as a naval officer residence, Truman spent 175 days of his presidency there between 1946 and 1952. His first visit was in November of 1946, and he loved it so much, he spent of a total of 11 working vacations there mulling over some pretty heavy stuff from the rebuilding of Europe to issues of Civil Rights. The house eventually became known as the “Winter White House.”
Truman, who claimed Key West to be his second favorite place on earth, wasn’t the only commander-in-chief to use this place as a working retreat. Other presidents include Howard Taft, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
Today, the Little White House is open for tours seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The Bush Compound, Kennebunkport, Maine
Often called the “Summer White House” because George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush spent so much of their summers there. Known as The Bush Compound it has been in the family for more than 100 years.
Built by H.W’s grandfather in 1903, the sprawling property is located on Walker’s Point in the coastal town of Kennebunkport in Southern Maine. The compound is outfitted with everything from a swimming pool to tennis courts, a golf green and of course a security guard building for all those secret service agents.
Mixing a little pleasure with business, former President Bush invited world leaders including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev to his Kennebunkport home during his presidency. He loved it so much there, he took six trips to the compound in 1989 – totaling about 40 days, according to factcheck.org.
Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush also used the compound as a place to meet with world leaders. In July of 2007, Bush hosted President Vladimir Putin of Russia for a two-day visit.
In an interview with a local TV station, Bush senior told reporters that his home would provide the two leaders with a venue to “sit down, no necktie, sit in a beautiful house overlooking the sea, and talk frankly without a lot of straphangers.”
The estate is not open to the public, but is still a main tourist attraction in the town. You can see Walker Point along several roads and vista points where you can pull over and take pictures.
Camp David, Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland
Possibly the most famous of all presidential retreats is Camp David, which is tucked away in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, just over 60 miles away from Washington, D.C.
It was originally a military base, but during the Great Depression, it was turned over to the White House, and in 1942 it was named Shangri-La by FDR. At the urging of his doctors, Roosevelt used the country residence as a way to escape the summertime heat of the city and the pressures of politics.
Eventually it was renamed “Camp David” by President Eisenhower in honor of his grandson David.
Since the times of Roosevelt, Camp David has been used to host leaders from all over the world, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was the first to visit in 1943.
This 180-acre mountain retreat is outfitted with a heated pool, tennis courts and a skeet range – just to name a few of the amenities – and has been used by many presidents over the years, but it was President Ronald Reagan who frequented it the most. He loved toiling away in the woodworking shop while Nancy Reagan concentrated on landscaping and decorating.
Camp David is not open to the public. But you can still visit Catoctin Mountain Park --the property which Camp David technically lies within. There you can go fishing, hiking and take advantage of a host of events. The park is open all year.
Trout Run Retreat, Camp David, Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland
If Camp David sounds like the perfect getaway and you have a substantial amount of money in the bank – you’re in luck. Just a few miles away from the famous presidential retreat is a 453-acre property called Trout Run, which is on the market for a mere $9 million.
This isn’t just any country compound either. Running through the property is a two-mile trout stream that served as a favorite fishing hole to Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Hoover first cast his line there in 1929 and as a result there’s a cottage named in his honor where the original furniture used by Hoover remains to this day.
“It was really almost surreal walking into the buildings and seeing all the furniture exactly as it had been,” Dave DeSantis, an agent with Sotheby’s, said in a recent article.
If fishing isn’t your thing, there’s an Olympic-sized swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, shuffleboard and hunting grounds. Or maybe you just like to take in the scenery and paint some watercolors like Eisenhower did during his downtime.
All in all, the compound has five separate stone buildings, and has been on and off the market for the last eight years or so. But hey, if you have enough cash to write a check for this place, you could have your very own one-of-a-kind and super posh “presidential retreat.”