PRESIDENTIAL RETREATS Where the Presidents Went and Why They Went There
In “Presidential Retreats,” Peter Hannaford explores the places throughout history where our nation’s leaders have kicked up their feet. The result is an engaging book in which each president gets a chapter summarizing his time in office, complete with anecdotes about his private retreat. Hannaford dutifully begins the book with several places most Americans already know about, notably Mount Vernon, Monticello and Montpelier, the sprawling Virginia estates of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
There are also presidential homes that should be new to most readers, including Zachary Taylor’s place near Charles City, Va., which he called “Sherwood Forest” because he considered himself an outlaw, and Andrew Jackson’s old log-cabin homestead, Hermitage, near Nashville.
Despite a few factual errors — Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have ridden a “chestnut bay horse,” since there’s no such coat color — Hannaford deserves praise for the odd and interesting tidbits he’s compiled. Among them: Lincoln was the first and only sitting president to come under direct enemy fire in battle; Theodore Roosevelt’s massive chest muscles helped stop a bullet shot by a would-be assassin; and John F. Kennedy was the first president to have been a Boy Scout.
Hannaford also traces the history of a certain high-security presidential facility with a rustic vibe in the mountains above Thurmont, Md. President Dwight Eisenhower once campaigned to shut down the complex that Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed “Shangri La.” But Eisenhower changed his mind after visiting the place and renamed it, in honor of his grandson, Camp David.
TOP: SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS LEFT: FRANK WOLFE/ASSOCIATED PRESS The study at Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill, top, in Oyster Bay, N.Y., which served as the summer White House during his presidency. The night before Roosevelt died there in 1919, he told his wife, Edith, “I wonder if you can ever know how I love Sagamore Hill.” President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, left, near the LBJ Ranch in Texas in 1968. In his office at his Texas home, Johnson had an embroidered pillow reading: “This is my ranch and I do as I damn please.”