PRES­I­DEN­TIAL RE­TREATS Where the Pres­i­dents Went and Why They Went There

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - By Peter Han­naford Thresh­old. 338 pp. Pa­per­back, $16 — T. Rees Shapiro shapirot@wash­post.com

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.”

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