Rapidan Camp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
The Brown House was President Hoover's Cabin at Rapid Camp
The Brown House was President Hoover's Cabin at Rapid Camp

Rapidan Camp (also later known as Camp Hoover) in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia was selected by U.S. President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover to become rustic presidential retreat. The president described it as a means to escape "the pneumatic hammer of public life."

Rapidan Camp was the precursor of the current presidential retreat, Camp David, which is located in the Catoctin Mountain area of Frederick County, Maryland.



In November 1928, Herbert Hoover was elected to become 31st President of the United States. Hoover was originally from Iowa, and he and his wife had lived together at mining camps for over 10 years before their move to the busy East Coast. As he faced the pressure and spotlight of the presidency, he sought a retreat somewhere within 100 miles (160 km) of Washington D.C., and one with good fishing.

At the suggestion of Virginia officials, in January 1929, Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, selected the rural site on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison County. The Hoovers personally paid for the land and materials and the U.S. Marine Corps provided the labor as an assortment of buildings including a lodge, two mess halls, cabins and a "Town Hall" were erected. they also created several miles of hiking trails, a stone fountain, and artificial trout pools. Mrs. Hoover oversaw the project. The structure which was the main living quarters for the First Family was named the "Brown House", a name apparently chosen to reflect the dramatic difference from their more famous presidential residence, the White House in Washington D.C.

At the 164 acre (664,000 m²) site, President Hoover enjoyed fishing in the rural location 2500 ft (760 m) above sea level on the Rapidan River, a trout stream. Mrs. Hoover liked to ride horses while at the camp, and initially, horseback was the only way to reach it until a road could be built. In a famous quotation from a speech of August 1929, President Hoover stated that fishing was an "excuse for return to the woods and streams with their retouch of the simpler life of the frontier from which every American springs."

U.S. and foreign leaders came to the isolated and secure location of Rapidan Camp to meet for strategy sessions with the President. His distinguished guests included inventor Thomas A. Edison, aviator Charles Lindbergh, who had been the first pilot to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and English Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill. [1] Camp Rapidan featured a large outdoor stone fireplace which was used as a backdrop for many famous photographs of the Hoovers and their guests.

Hoover was president during the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. He was defeated when he ran for re-election in 1932 by Democratic candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

When President Hoover left office, he and his wife donated the camp to the government to become part of the new Shenandoah National Park then under construction. However, Camp Rapidan was too rustic for President Roosevelt's preferences and needs, as he used a wheelchair. For many years, it was used by government officials, and for a time, as a summer camp by the Boy Scouts of America.

The camp was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1988, and use as a camping facility ended in 1992.

Restoration; Open to public tours

A dream of the National Park Service has been realized as the Shenandoah National Park has restored Rapidan Camp to the era of the Hoover presidency. At the camp, interpretive signs have been installed to help visitors understand life as it was in 1931, the mid-point of the Hoover presidency. During the restoration process, many newer improvements were removed.

Rapidan Camp is accessible by a 4.1 mile (6 km) round-trip hike on Mill Prong Trail, which begins on the Skyline Drive at Milam Gap (Mile 52.8). The National Park Service also offers guided van trips that leave from the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows.


In August 1929, a local child in the rural mountain area nearby gave President Hoover an opossum as a birthday gift. When the Hoovers discovered the child and his friends did not attend school because there was none, they raised funds to hire a teacher and built a small schoolhouse which opened in 1930.


External links

Personal tools