January 23, 2009 / 11:09 AM / 10 years ago

Travel Picks: Top 10 U.S. presidential retreats

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - When it’s time for a break, U.S. presidents have always had a favoured getaway, ranging from cabins in the woods to sprawling estates on the coast. But newly inaugurated Barack Obama is expected to be slightly different.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. REUTERS/Thomas Jefferson Foundation/Monticello

Men’s online magazine AskMen.com has come up with a list of the top 10 presidential retreats based on their intrigue, popularity, and notoriety. This list is not endorsed by Reuters:

1. Camp David, Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland

Most associate the ultimate presidential retreat with President Eisenhower who named Camp David after his grandson. It was really Franklin D. Roosevelt who began hanging out here for his health, trying to beat Washington’s summer heat and humidity. The camp was originally built for disabled children in the late 1930s. Through the years, from hosting dignitaries to serving as a secluded getaway, it continues to be the ultimate presidential retreat.

2. Kennedy Compound, Hyannisport, Massachusetts

So much infamous American history has taken place here but few outsiders granted entrance. It all began when Joseph P. Kennedy rented the Marchant Avenue summer cottage in 1926. A couple of years later, he purchased and enlarged it, and it became the family’s summer retreat. Later, sons John and Robert bought neighboring homes, establishing what today makes up the compound.

3. Little White House, Key West, Florida

Beginning in 1946, President Truman began working and playing at Key West, setting the stage for other presidents to follow suit. Today, official functions have given way to public tours and private parties, but the Little White House has been preserved much as Truman left it.

4. Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

You know that house on the back of the nickel? It’s located in Albemarle County, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a Roman neoclassic house that he started building in 1769 and didn’t stop fiddling with it until 1809.

5. Rancho del Cielo, Santa Barbara, California

In 1974, when the original actor-turned-California governor Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his second term, he and wife Nancy first saw Rancho del Cielo, the 688-acre “Ranch of the Sky” outside Santa Barbara. They bought it for $527,000 and as president, Reagan retreated there often and continued to do so until his battle with Alzheimer’s disease intensified. Today, Young America’s Foundation owns Rancho del Cielo and gives tours.

6. Bush Compound (Walker’s Point), Kennebunkport, Maine

The summer White House has been in the Bush family for over 100 years, and was built in 1903. Though the Bushes spend more of their time in Texas, they still come to the Bush Compound throughout the year.

7. Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, Virginia

The first president — the first presidential retreat. Just a few miles from Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, the 18th-century estate and gardens are open every day of the year. In the 40 years George Washington and wife Martha lived there, he managed to expand the estate from 6 to 21 rooms, and the grounds from 2,000 to 8,000 acres.

8. LBJ ranch, Stonewall, Texas

Lyndon Johnson’s ranch near Stonewall is worth a look. Not too far from Austin, the ranch isn’t a silent, stuffy museum but as straightforward as the man himself and an active attraction for the National Park Service.

9. Kenwood, Chicago, Illinois

Barack Obama will presumably spend downtime at both Camp David and in Hawaii, considering his ties to the latter. Yet his ties to Chicago and the intent to maintain them are unique. Unlike past presidents who’ve isolated themselves on ranches or oceanfront estates, Obama is content to return to his $1.6 million house in Kenwood.

10. Pine Knot, Albemarle County, Virginia

First Lady Edith Roosevelt selected this 15-acre wooded parcel in 1905. The two-story cottage became a retreat for the family, but not necessarily a lavish one with amenities lacking. In recent years, the site has undergone restorations to allow visitors access to this rustic presidential retreat.

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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