What You Didn't Know About Camp David

By | July 27, 2022

test article image
President Kennedy and former President Eisenhower meet at Camp David, Maryland, to discuss the Cuba crisis. August 1961. (CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Sure, there are a lot of headaches that come with being the president of the United States, but the job does come with some pretty sweet perks. The president gets to fly around in Air Force One, a personal chef ready to whip up a snack at any time, and a private retreat nestled in the wooded hills of Maryland about an hour's drive from Washington, D.C. This retreat, Camp David, has become legendary over the years as a place where the president and his family can unwind from the pressures of the job.

The Hidden Camp

We know that Camp David sits in a rural part of Frederick County in Maryland, but the exact location is kept secret for security reasons. In fact, it was not included on any maps until recently, when Google Earth satellite maps made it impossible to keep it hidden.

The Real David

When Franklin D. Roosevelt established Camp David during his presidency, he called the place Shangri-La after the mythical Tibetan paradise, but Eisenhower thought the name sounded too fancy and un-American. After he was elected, he named the retreat after his grandson, David Eisenhower.

test article image
U.S. Marine standing guard at Shangri-La, 1944. (National Museum of the U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

It's A Pretty Sweet Setup

No, there are no outhouses—Camp David is more like a modern resort. There's one grand building, the Aspen Lodge, and 18 cabins to accommodate guests, Secret Service, and others. There's also a bowling alley, tennis courts, a basketball court, a skeet shooting range, riding stables, two swimming pools, and a movie theater (the Reagans watched an impressive 344 movies at Camp David). There are also plenty of golf carts, the only vehicle the president is allowed to drive.

Don't Mess With The Camp Counselors

Okay, there aren't really counselors at Camp David, but there are armed guards. Camp David is considered a military base, so the staff are members of the Marine Corps and the Navy, and they understand that their primary goal is to keep the president safe. The Navy got involved with Camp David during FDR's first visit to the retreat, when the crew of the presidential yacht, an arm of the Marines, staffed the visit.