October 25, 2014

Rapidan Camp, AKA Camp Hoover Provides Inside Peek to Depression-Era Presidency

Before there ever was a Camp David, Rapidan Camp, otherwise known as Camp Hoover was the executive retreat of President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou.

Now part of Shenandoah National Park, Rapidan Camp once housed foreign officials, cabinet members and Hoover family friends as an informal out-of-town version of the White House. Connected via phone to Washington, the president could use Camp Hoover to conduct business away from the heat and chaos of the city.

One of the things I found most interesting about my visit to Rapidan Camp was the perspective it gave on the private personalities of Lou Henry Hoover and her president husband Herbert. Fishing, shooting, horseback riding and sleeping under the stars were their activities of preference, as opposed to the expected tea parties and formal events one might expect people who have chosen a public life to prefer. Camp Hoover definitely provides a sense of this, particularly when you see how the cabins were decorated.

Normally, I dig out the evergreen branches and pine cones during the winter holiday season only. Not so with Lou. She had pine branch and cone displays in numerous pottery vases around their private quarters and the furnishings could be considered nothing other than rustic. What this signaled to me was that when she could have created any environment she wanted for her private space, she chose something without frills. A no-nonsense woman if ever there was one.

While Camp Hoover was made available to presidents and vice presidents for their use from the time of its donation to the National Park Service, very few have taken advantage of it. Al Gore however, did stay at Rapidan Camp for a fishing getaway during his time as V.P.

Those who have a chance to visit Rapidan Camp while visiting Shenandoah National Park should definitely capitalize on the opportunity. The opportunities to blend this level of presidential history with eco tourism are certainly few, and this is one of the best venues there is to do so.  Fun day trips from Shenandoah National Park include visiting Luray Caverns and exploring some of the fun things to do in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Photo Credit(s): Trek Hound – These and other photos are available for use in online content in exchange for a link back to the Rapidan Camp – Camp Hoover photo gallery through a creative commons agreement.