WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump chose simple over swanky this Father’s Day weekend.
Nearly five months into his presidency, Trump flew for the first time Saturday to Camp David, the government-owned retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. A frequent weekend traveler, Trump has favored his palatial residences in Florida and New Jersey over the wooded hideaway used by many presidents for a break from Washington.
Few expect the luxury-loving leader to make this a regular thing. Trump told foreign newspapers earlier this year that Camp David was “very rustic” and “you know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
Trump’s wife, Melania; their son, Barron, and the first lady’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, joined the president for an overnight stay at Camp David. Trump was to return to the White House on Sunday.
Presidents have been going to the refuge about 70 miles from the White House for seven decades, and not always just for a rest. Franklin D. Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill there in 1943, reviewing plans for the invasion of Normandy. Jimmy Carter used it for peace talks between Egypt and Israel. George H.W. Bush’s daughter Dorothy, or “Doro,” got married there.
“Everything that a president needs in the White House is built in there,” says Anita McBride, who was first lady Laura Bush’s chief of staff. “You have military support. You have a place to house your staff if you chose to use it.”
A short drive from the town of Thurmont, Maryland, Camp David is more than 125 acres, with a cabin for the president and about a dozen cabins for guests. There are tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a bowling alley and a movie theater. For the golf-loving Trump, there is a single golf hole with multiple tees.
Protected by the Marines as part of the Navy budget, Camp David has been utilized more by some presidents than others. By this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama had visited four times, George W. Bush 11 times and Bill Clinton twice, according to CBS News’ Mark Knoller, who tracks presidential travel.
Local residents haven’t seemed too concerned about when Trump might show up. As lifelong resident Donna Bollinger, 63, put it, Thurmont often barely knows when presidents are nearby, given the secluded nature of the retreat.
Now the manager of the Bollinger Family Restaurant, she recalls as a child seeing presidents come to the town’s Episcopal church. “I remember Mr. Eisenhower. I remember Mr. Johnson being there, and Mr. Nixon,” she said.
Trump has preferred his own properties. He regularly headed to his private club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, during the early days of his administration, embracing it as the “winter White House” and using it to host the leaders of Japan and China.