A Brief History of Camp David
The Presidential retreat was originally called “Shangri-La” by Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in 1953, Dwight d. Eisenhower re-named it “Camp David” in honor of his grandson David Eisenhower.
The name change rankled Democrats and there was talk of the name reverting to “Shangri-La” after Eisenhower’s presidency, but President Kennedy vetoed the idea and Camp David it remained.
Extensive redecorating and building took place at Camp David on Ike’s watch. Picnic tables, an outdoor cooking area, a bomb shelter and a projection booth were added during the remodeling.
Ike valued Camp David as a place to relax, but he also conducted official business there. Recuperating from a heart attack in late 1955, Eisenhower held Cabinet meetings and four meetings of the National Security Council at the camp.
In July 1957 he flew to Camp David by helicopter as part of the civil defense exercise “Operation Alert.” Ike was the first president to travel to Camp David by chopper. The helicopter cut the commute from Washington, D.C. down from two hours to just thirty minutes.
Eisenhower also used Camp David to entertain foreign leaders, a tradition that continues today.
In April 1961, former President Eisenhower traveled back to Camp David for the last time when he met President Kennedy there to review the failed Bay of Pigs operation.
Eisenhower’s many trips up the mountain, combined with his renaming of the compound and his highly publicized use of it for recreation and official business, helped make “Camp David” synonymous with the modern American presidency and international diplomacy.
Photo: David Eisenhower at the entrance to his namesake Presidential retreat, Camp David. 10/2/60.
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