Barack Obama sometimes held meetings and met delegations at Camp David. (AP: Andrew Harnik, file)
US President Donald Trump is picking simple over swanky this weekend.
- First President to use the Maryland retreat was Franklin Roosevelt in 1942
- Barack Obama had visited four times by the same point in his presidency
- Features include tennis courts, swimming pool, bowling alley, movie theatre and year-round military guard
Nearly five months into his Presidency, Mr Trump is heading to Camp David, the government-owned retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, for the first time.
A frequent weekend traveller, Mr Trump has favoured his palatial residences in Florida and New Jersey over the wooded hideaway used by many Presidents for a break from Washington.
No one expects the luxury-loving leader to make this a regular thing — after all, Mr 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.”
Presidents have been coming to the refuge about 112 kilometres from the White House for seven decades, and not always just for a rest.
Franklin Delano 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 and George HW Bush’s daughter Dorothy got married there.
“Everything that a president needs in the White House is built in there,” said 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. It is immediately available … Within 20 minutes you can be there.”
Jimmy Carter (centre) meets Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David. (AP via White House, file)
Secluded location with Marine protection
A short drive from the town of Thurmont, Maryland, Camp David covers more than 50 hectares, with a cabin for the president and about a dozen cabins for guests.
Guests can use tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a bowling alley and a movie theatre.
For the golf-loving Mr Trump, there is a single golf hole with multiple tees.
Protected by the Marines as part of the Navy budget, Camp David has been utilised 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 US media sources.
Locals haven’t seemed too concerned about when Mr Trump might show up.
As lifelong resident Donna Bollinger, 63, put it, the town of Thurmont often barely knows when presidents are nearby, given the secluded nature of the retreat.
Now the manager of the Bollinger Family Restaurant, Ms Bollinger recalled 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.
So far, Mr 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.
More recently he has favoured his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he has a home.
Going to his properties incurs additional security expenses, unlike a trip to Camp David, which is protected year-round as a military installation.
President John F Kennedy (left) and former President Dwight D Eisenhower met at Camp David to discuss the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. (AP: Paul Vathis, file)
Presidents and their retreats
Ken Walsh, chief White House correspondent for US News & World Report, wrote about Presidential getaways in his book From Mount Vernon to Crawford: A History of the Presidents and Their Retreats.
He said many presidents have liked the freedom and security offered by Camp David, where they can spend time outdoors and with their families out of the public eye.
But Mr Walsh said President Trump might have a different view.
“I don’t think it is his style. I’d be surprised if he went up there very much,” he said.
The first president to use the retreat was Mr Roosevelt in 1942.
He was looking for an escape from Washington’s summer heat, while still remaining nearby during World War II.
He dubbed the site Shangri-La, but Dwight Eisenhower, a regular visitor, later renamed it after his grandson.
John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were infrequent visitors, though they did use the camp to meet with advisers from time to time.
Richard Nixon was a fan of getting away there, as was Ronald Reagan.
Anita McBride said George W Bush loved to ride his bike around the trails, while wife Laura liked to go hiking.
“It was a place that really refreshed them,” she said.
If Mr Trump doesn’t make it to Camp David much, Ms Bollinger said she’d love to go in his place.
“I would like to visit, too. They have a bowling alley,” she said.
“It would be a great tourist attraction.”
George W Bush hosts British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Camp David in 2007. (Larry Downing: Reuters, file)