Located within the Shenandoah National Park lies this historic, Presidential oasis. It was bought by President Herbert Hoover shortly after it was built in 1929. The 106-acre camp was originally used by President Hoover and his wife as a summer retreat spot, but it was eventually turned into a place for future presidents to vacation when it was donated to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1935.
Backstory and Context
Herbert Hoover was the president during one of the hardest times in American history, the Great Depression. There was a lot of stress being a leader in such a difficult time. To temporarily escape his strain and tension, Hoover retreated to Rapidan Camp in Syria, Virginia. The camp was surrounded by beautiful scenery, such as the Blue-Ridge Mountains and cascading waterfalls. After purchasing the camp in 1929, President Hoover built on many assets. His wife, Lou Hoover, hired architects that built Boy and Girl Scout camps to design their camp. Then, the United States Marines built it as a training exercise. After all of the construction was completed, Camp Hoover had thirteen buildings in total. There were cabins for guests, servants, a dining hall, and small town hall, and separate cabins for other White House workers. There was electric, water, sewer systems and newspapers were dropped daily by airplane so Hoover would not miss any news.
Being born and raised in Iowa, Hoover had a passion for the outdoors. There was no better place than Rapidan Camp to indulge in nature. Fishing was one of Hoover's favorite past times and he often fished and stocked the streams surrounding his camp. Various hiking trails surround the area, giving him and his guests various activities to take part in. The Town Hall was used as a gathering place for the guests. They could knit, play ping pong, or just join in fellowship. Not only was the Town Hall used for recreation, the President and his subordinates held meetings there often. The peacefulness and seclusion of Rapidan was the perfect spot to discuss important subjects because there was little interruption.
President Hoover was heavily criticized for his time spent at his camp. Many Americans going through the Great Depression were upset by the president enjoying his time peacefully in Rapidan. They thought he was using his power and wealth unfairly and that he was not doing enough to get them out of this troubling time. He ended up losing the election in 1932; soon afterwards he donated the camp to the Commonwealth of Virginia for it to become a summer retreat spot for future presidents. Then in December 1935, it officially became a part of the Shenandoah National Park.
Camp Hoover has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. Even though not all of the camp stands today, restored versions of the town hall and the Brown House are still there. Getting to Camp Hoover requires a 1.8 mile hike on the park's Mill Prong Trail. The Shenandoah National Park offers guided tours of the camp and tourists can schedule a visit up to six months in advance. The National Park also offers bus rides to tour the historic camp, as well.
President Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover's Rapidan Camp, nps.gov. Accessed October 3rd 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/hoover_camp_rapidan.html.
Repanshek, Kurt. Shenandoah's Camp Hoover, nationalparkstraveler.org. February 7th 2007. Accessed October 5th 2019. https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2007/02/shenandoahs-camp-hoover.
Whiskeybristles. Rapidan Camp, atlasobscura.com. Accessed October 4th 2019. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/rapidan-camp.
Treese, Joel D.. Hoover's Retreat: Rapidan Camp, whitehousehistory.org. August 5th 2016. Accessed October 5th 2019. https://www.whitehousehistory.org/hoovers-retreat-rapidan-camp.