Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rainbow Beach Is The New Cape Cod

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President Obama will be in Chicago this weekend to celebrate his 51st birthday. Obama is our most urban president since Theodore Roosevelt, so it’s no surprise he’s spending his summer vacation in the big city. Most of his predecessors, however have preferred more rustic retreats. But now, Rainbow Beach is the new Cape Cod.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Roosevelt family owned a 34-room “cottage” on New Brunswick’s Campobello Island. FDR loved to swim, sail and fish in the Bay of Fundy. It was here, in 1921, that Roosevelt contracted the polio that prevented him from walking for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he returned three times during his presidency, in 1933, 1936 and 1939, until World War II ended his leisurely vacations there.

Harry Truman: Truman was associated with a winter resort: the so-called Little White House, a former naval officers’ residence in Key West, Fla. During his presidency, Truman made 11 trips to Key West, where he fished and played poker with cabinet members. The former haberdasher helped popularize loud tropical shirts there.

Dwight Eisenhower: For the last three summers of his presidency, Eisenhower vacationed in Newport, R.I., the millionaires’ playground where “cottages” are the size of mansions.

John F. Kennedy: The Kennedy family began summering on Cape Cod in the 1920s, when Joseph P., the family patriarch, constructed a vacation home that came to be known as the Kennedy compound. The Kennedys were famous for games of touch football on the lawn, but it was also convenient for sailing in Nantucket Sound.

Gerald Ford: Ford only spent two winters in the White House, but that was long enough to make the ski resort of Vail, Colorado, world famous. The athletic president was an avid downhill skier who began visiting Vail when he was a congressman, and eventually bought a vacation home there.

George H.W. Bush: Bush was officially from Texas, but as president, he spent most of his free time in Kennebunkport, Me. The Bush family compound is known as Walker’s Point, after Bush’s grandfather, St. Louis banker George H. Walker, who built a mansion there in 1903. George W. Bush also spent time in Kennebunkport as president.

Bill Clinton: Clinton, who did not own a home when he became president, enjoyed spending his summers on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., which The New York Times described as “an exclusive haven of the Eastern elite.” Clinton spent his time golfing with Vernon Jordan, an Eastern elitist who owns a home on the Vineyard. Obama has also spent vacation time there as president. 

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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