November 19, 2019
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The ‘Floating White House’ may dock in Belfast for restoration

Alex Brandon | AP
Alex Brandon | AP
In this Sept. 6, 2013 file photo, the USS Sequoia motors on the Anacostia River in Washington.

BELFAST, Maine — The USS Sequoia, a yacht used by former presidents that’s sometimes known as the “floating White House,” soon may be coming to Belfast to be restored.

The 94-year-old wooden boat was expected to leave the Richardson Maritime Museum in Cambridge, Maryland, this week to be barged north to Maine, according to an article by the Washington, D.C., news radio station WTOP-FM.

Todd French, of Belfast boat builders French & Webb, is the project manager for the Sequoia restoration. French called the boat “a floating piece of Americana history that needs to be saved,” last month in an interview with WBOC-TV, a Fox network affiliate in the D.C. area.

French told the Bangor Daily News this week that he hopes he will soon be able to share more information about the storied yacht’s planned restoration, such as where it will take place.

“We’re really excited about being involved in the Sequoia project,” French said. “Stay tuned for details.”

The 104-foot mahogany, teak and yellow pine motor yacht, built in 1925, was used by every president from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford and earned its place in the history books.

Franklin Roosevelt, who installed an elevator so he could more easily move around the ship in his wheelchair, discussed military strategies with Winston Churchill on it during World War II.

John F. Kennedy, who added a king-sized bed, celebrated his 46th — and final — birthday on the Sequoia. According to a 2017 article in Town & Country, it was rumored that Marilyn Monroe “joined him for a cruise or two,” although all the relevant ship’s logs were destroyed after Kennedy’s death.

Richard Nixon especially enjoyed the Sequoia, using it for 88 trips while in office. It’s where he negotiated the SALT 1 nuclear arms treaty with Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, and it’s where he was when he told his family he planned to resign the presidency rather than face impeachment.

When Jimmy Carter became president, he decided that the yacht was no longer critical to the government, and he auctioned it to the private sector. It was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1987 but eventually fell on hard times and was the subject of a recent six-year legal battle over ownership.

French told WBOC-TV that the current owners want to return it to some of its original glory.

“We’re going to systematically go and restore it almost like in a museum, archival way,” he told the TV station. “You get chills walking through it. There’s such a rich history here and countless stories we hope to honor with the restoration.”

Michael Cantor is the managing partner at D.C.-based Equator Capital Group, which owns the Sequoia. He told WTOP-FM that once it’s restored, the group’s intention is to bring it back to the capital, “where she will serve as a venue to teach American presidential history and promote ocean conservation causes.”

 



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