- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

THURMONT, Md. — Just a few miles from Camp David in Maryland’s green Catoctin Mountains lies another rustic hideaway where U.S. presidents fished, entertained and conferred with advisers in the mid-20th century.

The private retreat called Trout Run has been a well-kept secret since Herbert Hoover first cast a fly line there in 1929, in the spring of his first year in office. But on Oct. 23, the 450-acre estate and its stone buildings, filled with furnishings used by Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, will be sold to the highest bidder at auction.

“It’s truly a piece of American history,” said William R. Bone, president of the National Auction Group of Gadsden, Ala., which is conducting the sale.

Since 1946, the property, about 60 miles northwest of the District, has been in the hands of a family with Washington connections. Current owners Howard E. Haugerud, a former State Department official, and his wife, Tomajean, have enjoyed it as a quiet getaway. She’s in poor health, though, so “this is not the place for her anymore, and it’s no fun for me if she’s not here,” Mr. Haugerud, 79, said.

Mrs. Haugerud’s father, Floyd D. Akers, was the link between the presidents and the property. A gregarious Washington Cadillac dealer who supplied cars to the White House, he knew Hoover, Roosevelt and Eisenhower personally, as well as celebrities such as James Cagney and “Amos ‘n’ Andy” actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, whose autographed photos decorate the Hoover House, a two-room cabin perched above Little Hunting Creek.

“During my father-in-law’s time, he had every celebrity since World War II up here,” Mr. Haugerud said. They swam in the outdoor pool, danced in the pavilion, and dined on game cooked over a huge barbecue pit.

But it was the simpler pleasure of catching trout that attracted Hoover to the property. Like Rapidan Camp, his official summer White House near Criglersville, Va., the mountaintop property in Maryland provided easy access to a shaded waterway loaded with fish.

“‘Tis the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on the blue water,” Hoover once wrote of his passion for angling. “And it is discipline in the equality of men, for all men are equal before fish.”

Lou Henry Hoover wrote that her husband caught a 1-pound brown trout on the property, then called Catoctin Manor, during a trip there on April 28, 1929. Hoover returned the next month and caught eight trout, according to archivist Lynn Smith of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.

That August, Hoover’s executive secretary, Lawrence Richey, bought the property. He sold it 16 years later to Mr. Akers for $35,000, Miss Smith said. Most of the five residences had been built by then, including the three-bedroom main lodge, decorated with big-game mounts, including the head of a moose that Mr. Haugerud said Hoover shot in Alaska.

In one corner of the lodge is a coat tree hung with creels and fishing hats. One bears a handwritten message on the brim, dated July 4, 1954, to Mr. Akers from Gen. Walter “Beetle” Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff: “Your fishing hat looks like hell — use this little number for a while. WBS.”

Mr. Haugerud said the place has better fishing than Camp David, which Roosevelt established as a presidential retreat called Shangri-La (Eisenhower later renamed it for his father and grandson). The fishing at Trout Run was still good in 1971, when Mr. Haugerud said Edward and Tricia Nixon Cox spent part of their honeymoon there.

“She was not very happy about it. She sat on the bank while he spent his time fly fishing,” Mr. Haugerud said.

Mr. Haugerud used the property as the headquarters for Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for members of the U.S. military, which he owned for nine years until 2000.

He decided to go the auction route after failing to sell Trout Run through conventional real-estate channels, with an asking price of $20 million.

Bone, the auctioneer, said Wednesday that no one had submitted a $100,000 check to ensure participation in the auction, but he was hopeful that bidders would emerge after touring the property, which is scheduled to open Friday for viewing.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on it,” he said. “It’s a real crown jewel here.”

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