Presidential Fishing Part of The Lore & Lure of Trout Run: ‘The Other Camp David’

In 2004, Martin Sheen, right, and the cast of "The West Wing" filmed at Trout Run because it looks like Camp David. SOURCE: Emmitsburg Dispatch

The nearly $9 million listing for Trout Run in Frederick County, MD calls the 453-acre property “a rustic hideaway,” but with its neat cluster of stone buildings set by a perfectly musical stream, the place feels like a museum.

And it looks like a film set.

The compound, located in the Catoctin Mountains, is also enchantingly remote, yet so close to Washington, DC that Trout Run could easily be mistaken for the presidential outpost: Camp David.

But wait!

Trout Run is a museum, of sorts. And it has also been a Hollywood set. Episodes of “The West Wing” were filmed there in 2004 when the popular TV series needed a location to replicate the real Camp David.

The Second Camp David

In some ways, the lines between Trout Run and Camp David have long been blurred. Trout Run is within a stone’s throw from Camp David and at least three U.S. presidents preferred Little Hunting Creek — the fishing stream at Trout Run long considered superior to anything on the grounds of the real Camp David.

Talk about a place that has had a stealthy hold on presidential history.

“It was really almost surreal walking into the buildings and seeing all the furniture exactly as it had been,” said Dave DeSantis, an agent with Sotheby’s who now holds the $8.95 million listing.

A wooden sign is a reminder that FDR fished from this bridge in his wheelchair.

This is not a case of real estate hyperbole. While National Parks and historical societies have preserved homes and properties belonging to U.S. presidents all over the U.S., Trout Run stands out as one of the most unique and unheralded testaments to presidential escapes.

While Trout Run’s handsome buildings, Olympic-size swimming pool, barbecue pavilion, trails, horseback riding and other features make it quite a step up from camping, the rustic property does afford a rare opportunity to get back to nature. The natural centerpiece of the place is a two-mile trout stream that naturalists call one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic region. Throw in some turkey hunting and a tennis court and it’s easy to see how three U.S. presidents found their inner bliss here, as did a slew of other high-ranking friends and celebrities.

Presidential Playground

In 1929, Herbert Hoover cast his line for the first time into trout-rich waters here and now has a cottage named in his honor — and the furniture Hoover sat in still occupies the rooms of that very place.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill took fishing retreats during the anxious days of WWII. SOURCE: FDR Presidential Library & Museum

Hoover House is one of the five furnished residences on the Thurmont, MD property and has one bedroom and an enclosed heated porch with a view of the creek. It was built in the 1930s and was occasionally used by another U.S. president whose polio could not keep him from casting for trout from his wheelchair.

Indeed, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous initials are emblazoned on a sign on a fishing bridge named after him because he, too, fished from its heights in the revered trout run.

According to legend:

Roosevelt reportedly used the retreat to relax during World War II. Radio transmissions from the property were disguised to make it appear he was onboard a ship. The story goes that the ruse worked only until Churchill went to a nightclub in Thurmont one night and got drunk.

Later, the presidential practice of fishing and decompressing at Trout Run was picked up by Dwight Eisenhower, who stole away to the compound that’s about an hour northwest of Washington, DC. Like Hoover and FDR, Eisenhower was also an angler, but he also used the bucolic setting to indulge in his watercolor painting.

In between those presidential visits to this well-kept-secret place, Hollywood stars and other luminaries weren’t far behind. Clark Gable. Claudette Colbert. Betty Davis. Amos ‘n’ Andy. James Cagney. When people traveled so far to get away from the hustle and bustle of politics and show biz, the whole point was to stay awhile.

Herbert Hoover is considered the greatest presidential fisherman. SOURCE: History.com

“During my father-in-law’s time, he had every celebrity since World War II up here,” said the property’s owner, Howard Haugerud.

A former high-ranking State Department official who served under three presidents, including Eisenhower, Haugerud and his wife, Tomajean, have owned the property for 60 years. It was originally the property of Tomajean’s father, Floyd Akers, a gregarious Cadillac dealer in DC who bought the property in 1945 after leasing it previously.

Trout Run’s history as a retreat goes back a bit further, when the land was purchased in 1929 by a staff member for Hoover in the days before Camp David. The cabin that bears Hoover’s name was built later, but during Hoover’s time at Trout Run, he stayed in a tent and, later, a one-room cabin that was destroyed in a tornado. But Hoover’s legacy lives on there. Hoover’s furniture fills the front room of Hoover House.

Tomajean Haugerud, reunited with her LeMans #3 in 2008, took over Trout Run from her father, Floyd Akers, a prominent DC-area Cadillac dealer who purchased Trout Run in 1945. SOURCE: Capitol Cadillac

The sweet spot in Little Hunting Creek sits underneath FDR Bridge, where U.S. presidents believed they had found fishing nirvana.

Started at $20M

Trout Run has been for sale on and off for the past eight years. The Haugeruds first attempted to sell the property in 2003 via auction, but Haugerud, a former publisher of the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper, canceled the auction just hours before it was set to start.

The original $20 million asking price proved too rich for the market. The $20 million price might have also reflected the kind of near pricelessness such a place connotes for the family that spent many memorable summers there.

Recently, the octogenarian couple placed Trout Run into a trust that will allow several institutions to also benefit from its sale, although the couple has final say on any potential offer.

Likewise, the listing has shifted from William Sawyer & Co. to Sotheby’s, which boasts an international reach for potential buyers of this unique property.

Sawyer said that in previous years, a religious group did retain Trout Run for $250K. However, plans for development fell through because the rocky terrain makes most of the land unable to be percolated for additional septic systems.

But whether a religious or corporate organization will look at Trout Run as a suitable retreat, or whether another individual decides to make Trout Run his personal paradise, the property boasts so many unique features — and so much history — it truly makes it hard to compare Trout Run to any other sportsman’s retreat.

(Photography of Trout Run listing by HomeVisit)