"Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion"" Top 5 Page for this destination Alexandria Off The Beaten Path Tip by Ewingjr98

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  • Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion" - Alexandria
  • Cherry blossoms line the driveway - Alexandria
      Cherry blossoms line the driveway
    by Ewingjr98
  • Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion" - Alexandria
  • Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion" - Alexandria
  • Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion" - Alexandria
 

When Gerald Ford became president in 1974, he actually ran the country from a relatively small house in Alexandria for a short time. How did our 38th President end up ruling from this historic suburb several miles south of the capital city?

Ford was first elected into the House of Representatives in 1949. After arriving in DC, Congressman Gerald and his young wife Betty lived at 2500 Q Street in Georgetown, then they moved to the Parkfairfax apartment complex in Alexandria, Virginia after the birth of their first child. Before long the Fords had a few more children and an idea they might stay awhile, so they had a house built in Alexandria's new Clover neighborhood which they moved into in 1955. This modest two-story house had seven rooms and two and a half baths. Mrs Ford is known to have done much of the landscaping and gardening, while the future President is said to have enjoyed the pool they had constructed in 1961. Just two years later, Ford served on the Warren Commission's controversial investigation of the assassination of JFK.

In 1965, probably after a quick dip in the pool, Representative Ford was named House Minority Leader. In 1973 Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign under investigation of numerous charges of accepting bribes, extortion, tax fraud, and conspiracy, and Ford was nominated to take over as Vice President. In those days, the Vice Presidential Mansion at the US Naval Observatory had just been established and was not yet ready for prime time, so the Vice President was permitted to live at a residence of his choosing. Of course he chose to live in the house his family called home, but that meant major modifications. Secret Service were now assigned to this upper middle class dwelling, and the media soon had a permanent presence on the neighborhood lawns as Nixon's problems mounted. In the meantime, the Secret Service established a command post in the garage, built observation posts in the back yard, created a communications hub in the attic, and reinforced the driveway to support the armored VP limo.

Not even a year later, Nixon resigned due to the Watergate Scandal, and Ford became President of the United States, the only man ever to hold the offices of Vice President and President despite being elected to neither. Ford, a man of humbleness, generously gave Nixon 10 days to move out of the White House while he ran the greatest nation in the world, and his family tried disparately to enjoy their last days in their suburban home.

Ford was president from 1974 to 1977 before defeating Reagan in the primary then losing to Jimmy Carter, and he not only oversaw the evacuation of Saigon, survived two assassination attempts, and pardoned Nixon, he also rented out his former home in the now quiet neighborhood. When Ford left office after just 29 months, he and his family decided California was the place for them, so they sold their home of 19 years. Mrs Ford later wrote, "For me, leaving the White House wasn't nearly so much of a wrench as leaving our house in Alexandria. After we decided we weren't going to move back and put the house up for sale, I never went over there again. I didn't want to. We had built the place, the children had grown up there, all of our neighbors were friends. We'd been to so many block parties and Fourth of July celebrations, we'd planted gardens and put in trees, and I knew if I saw it again it would upset me."

In later years the house was often rented for short periods of time, but never had a long-term occupant. In 2006 the house went up for sale for just over a million dollars, but the housing bubble burst and it sat on the market. As of the writing of this tip (April 2009), the house is still listed for sale, but the price has dropped to a bargain price of just $750,000 for this piece of history. If you drive through the neighborhood you will notice the "for sale" sign in the front yard and, just maybe, on one of the neighbor houses, a plaque from the media offering thanks for the use of their yard.

In 2008, shortly after President Ford's death, the city of Alexandria named a nearby residential street and a small one-acre park after the former resident and president.

othercontact: 514 Crown View Drive, Alexandria
Website: http://oha.alexandriava.gov/oha-main/congressman_ford.html

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 13, 2009
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Ewingjr98

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