Correction to This Article
A Sept. 16 Metro article incorrectly said that Richard M. Nixon wrote his 1952 "Checkers" speech at his home in Wesley Heights in Northwest Washington. Nixon was living in another Northwest neighborhood, Spring Valley, when he wrote the speech.
Clarification to This Article
A Sept. 16 Metro article on presidential houses incorrectly said that Harry S. Truman, then vice president, lived in an apartment at Connecticut Avenue and Sedgwick Street in Northwest Washington when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He lived at Connecticut Avenue and Chesapeake Street NW. The article also incorrectly said that a home called the Elms is owned by the Syrian government. It is owned by the Algerian government.

Nixon (Ford, Wilson, Taft, JFK, LBJ . . .) Slept Here

Wesley Heights -- Eight-bedroom, 9,500-square-foot English fieldstone Tudor with library, solarium and butler's pantry in a private cul-de-sac that backs to a park. Once owned by Richard M. Nixon, the nation's 37th president, when he was vice president. He is believed to have written his famous
Wesley Heights -- Eight-bedroom, 9,500-square-foot English fieldstone Tudor with library, solarium and butler's pantry in a private cul-de-sac that backs to a park. Once owned by Richard M. Nixon, the nation's 37th president, when he was vice president. He is believed to have written his famous "Checkers" speech here. (By Matt Allen -- Homevisit Inc.)
By Kirstin Downey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Elegance and sophistication in the heart of Wesley Heights. This magnificent home is located on a quiet, private cul-de-sac in prestigious Wesley Heights and has had an incredible transformation! Once a Vice Presidential residence, this sophisticated English fieldstone Tudor home backs to Glover Archibold Park on over one-half acre. . . . Asking price: $4,495,000.

For some people, sleeping in a presidential bedroom is the thrill of a lifetime. But in the Washington area, the experience can last a lifetime.

Two houses that have been owned by former presidents were offered for sale recently. The sprawling Tudor manor in tony Wesley Heights is where Richard M. Nixon is believed to have written the famous "Checkers" speech that saved his candidacy for vice president. The other residence is the suburban Alexandria split-level where Gerald Ford lived as he prepared to step into the presidency when Nixon resigned in 1974.

They are among at least two dozen area houses that presidents, past presidents and presidents-to-be have called home. Virginia has 10 more, including the well-known ones at Mount Vernon (Washington), Monticello (Jefferson) and Montpelier (Madison).

Most presidential dwellings are owned by museums or embassies, but a handful, such as the two for sale now, remain in private hands. People who own them or reside in the same neighborhoods say living in the aftermath of fame isn't always easy.

Businessman and social worker Cameron Knight owns the 200-year-old house on N Street NW in Georgetown where John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, lived before heading to the White House. Tourists and curiosity-seekers have peered into the windows, stolen items from the yard as souvenirs and climbed over the fence to have a look around. People have shone lights into the bedrooms to take nocturnal pictures.

"People don't understand it's not a public house," Knight said.

His young son said they sometimes feel they are under assault. "We thought about dropping water balloons on them," said Christopher Knight, 8, who said he was frightened when lights flashed in his bedroom window one night.

Some Spring Valley residents rue the day that the Elms, on 52nd Street NW, was purchased by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Tex.) from socialite Perle Mesta. LBJ later became Kennedy's vice president, and the neighborhood's power and telephone lines were scrambled to protect communication links with the White House.

"We wanted to get a telephone for the maid," recalled Betty May, who lives two doors away. The installers "thought they would be out of here in 15 minutes, but they spent three days looking for the line."

Snow removal became a long-standing problem: District officials began delaying the arrival of snowplows to the neighborhood because the Johnson girls, Luci and Lynda, loved to sled in front of their estate.

The Elms is now owned by the Syrian ambassador. Real estate agents said many of these grand old houses have been bought by foreign countries because their maintenance costs are prohibitive for individuals. And, indeed, many are mansions, underscoring the fact that the presidents or presidents-to-be either started out wealthy or got rich after gaining power. When Nixon first came to town, he lived in an $80-a-month apartment at the Park Fairfax in Alexandria and later rented a unit at the Broadmoor, at 3601 Connecticut Ave. NW, while house-hunting with his wife, Pat.


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