Since 1800, presidents have made the White House their home base. But there have been a few times when new presidents took office unexpectedly and the world’s most powerful address wasn’t yet available to them. For Gerald Ford in 1974, that meant he spent the first 10 days of his presidency living at his family home in Alexandria, Virginia.
Gerald R. Ford House (BradyCarlson.com)
For about a week, the world’s most powerful address wasn’t 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it was 514 Crown View Drive.
It’s Presidents Day, and since 1800, presidents have made the White House their home base.
But there have been a few times when a new president took office unexpectedly and the White House wasn’t yet available to him, at least not as a residence.
One of these cases came in 1974, when President Richard Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal and turned the job over to his Vice President, Gerald R. Ford.
Today the vice president lives on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory, but when Ford was in the job, the residence at the Observatory was still being prepared for him.
So he and his family lived in the house they’d bought in Alexandria, Virginia.
It had four bedrooms, a backyard with a swingset and a pool. All in all, a pretty standard suburban house – other than the bulletproof glass in the windows, the security equipment in the basement and the reinforced steel in the driveway, to support his armored limousine.
When President Nixon resigned, the White House staff needed time to move his things out of the residence and prepare for the Fords.
So the new president and his family stayed in their house on Crown View Drive, at least for his first 10 days in office.
In the morning, President Ford went out to the front door, in his blue pajamas, and grabbed the newspaper before breakfast.
Then he’d catch a ride to work in his motorcade.
In a way, this was a way the Fords could project some down-to-earth calm to the nation after such a volatile period in US history.
But for the Fords, the experience was kind of weird.
According to the family, First Lady Betty Ford pulled her husband aside one day and said: “Jerry, something’s wrong here. You just became president of the United States and I’m still cooking.”
Not too long after they moved on to the White House, where someone else did the cooking and someone else grabbed the morning paper.
And yes, the house is still there. It’s even a National Historic Landmark!