Restoration of Floating White House USS Sequoia Soon to Begin in Belfast, Maine

USS Sequoia, the famous Floating White House for eight U.S. presidents, is being restored in Belfast, Maine, after spending several years in a state of disrepair.
USS Sequoia in its heyday 13 photos
Photo: Flickr/National Law Enforcement Associates
USS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineUSS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineUSS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineUSS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineUSS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineUSS Sequoia yacht is being restored in MaineThis is how Sequoia looked back in its glory daysThis is how Sequoia looked back in its glory daysThis is how Sequoia looked back in its glory daysU.S. presidents aboard SequoiaU.S. presidents aboard SequoiaU.S. presidents aboard Sequoia
The 32-meter (104-foot) motor yacht, which is registered as a National Historic Landmark, is currently stationed in a city-owned parking lot near Belfast Harbor Walk in Maine, where it is reportedly undergoing a meticulous stem-to-stern restoration, meant to return it to its former glory.

According to Bangor Daily News, the motor yacht is being restored by French & Webb, a local custom boat building company. Todd French, the owner of the shipyard, has told the publication that, even though it seems not much has been done to Sequoia if you look from the outside, a lot has happened behind the scenes.

Some of the prep work done so far involved using modern laser technology to create a full, three-dimensional model of the boat because the original plans couldn’t be found. The boat builder also had to source rare wood in environmentally-friendly ways, as the current owner wants the restoration done with sustainability in mind.

USS Sequoia yacht is being restored in Maine
Photo: French&Webb
“It’s slowly happening, but the needle is moving. As much as it’s a bit of an eyesore on the waterfront right now, it’s here, it’s protected — and it’s going to happen,” French said.

Built in 1925 by John Mathis & Company, the presidential yacht was owned by a banker and a businessman before being sold to the United States government in 1931. President Hoover justified the expense back then by using it as a decoy for rum runners during Prohibition.

Since then, Sequoia has been used by some of the most prominent U.S. presidents of the 20th century, like John F Kennedy, who spent his last birthday on board the vessel, Herbert Hoover, who used Sequoia to travel to Florida to see his mother, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who turned it into an operational base during World War II,
Lyndon Johnson, who pressured the Congress to pass his Great Society civil rights legislation on the ship, and Richard Nixon, who was the most enthusiastic user of Sequoia and took the yacht on around 100 trips during his term, including the night before his resignation in 1974.

The intimacy of its elegant, mahogany saloon made Sequoia an ideal space for confidential political discussions.

After completing its presidential duties, Sequoia served as a floating museum and private charter boat in Washington, D.C. On the inside, the yacht still retains tokens of its history, presidential memorabilia such as the piano on which Richard Nixon played “God Bless America” after he decided to resign or a pinhole in a wooden closet where a hidden camera had been installed by the CIA to record Nixon and his conversations with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.

This is how Sequoia looked back in its glory days
Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images
Made of long-leaf yellow pine, the presidential yacht was one of the world’s largest yachts built for personal use in its heydays. It was a perfect fit for U.S. presidents, as its shallow draft allowed the vessel to float all the way up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. President Hoover was the one who began taking foreign officials on boat trips aboard Sequoia to entertain them on a more relaxed environment than the White House.

“There were a lot of these house-style boats that were used on the Eastern seaboard in protected waters by wealthy people at the time. They were like a glorified R.V. of the day,” Todd French also said.

At the moment, the yacht is owned by private equity investment firm Equator Capital Group based in Washington, D.C. Michael Cantor, the firm’s managing partner, said in 2019 when the ship arrived in Belfast, that he intended to have it restored plank by plank to give it a new lease on life.

U\.S\. presidents aboard Sequoia
Photo: Business Insider
The restoration work was paused during the pandemic, but it has now been resumed. Given that the USS Sequoia is on the National Register, French says the reconstruction must be of museum-level quality.

“This is a national treasure. It’s part of our shared Americana,” he said. “I think we can educate the general population about American history a little bit in a way that isn’t partisan. This project, I hope, can put some salve on our collective consciousness and approach to politics.”

As it turns out, there are also plans to erect a building with a walkway around the historic vessel to allow the public to see the restoration work as it happens. This is set to be built as soon as next spring. As for the restoration itself, once the physical work begins and everything is put into motion, the project is estimated to take about three years to complete.
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About the author: Ancuta Iosub
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After spending a few years as a copy editor, Ancuta decided to put down the eraser and pick up the writer's pencil. Her favorites subjects are unusual car designs, travel trailers and everything related to the great outdoors.
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