A dilapidated, raccoon-infested wooden yacht that was once the 'floating White House' for 8 US presidents is being restored – here's a look inside the USS Sequoia

Courtesy of French & Webb

Air Force One is occasionally referred to as the “flying Oval Office.” Forty years ago, there was a floating Oval Office, too.

Now, a group of investors and master boatbuilders are working together to restore it.

A 104-foot wooden yacht that was once considered the height of luxury was purchased by the US government in 1931 from an oil tycoon to be the official vessel for the highest office in the country. That “floating White House” then served eight presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter, between the years of 1933 and 1977.

The USS Sequoia could accommodate up to eight people across five staterooms, but could also host more than 20 for dinners and parties. JFK even had his 46th birthday party on board. The vessel has a storied history, with presidents cruising on it for both leisure and business.

Jimmy Carter sold the USS Sequoia at auction in 1977, and since then, it has changed hands many times. Over the last decade, it has fallen into decay and been the focal point of a lengthy legal battle.

The yacht, which has been home to a family of raccoons in Virginia in recent years, was barged to Belfast, Maine, earlier in October to begin the restoration process.

Keep reading for a look at the vessel and its history.


The Sequoia is a 104-foot wooden motor yacht that was built in 1925 and served as an official mode of transportation for eight US presidents between 1933 and 1977.

Courtesy of French & Webb


Source:
The Equator Collection

, Business Insider


The yacht was purchased by the US government in 1931 from a Texas oil tycoon. It was then used by each president from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter to host events related to both work and leisure.

AP PhotoFDR shown on the deck of the USS Sequoia at Annapolis, Maryland on June 1, 1935 as he started on a weekend cruise.

Source: Town & Country


Franklin D. Roosevelt installed an elevator in the 1930s to make the yacht more easily accessible for his wheelchair. Lyndon B. Johnson later replaced the elevator with a bar.

LBJ presidential libraryPresident Johnson has dinner with a guest aboard the USS Sequoia as Secret Service Agent Rufus Youngblood stands in the background, on July 15, 1965.

Source: Town & Country


In 1963, John F. Kennedy celebrated his 46th birthday – his last birthday – aboard the Sequoia with his family, friends, and a bottle of 1955 Dom Perignon.

Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and MuseumJFK opening birthday presents on the Sequoia on May 29, 1963.


Source:
The Washington Post


Richard Nixon was on board when he decided to resign in 1974. The captain said he played “God Bless America” on the presidential piano following the decision.

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty ImagesThe USS Sequoia’s piano was installed by President Truman.


Source:
CBS News


According to CBS News, Nixon spent more time on the yacht than any other president. At one point, he even hosted Leonid Brezhnev, the fifth leader of the Soviet Union, there.

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty ImagesThe main bedroom in U.S.S. Sequoia, Presidential Yacht, in November 2003.


Source:
CBS News


Jimmy Carter sold the vessel at auction in 1977 for $US286,000, looking to maintain a less outwardly luxurious presidency.

Flickr/National Law Enforcement Associates

In a 2011 interview with the JFK Presidential Library, Carter spoke about selling the presidential yacht: “People thought I was not being reverent enough to the office I was holding, that I was too much of a peanut farmer, not enough of an aristocrat, or something like that. So I think that shows that the American people want something of, an element of, image of monarchy in the White House.”

After President Carter sold the boat, it was used for tours of the Potomac River and even $US10,000 four-hour charters. It served that purpose through multiple owners.


It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and switched hands multiple times before becoming embroiled in a legal battle regarding its ownership in 2013.

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty ImagesA view over the deck of the U.S.S. Sequoia.

The legal issues stemmed from two LLC investment groups debating ownership.


During legal proceedings, the yacht was left to decay in Virginia.

Courtesy of French & Webb

A Delaware judge ultimately ruled that one of the investment groups could acquire the Sequoia at “an adjusted price” of $US0 in 2016.

In the ruling, the judge also wrote: “The Sequoia, an elderly and vulnerable wooden yacht, is sitting on an inadequate cradle on an undersized marine railway in a moribund boatyard on the western shore of the Chesapeake, deteriorating and, lately, home to raccoons.”


The Equator Collection, the company that purchased the raccoon-infested yacht for $US0, is a fund that aims to preserve “maritime assets that are significant to the history of the United States.”

Courtesy of French & Webb

Source: The Equator Collection


It just barged the defunct Sequoia from Virginia to Belfast, Maine, where a lengthy restoration process is set to begin.

Courtesy of French & Webb


Source:
French & Webb


After collaborating with Maine-based boatbuilders French & Webb to restore the Sequoia plank by plank, the Equator Collection intends to send the yacht back to the Potomac River as a kind of museum and educational tool.

Courtesy of French & Webb


Source:
French & Webb


On its barge-supported voyage from Virginia to Maine, the Sequoia passed through New York City, under the Brooklyn Bridge …

Courtesy of French & Webb


Source:
French & Webb


… before arriving in Belfast, Maine, on October 21.

Aaron Jackson/AP


Source:
French & Webb


The restoration process is expected to take several years, according to the boatbuilders’ press release.

Jay Fleming/Courtesy of French & Webb


Source:
French & Webb

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