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Secluded retreat for sale

October 12, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

The first thing to strike a visitor arriving at Trout Run is the soothing rush of the waters of Little Hunting Creek as they cascade over the rocks.

It is striking because it's the only audible sound, even though busy U.S. 15 is only a mile away. The almost instant transformation from freeway interchange to primeval forest nearly takes one's breath away.

The seclusion of the retreat has made Trout Run a favorite hideaway for a number of well-heeled visitors, including several U.S. presidents.


Now, with its five cabins, tennis court, party pavilion, game house and Olympic-sized swimming pool, Trout Run's more than 450 acres are for sale to the highest bidder in an auction scheduled for Oct. 23.

It comes with its furnishings - some of which originally belonged to President Herbert Hoover - and the equipment needed to maintain the compound. It also boasts two miles of prime trout stream.

The buyer won't get its colorful owner, former Stars and Stripes publisher Howard E. Haugerud, and his wealth of Trout Run tales.

Trout Run has been in the family of Haugerud's wife, Tomajean, since 1945, he said. Her father, car dealer Floyd Akers, purchased it after leasing it for a few years.

Trout Run's history as a retreat goes back a bit further. Purchased by a staff member as a safe haven for Hoover in pre-Camp David 1929, Trout Run was the beleaguered president's personal fishing hole.

Though a delightfully rustic two-room stone cabin overlooking the stream now bears his name, Hoover's first accommodation on the property was a tent, Haugerud said. A one-room log cabin constructed later was destroyed by a tornado.

Hoover's furniture fills the front room of Hoover House. In the adjoining bedroom, there are a couple of beds, a large stone fireplace and an autographed photograph from actor James Cagney to Tomajean Haugerud. Howard Haugerud said he wasn't sure whether Cagney visited Trout Run, but another screen idol - Bette Davis - did.

Linking the Hoover House to the main compound is the FDR Bridge, which spans a pool on Little Hunting Creek where the fish gather. Haugerud forbids anyone to cast a line there, though other parts of the creek are fair game. He said the fish feel safe there, and he doesn't want their security disturbed.

"The last person to fish that pool was probably (Franklin) Roosevelt," Haugerud said, staring down at the trout playing hide-and-seek among the rocks. Roosevelt fished from the bridge in his wheelchair.

The main lodge

A few feet away, the main lodge boasts two stories, stone walls, a cathedral ceiling and a huge stone fireplace adorned with the head of a moose Haugerud said Hoover shot in Alaska. While the lodge had seen some visitors over the past few decades, Haugerud said it was reserved for use by his family and a few very close friends.

Most visitors are put up next door at the Eisenhower House, another stone cabin decorated with the same cozy rustic flair as the others, or the newer Catoctin Chalet located farther downstream. The chalet, Haugerud said, is "completely different," but like the other structures it's fully equipped, has a large fireplace and large windows affording a view of Little Hunting Creek and the mountain behind it.

By President Dwight Eisenhower's administration, Camp David - located just a few minutes away - was being developed as the official presidential retreat. But "the thing about Camp David is there are no streams there," Haugerud said. "A true trout fisherman wants to be in a stream."

So, Eisenhower came down the mountain to Trout Run to fish.

So did Jimmy Carter.

"Carter learned to fly-fish here," Haugerud said.

Haugerud is no stranger to politics - or presidents - himself, having served appointments to the State and Defense Departments during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. He teased that he might join the 2004 race for the White House.

The property is so expansive that Haugerud whips visitors around on a golf cart. Only a portion of the trail is paved, and the jaunt through the woods on a crisp autumn day is exhilarating.

And it's the fastest way to get to the tennis court, the stream-fed pool and the pavilion.

And the Yugoslav House.

Now used as a recreation building, the structure is a replica of Yugoslavia's first parliament house and was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. Akers purchased the building and brought it to Trout Run; Haugerud isn't sure why.

For the right price, a buyer could get all that and a caretaker's house, too. Haugerud is proud of the property, and is meticulous about its appearance.

"I think my favorite thing about it is the fishing, of course, and the solitude," he said. "You can walk two miles on your own stream."

So why sell it?

"It's largely because of my wife's health," Haugerud said.

She has an illness that, while not life-threatening, affects her mobility. Trout Run "is all wheelchair-accessible," but still difficult for her, he said, and "I can't enjoy it if she's not here.

"It's a great place for a contemplator. But I'm a realist. If my Tomajean can't be here with me, it's nothing," he said.

For sale, or not

Haugerud listed the property last year with the Washington-based William Sawyer realty firm for $20 million. The National Auction Group, of Gadsden, Ala., is handling the auction. Bidders must submit a certified check for $100,000 to qualify for bidding.

Although it is to be an "absolute auction," meaning the property must be sold, Haugerud said he has a minimum amount in mind that must be offered before he lets it go.

He allowed that he could change his mind and pull it off the block.

"If it sells, fine; if it doesn't, fine," he said.

Haugerud said he doesn't know who may have expressed interest in the property so far. But he said someone put a flier in the hands of NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw during his recent visit to the War Correspondents Arch at Gathland State Park.

"He could be interested; he's a fly-fisherman, you know," Haugerud said.

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