’HEADERS HISTORY: Taft and his ‘Summer White House’

Every summer from 1909 to 1912, President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft escaped the oppressive heat and humidity of Washington D.C. for the cool, ocean breezes of Beverly. 

In 1910, Marie Evans tired of people trampling across her estate to see where President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft was summering. After he left, she had the Stetson Cottage, which the president rented, cut in half and sent by barge across the harbor to Marblehead. COURTESY PHOTO / DIGITIAL COMMONWEALTH

The fact that he picked Beverly as his summer destination was not as unusual as it might seem. Beverly was part of what was then known as the “Gold Coast,” a string of waterfront mansions that attracted the country’s rich and famous from around the nation, including a number of Republicans and Republican allies.

Beverly Hills/Beverly

In the year 1900, Burt Green purchased land in California to drill for oil. After he didn’t find enough oil to make a profit, he renamed the property “Beverly Hills” and subdivided it and began selling lots.

The development was named after Beverly Farms in Beverly, where he summered, and the hills around the Los Angeles area.

Once word spread that Taft was staying in Beverly, both the press and the general public camped outside the front gates of the “Summer White House,” hoping to catch a glimpse of him and his family.

Marie Antoinette Evans

For the first two years, Taft rented a guest house (Stetson Hall) located on the property of Marie Antoinette Evans located on Ober Street. Stetson Hall was a 14-room “cottage” used by Evans as a guest house.

Along with his wife and children, Taft also brought along his Secret Service detail. The Secret Service was kept very busy keeping the large crowds forming outside the gates from entering the property and disturbing the president. They would also handle the many visitors who came to see the president, including members of the third estate and foreign dignitaries. 

Located just a few yards away stood the main house where Evans lived with her family.

When word spread about the president staying on the Evans estate, people would jump the fence and literally rip the clapboards off the guest house as souvenirs to keep and sell.

After two years of hosting the president at her estate, Evans contacted the White House and told the administration that her guest house would no longer be available to the president.

Even with the president no longer staying at her guest house, strangers would continue to trespass on her property and steal things.

Evans had the guest house cut in half and floated by barge across the bay to Peach’s Point in Marblehead, where it was reassembled. In its place, she installed an Italian rose garden, today the site of Lynch Park, off Ober Street in Beverly Cove.

During the final two years of his presidency, Taft continued to summer in Beverly. He rented a property called ”Parramatta,” the 18-room former estate of late merchant and shipowner Henry W. Peabody in the Montserrat section of Beverly.

Archibald Butt (1865-1912)

Archibald Butt was an Army officer and served as military aide to both President Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. 

After spending six weeks on vacation in Europe, Archibald Butt booked passage on the RMS Titanic for New York. He later died aboard the vessel shortly after it struck an iceberg in April of 1912.

Mark Hurwitz
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