ICYMI: Presidential sibling visited Block Island this summer

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 9:30am

With the hustle and bustle of a particularly fraught summer come and gone, there’s now time to reflect back on one of this season’s more interesting visitors.

Freedom, the sister ship of presidential yacht Sequoia, made its way into Great Salt Pond on Sunday, July 12. The 104-foot vessel, which is nearly identical to the yacht that served every president from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford, currently calls Newport home.

Both yachts were designed by John Trumpy (yes, Trumpy), and built at Mathis Yacht Building Co. in Camden, N.J.— Sequoia in 1925 and Freedom a year later.

While Sequoia — known as the “floating White House” — hosted fishing trips for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and served as the site of John F. Kennedy’s final birthday party. Freedom has its own interesting history. It was once owned by Jessie Woolworth Donahue, whose father F.W. Woolworth made a fortune via his chain of retail stores. Donahue was close to former British King Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson. (Donahue’s son was later to reportedly carry on an affair with Simpson.)

Freedom was later sold, renamed Sunset, and spent six decades in Miami, Florida.

Both Freedom and Sequoia fell into disrepair as the years wore on. Freedom was restored by McMillen Yachts of Newport in 2009. Sequoia is now undergoing a multi-million-dollar restoration in Belfast, Maine.

“Earl McMillen and his team at McMillen Yachts did a phenomenal job restoring Sequoia’s sister ship Freedom,” a representative from Equator Capital Group, the Washington DC-based entity that owns Sequoia, told the Block Island Times.

A fitting addition to the restoration project will be the inclusion of wood taken from a 240-year-old white oak tree that George Washington planted on his Mount Vernon property and which fell last November, according to The Washington Post.

After the restoration, which the owners hope to complete before the 100th anniversary of Sequoia’s 1925 launch, the vessel will once again be based in Washington DC and will cruise up and down the East coast to teach presidential history and promote conservation causes. Meanwhile, Freedom will be berthed across the water in Newport.

We are looking forward to the day when Freedom and Sequoia can be seen in the Great Salt Pond together,” the Sequoia representative said.