9-foot model of presidential yacht to be unveiled in Pentwater

March 12, 2024

The actual USS Sequoia visited Pentwater in 1984. – Pentwater Historical Society photo

PENTWATER — The Pentwater Historical Society will unveil a 9-foot model of the USS Sequoia this summer.

A grant from Michigan Humanities will help fund the completion of a scale model of the presidential yacht, which was in service to the nation from 1935 until 1977.

The yacht, nicknamed the “Floating Oval Office,” was sold by the U.S. government as a cost-saving measure. It was used during the administrations of Herbert Hoover through Jimmy Carter.

“Some in Pentwater and the surrounding area may recall when the retired ‘Floating Oval Office’ visited Pentwater in 1984 and was met with much fanfare,” states a press release from the historical society. “Numerous private boats escorted the arriving vessel down the channel, to dock at the Pentwater Yacht Club where more than 1,000 people toured it.

“The late Fred Wolff of Milford, Michigan worked for 12 years building the 9-foot scale model of the USS Sequoia but passed away before completing it. It was stored for years, awaiting completion. The Michigan Humanities grant enabled the PHS to retain a skilled model builder in Coopersville to complete the task. This extraordinary model will be unveiled, June 23, at a PHS event to be held on Pentwater’s Channel Lane, after which it will be displayed in the museum as part of a new exhibit.”

“It even includes a miniature duplicate of the piano with the exact fabric pattern on the piano bench that President Richard Nixon sat on to announce his resignation of the presidency to his family while on board the actual USS Sequoia,” states an article in the PHS fall 2020 newsletter.

– Pentwater Historical Society

“In 1984, the USS Sequoia made a stop in Pentwater, Michigan while on a goodwill tour,” the newsletter states. “People gathered along the channel to gape at her amplitude and wooden splendor as she made her way through the channel into Pentwater Lake. Coast Guard vessels sprayed plumes of water on either side of her girth. She was a sight not forgotten by either residents or visitors.

“The yacht spent time docked to allow spectators the chance to soak up her history and secrets. It was a feeling of great magnitude to stand where the world’s most important leaders once stood. Yes, in Pentwater. In the evening, passengers were invited by the captain to experience the Sequoia’s navigational abilities. She gracefully parted the waters as her occupants soaked in the feeling of prestige for being able to make such a voyage on the ‘Floating Oval Office.’ After changing hands a few times, the USS Sequoia sat abandoned in Virginia for many years providing a home to racoons. Currently, it is in Belfast, Maine where it has begun the process of restoration. Contributors are hoping to return her to her Presidential glory. The USS Sequoia may never function as the ‘Floating Oval Office’ again, but she may become a museum and educational tool for future generations.”

“It’s said that a community that doesn’t know about its history is like a tree trying to survive with too few roots,” states the press release. “This is what drives the nonprofit Pentwater Historical Society to continue learning about the community’s past and fulfilling its education purpose by making this rich information easily available at no cost to everyone.

“There are exciting things on the PHS’s horizon because of recently received financial support from three sources that also recognize the importance of a community’s history. The three grants will help the PHS maintain and improve its admission-free museum and services.” 

An operations support grant was awarded by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, which works to increase and broaden the influence of arts and culture within Michigan communities. “This grant helps pay for keeping the lights and heat on; purchasing software subscriptions; and being able to handle the day-to-day maintenance around the museum. The grant enables the PHS to use more of member dues and private donations for improving exhibits and maintaining artifacts.”

PHS also received a grant from the Historical Society of Michigan, the state’s oldest cultural organization. “It helps connect Michigan’s past to its residents and organizations by its support of local history organizations. The HSM grant will help fund the archiving and storage of paper artifacts, which deteriorate with exposure to light and humidity. The funds will be used to purchase a new laptop, software to scan and digitize text, and archival equipment and materials that will make the scanned artifacts easily retrievable. Four volunteers to help with this scanning task have already come forward, and several more are needed,” states the press release.

“In several years, we hope to realize our goal of everyone being able to search and retrieve our documents on the web,” said PHS Trustee Elizabeth Russell. “This scanning task is a really big job, but it will help to make Pentwater’s history more accessible to researchers and casual historians.”

“We are extremely grateful for this financial help, which enables us to make such progress,” said Russell. “Our nonprofit is solely funded by members, private donors, foundations, and cultural organizations that want to preserve Pentwater’s history and make it accessible. Together, we bring an appreciation for our past into the present.”

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