Bushes stunned by damage to vacation home

November 03, 1991|By Boston Globe

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- George and Barbara Bush, like thousands of other New Englanders, inspected their storm-ravaged home yesterday with sighs of sadness.

"I could not believe the devastation," said the president, even though he had seen Secret Service videotapes of waves crashing over and through the house at the height of last week's northeaster.

"Unfortunately, the sea won this round. We'll see how we go in the next one," said Mr. Bush, dressed in casual clothes and a fishing cap.

Irreplaceable political and other memorabilia gathered over decades from around the world were washed into a swampy area a hundred yards behind the house, which sits on a rocky outcropping known as Walker's Point.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that Mr. Bush, on his first tour of the damage, "found a picture of his father in a swamp over there. . . ."

The entire first floor of the home, partly built by Mr. Bush's grandfather in 1903 and assessed at $2.2 million, was destroyed. One wall was knocked out. Another, opposite from where the sea crashed in, bulged outward.

The French doors of a sun room were swept away when a giant wave smashed through them and washed through the length of the house.

Sand and rocks covered the ground floor, where rugs had been rolled up by the tidal surge. A stuffed elephant, sitting in a box atop a bureau, its back to the wind and sea, stared into the sitting room with the missing wall. Soaked books, open to pages selected by the sea, lay scattered on the drive. The tennis court is a field of stones.

A Secret Service guard post nearby lay in ruins. Even a massive steel gate at the entrance was knocked out of action.

The docking area in the little cove where Mr. Bush keeps his swift boat, Fidelity, was destroyed.

Mr. Bush said that because of the extent of the damage, he does not know whether he will be able to spend the summer in the 15-room estate next year.

As Barbara Bush looked over the scene, she reflected the philosophical mood that many coastal New Englanders took after the fierce northeaster: "It's really pretty bad, but a lot worse things happen in life."

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