President Barack Obama and the First Family will rent the bucolic Blue Heron Farm off South Road in Chilmark for their vacation during the last week of August.
The 28.5-acre property some five hundred yards down Cobb’s Hill Road, spans the Chilmark and West Tisbury town line and overlooks Town Cove, the westernmost finger of the Tisbury Great Pond.
While the mechanics of renting the property were still ongoing at press time, the Gazette has learned that a rental agreement for the farm will comprise three leases, one to be held by the Obamas, another by the Secret Service and a third by a White House entourage.
The amount of the rental has not been disclosed, but up-Island properties similar to Blue Heron Farm rent for between $35,000 to $50,000 per week.
It is understood that the Obamas have treated the transaction as a standard Vineyard summer rental, from payment terms right down to questions about bringing the family dog.
A partner in Wallace and Company Sotheby’s International Realty confirmed yesterday that the Edgartown real estate company has leased Blue Heron Farm for a block of 60 days in August and September from owners William and Mollie Van Devender, and that the company will sublease the property.
But Tom Wallace said he could not comment further.
“Wallace and Company holds a lease on Blue Heron and is in the process of subleasing it. That I can confirm. But I cannot comment on who the tenants are,” Mr. Wallace said.
But sources have confirmed that it is in fact President Obama and his family who plan to take Blue Heron Farm for the last week of August.
Unconfirmed reports have it that First Lady Michelle Obama and children Sasha and Malia may decide to come to the Vineyard a bit earlier, possibly as houseguests of Vineyard friends, before the president joins them for a quiet family vacation and rest. There are four dwellings on Blue Heron Farm property, including a white Victorian farm house, a reconstructed Pennsylvania hay barn and a Vermont shed, the latter two of which date back to the 1800s and were transported and reconstructed by West Tisbury builder Rick Anderson in the early 1990s.
Named by its previous owners, the late New York real estate developer M. Anthony Fisher and his wife Anne, the farm has undergone several renovations in the last decade. Situated overlooking a remote finger of the Great Pond, it is quiet and private, with an apple orchard, flower and vegetable gardens, stone walls, a swimming pool, golf practice tee and small basketball court for the basketball-loving president.
It is understood that Mr. Obama and his family will also be offered access to the private portion of Squibnocket Beach if they so choose.
Mr. Obama will not be the first president to set foot on the property. The Fishers played host to President Clinton and his wife Hillary in the summer of 1998. The couple held a dinner party for the Clintons and more than a dozen other guests in the barn, which measures 76 by 42 feet, with a 26-by-26-foot ell.
The Fishers were both killed in a plane crash in April of 2003.
In 2005 the property was bought by William and Mollie Van Devender for $20.35 million in what was, at the time, the second highest price paid for a single residential property in Vineyard history.
Mr. Van Devender is a timber businessman and was one of three original investors in the Vineyard Golf Club, a private course built in 2000 off the West Tisbury Road in Edgartown.
The choice of Blue Heron Farm concludes a thorough investigation of Island rental properties which began in the spring. Senior White House aides and members of the Secret Service have examined and rejected more than 20 properties.
There was an early concentration of research in Oak Bluffs where the Obamas have stayed on several occasions and have longtime friends with Island connections. But security concerns, including the potential for traffic bottlenecks that would be created by presidential travel in the bustling town, put the properties out of contention.
Blue Heron Farm is a private residential compound with easy access to the airport and to Oak Bluffs via Barnes Road.
Situated as it is off South Road, the Summer White House will be close to the West Tisbury town center, including Alley’s General Store, the town library and the farmers’ market at the Grange Hall.
In a sign of the rapid evolution of technology there has been no request for advance communications party access on the property.
During the first presidential visit of Mr. Clinton in 1993, to an Oyster Watcha Midlands home owned by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, members of the military communications division Signal Corps descended on the property for several days to wire the location for communication prior to the president’s arrival.