Books

Secrets of the vice president's residence revealed in new book

Each vice president since Walter Mondale has lived with his family on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington. CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Katherine Frey.
Each vice president since Walter Mondale has lived with his family on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington. CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Katherine Frey.

WASHINGTON — Despite its second-banana status, the residence of the vice president, a Queen Anne-style home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington, has seen its share of drama and good times. It’s not as old as the White House, of course — the vice president didn’t have an official home until 1975 — but there’s still plenty of history there, as chronicled in the new book “Number One Observatory Circle,” by Charles Denyer.

A few tidbits from the photo-heavy coffee-table tome:

— There are bodies buried there ... of pets, anyway. The Mondales’ blind collie, Bonnie, and Dave, the Cheneys’ Labrador, died during their respective family’s tenures, and the deceased pups were buried on the grounds.

— And a conspiracy theory surrounds it. So here’s a weird “coincidence”: Satellite images of the residence taken while Richard B. Cheney was in office looked “scrambled and quite blurry.” But when he left and Joe Biden began his tenure, the images “strangely became much clearer,” the book notes, leading some to conclude that Cheney had somehow exercised control over them. “Mere coincidence, surely, but it only added to the drama and mystique of the Cheney vice presidency,” Denyer writes. Surely.

— Some guy named “Petro” lives there. Even though Navy stewards cook for the residents, the Quarles and their three children would occasionally order delivery pizza. But the veep couldn’t just use his own name and have the pizza dropped off on his doorstep, so the family used the last name of Secret Service agent Joe Petro and would have the pie delivered to the guard shack. Years later, Petro tells Denyer, he ran into former Vice President Dan Quayle, who told him that the family still uses his name as an alias when ordering pizza.

— The Bushes served cheap booze. The Bushes (H.W. and family) entertained a ton (900 parties in their first five years alone!), and while they always put on a good spread, they didn’t go top-shelf when it came to the hooch. They ordered from Ace Beverage, “preferring medium-priced alcohol, never the expensive range — but always a request for Stolichnaya ‘Stoli’ vodka.”

— People prefer it to the White House. Of course, nearly every VP longs for that top job — but not because of the home that comes with it. Several of its residents have said that they far prefer the home at the Naval Observatory, which is relatively secluded and surrounded by private grounds, to the more public White House, which is constantly surrounded by tourists. “It’s been said that both Biden and [Obama] wholeheartedly agree that as far as living arrangements go, the vice president’s residence is ‘way better than the White House,’ “ Denyer writes.

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