President Nixon's Florida White House in Key Biscayne (1972-1974)

Flordia White House in Key Biscayne
The Florida White House on Key Biscayne Island  
Coordinates:                           25.69028°N 80.165°W25.69028; -80.165  
 United States
 3 ft. (1 m)

Jun 1972 to Dec 1973 to work at the Florida White House in Key Biscayne FL

Key Biscayne is a village in Miami-Dade CountyFlorida, United States on the island of Key Biscayne. The population was 10,507 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 10,324. Key Biscayne is located on the island of Key Biscayne and lies south of Miami Beach and east of Miami. The Village is connected to Miami via the Rickenbacker Causeway, originally built in 1947. Because of its low elevation and direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually among the first Miami areas to be evacuated before an oncoming hurricane.
My families’ final move while I was assigned to WHCA came in 1972 when I was transferred once again this time to the Florida White House in Key Biscayne Fl.  We were assigned Quarters and lived on Homestead AFB.

President Richard Nixon purchased the first of his two waterfront homes, forming a compound known as The Florida White House, in 1969 to be close to his friend and confidant, C.G. (Bebe) Rebozo and industrialist Robert Abplanalp. There was a total of five houses plus the SSCP and helipad that made up the compound at Key Biscayne. President Nixon had two houses, then Bebe Robozo's home the SS/GSA house and finally WHCA/WHMO.

The Presidential compound at Key Biscayne was bounded by Biscayne Bay on the west, West Matheson Drive on the south, Bay Lane on the east, and a fence on the north.

The Key Biscayne Compound (Helipad, USSS CU, 516 House, 500 House, Rebozo House)
The President's homes at 516 and 500 Bay Lane are the southernmost houses in the compound Bebe Rebozo owns and uses the house next door at 490 Bay Lane. The Federal Government leases the next two houses at 478 and 468 Bay Lane. The house at 478 Bay Lane, which is owned by Robert Abplanalp, was leased by the Government in February 1969 for use as an office for Secret Service and GSA personnel. Abplanalp purchased this residence after the owners expressed a desire to sell because of the heavy traffic of Government personnel. The house at 468 Bay Lane was leased in December 1968 and served as the telecommunications facility for the WHCA and an office for military aides to the President.

500 Bay Lane (1972)
The principal construction work by the Government began about December 15, 1968 and was largely completed by September 1, 1969. Nixon visited Key Biscayne more than 50 times between 1969 and 1973. During the summer of 1973 there was a new pool and Florida room constructed in the rear of the 500 house which was also added to the Federal Government’s expenditures in connection with the Key Biscayne compound. These expenditures totaled approximately $7.9 million. Of this, approximately $4.56 million was expended for Secret Service, GSA, Coast Guard, and WHCA personnel permanently assigned to that location. The DOD and WHCA spent $2. 1 million for communications, helipad and boat dock, shark net, and electric power generator; the Secret Service spent $67, 000 for security equipment and devices; and the Coast Guard spent $192,000 for boats, buoys, electronic equipment and boat house. 

516 Bay Lane prior to demolition (2004)
In the 468 Bay Lane house WHCA installed a three position switchboard with FM radio paging, a Comm. Center with secure voice and secure TTY, and a Radio Console that had phone patch capabilities on Baker, Charlie, and Sierra FM frequencies. This console also had a KWM-2 HF transmitter installed.

Marine One awaits the Presidents arrival
There was always a great deal of activity at Homestead AFB. Most of the detachment lived on base and all of the arrivals/departures took place at the base. Air Force One and Marine One were secured on the base while the President was at Key Biscayne. The crews and all of the support staff also stayed at Homestead. After the President arrived he would climb aboard Marine One and head for the Key Biscayne compounds Helipad.

Patty as Air Force One taxi's up to the ramp
Air Force One arrives at Homestead AFB
President Nixon’s arrival at Homestead AFB
Then came the Watergate break-in, the 1972 Campaign and election and of course Richard Nixon’s eventual resignation as President!

I was in the process of moving my family to Key Biscayne when the break in occurred, little did anybody realize the impact that this incident would have on the Nixon White House and the personnel at Key Biscayne Compound.

During the 1972 re-election campaign and despite his overwhelmingly strong position, Richard Nixon had engaged in a variety of dirty tricks, culminating in the botched burglary in the Watergate Complex on June 17, 1972. The Watergate scandal would ultimately be his undoing, leading to his resignation in 1974, but it had no impact on the 1972 campaign.

The Watergate complex located in Washington D.C.
My Family barely got moved into our quarters on Homestead AFB., when I had to get ready for the Republican Convention.

The convention was not originally supposed to be held in Miami, but rather in more summer-friendly San Diego. When the Republican National Committee had problems with the City of San Diego they started looking elsewhere. And what better place than Miami Beach, who had already set themselves up for two conventions in the previous four years and had the hotel space and phone, lines to accommodate them. Not to mention a drivable distance to Nixon’s summer home on Key Biscayne where there was all the communications that the USSS needed for security during the time of the convention. The convention was carefully organized to take advantage of television coverage. Because the war in Vietnam was still going on, the White House was expecting large demonstrations at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Some antiwar demonstrations did take place but without the violence that had erupted in Chicago four years earlier!

The Miami Convention Center
The 1972 Republican National Convention was held in Miami Beach, Florida from August 21-23. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were re-nominated on their first ballots.

When I arrived in 1972, the swimming pool, at the 468 house, was fully operational and available to our families on weekends if there were no visits. There was also a beachfront where the family could swim in Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately for us after Watergate it seems like the President was there every weekend to get away from the constant barrage of questions from the Press.

Enjoying the beach at the Key Biscayne Compound 
Whenever the President came to Key Biscayne for a visit we had to set up and check all of the communications in the Compound, but we also had to place equipment in the Villas at the Key Biscayne Hotel for the Sr. Staff. H.R. Halderman and Henry Kissinger would have an IBM Dictaphone with a recorder coupler installed on their WH extension, so when they picked up the phone their conversation would be recorded. When the trip ended the villas were swept by Comm. Center operators to insure that no sensitive information was left behind.

09 Feb 73 to Jacksonville FL to support Julie Nixon

In Feb.1973 I was sent to Jacksonville FL. for a couple of days to install a radio base station for the Secret Service who was supporting Julie Nixon Eisenhower while she visited the city on official business. This visit was very low key, no staff, no press, just Secret Service support. All I had to do was to install a “Charlie” FM Base station and a remote console in the residence where she was staying. She stayed for two days and then returned to Washington DC.

Things really started to change in 1973 the War in Vietnam was finally over and the POW,s came home, the armed forces moved toward the all voluntary Army and WHCA was lowering its standards as candidates dwindled. WHCA, s mission was changing and they were also going through major technology changes. 

The Watergate scandal was front page news after it was disclosed by Alexander Butterfield that WHCA had installed tape recorders so there was a record of the private Presidential conversations and President Nixon refused to release them to Congress. The Bugging of the White House was disclosed during the Watergate Hearings and only then did the country realize that this was a long standing practice within the White House dating back to Franklin Roosevelt.   

Vice President Agnew resigned from office and Gerald Ford was appointed the new Vice President. 

The main reason that I left WHCA after nine years was that I grew tired of traveling and wanted to spend more time at home with my Family, and the office of the President had been surrounded with corruption and was disgraced. I was discharged on December 20 1973 to begin life as a civilian.  It would be only eight months later when President Richard Nixon would resign to end the Watergate scandal.

Southern Florida suffered the worst hurricane in their history when Andrew ripped through in 2004.  Homestead AFB was reduced to rubble and all of the military quarters were demolished, Homestead was never rebuild and was closed and never re-opened.

Key Biscayne also received severe damage many of the hotels that were used during visits were demolished and rebuilt including the Sonesta Beach and Key Biscayne Hotels.  The same was true for the Key Biscayne’s Florida White House the 500 and 516 houses were torn down in 2004.

FM Radio Network Key Biscayne (Key Biscayne)

Base Station Site locations of the Key Biscayne FM Radio Network             
The FM radio Network covered all activity from Key Largo in the south, Homestead AFB, Miami, Key Biscayne, and the Coast Guard station in Opa-Locka to the north.  Baker, Charlie and Sierra base stations were installed in the following locations:
1.      Homestead AFB, this site insured coverage of all arrivals and departures, as well as any trips to The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo where Bebe Rebozo had a vacation house that the President would visit.

FM Radio Site at Homestead AFB
2.      The Miami site was on top of One Biscayne Tower; this was the tallest building in south Miami  1n 1972 and had line of site to most locations including the Convention Center which was the site of the 1972 Republican Convention.  This site also covered all of Key Biscayne and the Rickenbacker Causeway as well as south Dade County.

One Biscayne Tower overlooking the Rickenbacker Causeway
3.   The Key Biscayne site was on top of the Sonesta Beach Hotel, this site provided coverage of the beach and hotels where the senior staff stayed.

The Sonesta Beach Hotel on Key Biscayne
4.     Opa-Locka FL, the Coast Guard based at Opa-Locka provided all of the coastal security for the Key Biscayne Compound, the Coast Guard had two chase boats equipped with B/C FM radio's would patrol the restricted area off of the compound and would challenge and watercraft that might stray to close. The Coast Guard was also available for any trips to the Bahamas.

The Coast Guard Base at Opa- Locka FL
Coast Guard Patrol Boats
All radio circuits terminated at the Key Biscayne Compound either at the Secret Service Command Post (CP), or the WHCA radio console, switchboard and Comm. Center.


  1. I was with WHCA from 1967 to 1974, was at Key Biscayne when we opened it and left in 1974 to attend "flight school" at Fort rucker , Alabama to learn to fly helicopters. Spent many great hours at KB and worked with some AWESOME individuals. Made many trips to Wlakers Cay and our trip to China in '72 was SUPER! thanks John for the blog. Scotty Johnson

  2. I don't know if you have kept in touch with anyone but I have heard from a number of people that we worked with back then. Mike Fincher, Ed Williams and Don Cammel are all living in Florida. Ronnie Belcher and Tramp Crowder both live in the south, Chuck Rasmussin is still around although I don't know where and Hazen Stevens is in Va.
    Thanks for the Comment to let all of know what you are up to!

  3. John...thank you! Haven't heard many of those names in years. Glad to hear they are still around. Those were GREAT times!


  4. These articles bring back memories of days long ago. I enjoy making the annual WHCA/Camp David Detachment Picnic and talking with old friends. I was in WHCA from 1968 until 1975 -- most interesting period in Presidential duty.

    1. Sgt. Smith from Cartwheel/Corkscrew? Does Gene, Lee, John G., Mr. J., Earle, Mayes, and me (Mike M.) sound familiar?

  5. Where were you stationed and in what group? We do have a number of people on this Blog that served in WHCA during the time frame that you did.

  6. I spent a month at Key B. sometime in 1969, I think. Maybe 1970. Eddie Julian was permanent staff. The President made one visit while I was there. Otherwise it was pretty easy duty. We had a Pontiac station wagon that we drove all over the place. Stayed at a small motel on Key B. Tried to get the WHCA House swimming pool operational. Can't remember if we succeeded or not. BTW, I first met Eddie Julian when he was one of my instructors at Ft. Gordon. He was also on President Nixon's with me to Brussels Belgium.