THURMONT, Md. (WJZ)– Security is high in Frederick County as leaders from around the globe visit Camp David. They are gathering for the G-8 Summit to discuss a variety of critical issues, including the economic crisis in Europe.

Vic Carter has more on the history of Camp David, as it prepares for this international event.

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Nestled in the sweeping mountains of Maryland is one of the most tightly guarded places in Maryland– the Naval Support Facility Thurmont.

“It’s a very secure location and it is a very beautiful location in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland,” Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, said. “And it’s a place nearby where presidents can get away from it all.”

Better known as Camp David, it’s just 70 miles from the White House and is about to thrust Maryland into the world spotlight.

Lichtman: “Camp David is a great location to have a G-8 Summit.”
Carter: “What makes Camp David the perfect place for this type of meeting?”
Lichtman: “It’s a very beautiful setting conducive to perhaps some of these world leaders relaxing, and maybe getting along with each other a little better than they ordinarily would.”

Moved from Chicago, the G-8 or Group of Eight Summit arrives at Camp David Friday. Leaders of some of the world’s richest countries will discuss the economic issues they face. But this isn’t the first high-profile meeting held at Camp David.

Carter: “Give us a sense of the history of Camp David, some of the historic events that happened there.”
Lichtman: “The most important meeting occurred in 1978 when Jimmy Carter brought the leaders of Israel and Egypt together and achieved the historic Camp David accords, a treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel.”

While Camp David has long hosted high-profile world leaders, its beginnings were decidedly lower profile. It was constructed as a Work Projects Administration project in the 1930s.

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“Then it became a retreat for President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II when it was known as Shangri-La after the mythical city of paradise,” Lichtman said.

President Eisenhower renamed the retreat Camp David in the 1950s after his grandson, David. Since World War II, every president has used Camp David as a place to get away from the rigors of the presidency, relax with family and entertain.

“We actually stayed where President 41 and Barbara Bush typically stayed in that cabin,” former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich said.

Invited by President George W. Bush in 2003, Ehrlich is one of the few who have visited.

“I’ve never seen Kendel so excited. All she did was call for the first hour or two,” Ehrlich said of his wife.

Ehrlich says the visit was all about relaxing.

“We went to the movies — there’s a movie cabin — with him. There’s popcorn, sort of an old style movie deal there,” he said.

Unfortunately for the Ehrlichs, their once-in-a-lifetime trip was cut short by his job.

“It was actually the weekend of the great snowstorm in 2003 so we had to actually cut church services short on Sunday. And he called our bedroom on Sunday and said, ‘Time to get out of town. I have to get out of town. You have to get out of town. So back to being governor of Maryland, back to being president of the United States,'” Ehrlich said.

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Vic Carter