There are many fans of George W. and Laura Bush in North Canaan, a place that's more rural, remote and Republican than most of Connecticut.
Moreover, Bush family members have been known to drop by the town, where First Pal Roland W. Betts owns property.
Lately, a lot of folks are wondering whether the Bush family will spend even more time in this town of 3,700. The talk is fueled by a recent visit by Laura Bush, combined with Betts' upgrade of one property and his purchase of another one.
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No one in the Bush and Betts camps is saying anything publicly about Bush plans. And First Selectman Doug Humes said he hasn't been briefed on any security concerns, though he said his sister-in-law had a nice conversation with Laura Bush three weeks ago.
The rumors – including one circulating since last week that the Bush family would adopt North Canaan as a part-time residence – are based on a few facts that may or may not add up.
The two Bush daughters, Jenna and Barbara, are in New York, and former President George H.W. Bush, who just turned 90 and is suffering from a form of Parkinson's disease, spends much of his time at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. People in town also say that Laura Bush and one of the Bush daughters are active in at least one not-for-profit group in the Berkshires.
So North Canaan, right down Route 7 from the Mass Pike, would seen to be a central New England location.
Betts, a chum of W's from Yale and the developer who built Chelsea Piers in New York into a sports and entertainment complex, owns or controls several properties in the bucolic northern edge of town. The one at 54 Sodom Road, is adding to the speculation.
The Betts Family Trust bought that house in March, 2013, for $525,000, and put significant money into renovations. A breezeway, foyer and 1,200-square-foot addition with a cathedral ceiling was completed in 2013, town records show. The grounds of the 19-acre property, which backs up to the picturesque Konkapot River, have been meticulously landscaped with a berm around the entire front of the property -- unusual for a house built in 1820.
That's the house where several people in town said Bush family members have stayed. The trust that bought it listed an address at Chelsea Piers on West 23rd Street in New York, where a spokeswoman was not able to provide a comment.
The office of former President Bush did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The Sodom Road house is on a quiet, country corner where Betts also owns a house, once an inn, directly across Old Turnpike Road North, in New Marlborough, Mass., according to Humes and several others. Old Turnpike straddles the state line.
A few feet into Connecticut, directly across the street from the main entrance of the house at 54 Sodom Rd. is a smaller house built in 1827, which is in disrepair and appears to be vacant. I joked with a landscaper at the larger house that it could be used for the Secret Service because of its strategic location. Sure enough, I later learned, Betts acquired that house in March of this year, though town records don't list a price. It is valued at $122,650 including three-eighths of an acre.
The Betts Family Trust also owns a modern house about a mile away in North Canaan, purchased in 2012 for $625,000.
The overwhelming sentiment in town is that a Bush presence could help North Canaan's efforts to revive itself, but no one is going to make a big deal over it in this part of the state, where celebrity residences are common.
At the historic Collin's Diner a few miles away in the center of town, co-owner Badar Abu-Hamzy is a big Bush fan. Two photos taped to the milk machine behind the counter show her and her brother with Laura Bush, though not in North Canaan.
"If they're moving somewhere to area like this, they want their privacy and we will grant that," Abu-Hamzy said during a lunch hour at the diner this week. "Would I like to see them come in here, as a business owner? Absolutely. Who wouldn't? But I'm also going to respect their space."
Former President George W. Bush, who just turned 68, has old ties to Connecticut beyond attending Yale. He was born in New Haven and his grandfather, Prescott Bush, launched the family's political dynasty in Greenwich.
"We welcome anyone that wants to come to Canaan," Humes said.