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Dwight D. Eisenhower Home
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
U.S. National Historic Site
Front elevation, 1974
Eisenhower National Historic Site is located in Pennsylvania
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Coordinates: 39°47′36″N 77°15′48″W / 39.79333°N 77.26333°W / 39.79333; -77.26333Coordinates: 39°47′36″N 77°15′48″W / 39.79333°N 77.26333°W / 39.79333; -77.26333
Area: 690 acres (280 ha)
Visitation: 70,243 (2006)
Governing body: National Park Service
Added to NRHP: November 27, 1967
Designated NHL: May 23, 1966[2]
NRHP Reference#: 67000017[1]

Eisenhower National Historic Site was the home and farm of General and President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Doud Eisenhower. Located adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the farm served as a weekend retreat for the President and a meeting place for world leaders. It was the Eisenhowers' home after they left the White House in 1961. With its putting green, skeet range, and view of South Mountain, it offered President Eisenhower a much-needed respite from the pressures of Washington. It was also a successful cattle operation, with a show herd of black Angus cattle. Some of the more notable of Eisenhower's guests were Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, French President Charles de Gaulle, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and California Governor Ronald Reagan.

Contents

History

Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower had a long history with the Gettysburg area. His graduating class from West Point had visited the battlefield in 1915. In 1918 he was assigned to nearby Camp Colt in his first independent command as an army officer, commanding a tank training unit; he and Mamie Eisenhower were newly married.[3][4]

Throughout his long army career, Dwight Eisenhower and his wife never had a house to call their own, with the couple moving from army post to army post. After he became Columbia University's president in 1948, Mamie requested that they finally have a place to call their own. A married couple that were friends with the Eisenhowers, George and Mary Allen, had recently purchased a small farm around Gettysburg, and recommended the area. In 1950, they found a "run-down farm" on the outskirts of Gettysburg, and purchased the farm and its 189 acres (76 ha) for $40,000 from one Allen Reddings, who had owned the farm since 1921. Eisenhower stated that he could feel the "forgotten heroisms" that occurred on the grounds as the Battle of Gettysburg.[5][6]

When purchased, the 189 acres included 600 chickens, 25 cows, and many dilapidated buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Renovation of the property was delayed when Eisenhower became supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. After he had attained the presidency of the United States in 1953, Mamie had him rebuild the old house. Much of the original building had to be torn down, due to its deterioration. The total cost of renovation cost $250,000, due partly to Mamie's whims and also to his wanting to appeal to labor unions, meaning he spent $65,000 for the union help that had to come from 75 miles (121 km) away in Washington, D.C. on a daily basis to construct the farmhouse. In 1955, to celebrate the construction being finished (and it being the Eisenhowers' wedding anniversary), they threw a celebration party, the guests of which included the entire staff of the White House; as they didn't want the White House to go unstaffed, the staff went in two shifts, and were forever grateful to the Eisenhowers for including them in the festivities.[7][8]

From its completion in 1955 to the end of Eisenhower's second term on January 20 1961, the President spent 365 days total on the Gettysburg farm. The longest of these stays was 38 days, due to recovering from an heart attack he suffered in Colorado in 1955. Afterwards, the Eisenhowers spent most weekends and summer vacations at the Gettysburg Farm, sometimes going to both the Gettysburg farm and Camp David, prompting one person to call Camp David "an annex to Gettysburg".[9]

Eisenhower and Montgomery touring nearby Little Round Top at Gettysburg NMP

The Gettysburg farm provided a few headaches. Democrats chose the amount of time the Eisenhowers spent at the Gettysburg farm as another way to attack him. Paul M. Butler, head of the Democratic National Committee, called him a part-time president due to his many stays in Gettysburg. When his World War II ally Bernard Montgomery visited the farm, speaking as military commander to military commander Eisenhower commented to Montgomery that he would have fired a subordinate that would initiate Pickett's Charge, which many Southerners saw as disrespecting the highly-esteemed Robert E. Lee, causing a protest.[10] When the Soviet Union's premier Nikita Khrushchev visited the farm in September 1959, he was so "grandfathery" to the Eisenhower grandchildren that David Eisenhower said that Khrushchev was such a nice guy, he (David) could become a communist if he did not know better; causing much embarrassment to the Eisenhowers.[11]

The Eisenhowers donated their home and farm (230 acres (93 ha) total at the time) to the National Park Service in 1967, maintaining lifetime living rights for the former president. Two years later, Eisenhower died at the age of 78. Mamie Eisenhower rejected the idea of moving to Washington to be closer to family and friends and, with the United States government allowing it, continued to live on the farm until her death in 1979, although the living area for Mamie was reduced to 14 acres (5.7 ha). The National Park Service opened the site in 1980.[6][12]

Grounds

The decoration and construction plans of the house was dictated by Mamie Eisenhower. At one point, Dwight Eisenhower told the contractor "For God's sakes, just give her what she wants and send me the bill". His main concern was personally mixing the paint to recolor the barn, which had a red coat he thought was hideous, so he painted it a light gray green. Mamie, meanwhile, was delighted in being able to use everything they always had in storage, and decorated more for sentimentality than for aesthetics.[13]

Bulls were raised at the farm. Eisenhower would often poke the rump of a bull with his shotgun to show what quality of steak the bull would eventually produce, much to the fear of the Secret Service agents that were protecting him. Once, while barbecuing (something he loved to do on the farm), he made the mistake of announcing which cow he was cooking, as it was the favorite cow of his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, and it brought her to tears.[14]

A row of fifty Norway Spruce trees lines the main driveway leading to the farm. These trees represent the fifty U.S. states, and were given to Eisenhower as birthday presents from each of the state Republican Party chairmen in 1955. The furthest one from the house was the tree representing Texas, and it was seen as a mark of Eisenhower's recovery that he was able to make it that far after his heart attack.[15]

The Eisenhowers (especially Dwight in the beginning) spent most of their time in a glass-covered porch overlooking Seminary Ridge. Reading and playing cards with friends were popular pastimes on the porch.[16]

In his book The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, Bill Bryson said of the site that it was the most fun he could remember having in a Republican household, and described the decor of the house as "1960s Republican". Bryson did express dismay in discovering that the last book such an important man ever read was Zane Grey's West of the Pecos.[17]

Today

The Eisenhower National Historic Site is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The home, grounds, barns and cattle operation are available for public tours. Visitors may reach the site via a shuttle bus which departs from the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. The total land area is 690 acres (280 ha). Two different films cover the grounds and President Eisenhower's life.[18]

References

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. http://www.nr.nps.gov/. Retrieved 2006-03-15.  
  2. ^ "Eisenhower, Dwight D., Farmstead". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=747&ResourceType=District. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  3. ^ Walsh, Kenneth T. From Mount Vernon to Crawford (Hyperion, 2005) pp.122-123
  4. ^ Eisenhower Military Chronology U.S. National Park Service
  5. ^ Walsh p.122
  6. ^ a b The Presidents (Eisenhower National Historic Site) U.S. National Park Service
  7. ^ Eisenhower National Historic Site - Eisenhower at Gettysburg U.S. National Park Service
  8. ^ Walsh pp.122-124
  9. ^ Walsh p.126
  10. ^ Gettysburg Refought Time Magazine May. 27, 1957
  11. ^ Walsh pp.126, 132, 133
  12. ^ Eisenhower National Historic Site - Eisenhower at Gettysburg U.S. National Park Service
  13. ^ Walsh pp.123-125
  14. ^ Walsh pp.125, 132
  15. ^ Walsh p.127
  16. ^ Walsh pp.126,127
  17. ^ Bryson, Bill The Lost Continent (1989)
  18. ^ Eisenhower National Historic Site - Plan Your Visit U.S. National Park Service

External links

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