GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – “The Eisenhowers have a long history with the town of Gettysburg,” said Alyce Evans. She’s one of the park guides at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. “In fact, Eisenhower was a cadet in 1915, coming to Gettysburg for the first time to study the battle with his West Point senior class.
In 1918, then Captain Eisenhower lived in Gettysburg during the first World War while he led a tank training camp called Camp Colt.”
The lessons Captain Eisenhower learned at the Camp, which used much of the Gettysburg battlefield as a training center, would serve him well when, as General Eisenhower, he was the Supreme Commander for the Allied invasion of Europe.
After the war, Ike and Mamie looked for a permanent home. Both remembered Gettysburg fondly.
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“So that’s what brought the Eisenhowers back here in 1950, a love of the area, a love of the history, and that’s why they purchased their farm,” says Evans
The home of our 34th President, Dwight David Eisenhower, and his wife Mamie is now the centerpiece of the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
But like so many places, the Eisenhower Home closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That changes this Memorial Day weekend.
“We’re very excited to announce that the Eisenhower home will be reopening this Friday for visitors to come and tour the Eisenhower house,” says Evans.
The park staff made the most of the unexpected downtime to give the place some much-needed TLC.
“Now we want this to remain to like Ike and Mamie’s home,” says Evans, “We’re not doing dramatic changes. But there are updates that we’ve done, like we’ve gotten a new HVAC system, so we have a great new heating and cooling system, that not only will make life more comfortable for our vistiors, but it will help preserve the artifacts.”
The new HVAC replaces a system that dates from 1955.
“Also we are adding some pieces that were missing from the Eisenhower home, we’re real excited, especially in the president’s sun porch, which was his favorite room in the home. We’ve been able to have reproductions of the oriental rugs that the Eisenhowers had there. So there are a few things if you’ve been here before, you come back, you’ll notice we have done a few updates throughout the home.”
The house the Eisenhowers bought turned out to be a bit more of a fixer-upper than they expected.
“The core of the home they purchased was a 1750s log cabin that had been bricked over,” explains Evans. “Unfortunately that structure was in very ill repair when the Eisenhowers purchased the farm, they ended up having to tear the majority of the structure down, and rebuild. So the house as you see it today is mostly a 1950s home.”
Other matters kept the Eisenhowers from settling in. “He ends up going overseas for a while, then in 1952 he runs for the presidency,” says Evans. “It’s really not until after he leaves the presidency in 1961 that this becomes their primary residence.”
While it may not have been their primary residence, the Eisenhowers spent a lot of time here. “President Eisenhower spent, though not consecutively, but almost an entire year of his presidency on the farm,” says Evans. “And he did love to bring important figures here, especially many world leaders, men like Winston Churchill, or Charles de Gaulle. Even Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union came to this farm with President Eisenhower.”
The house today is a time capsule, preserving the way it looked back in the 1950s and 60s.
“You’re seeing 98 percent of the objects that actually belonged to the Eisenhowers, where they were while they were living here,” says Alyce Evans. “So we have pieces that not only reflect his career as a general, and of course, his eight years as president, but also as a respected statesman even beyond those years in Washington.”
The National Park Service recommends you travel to the site from the Main Visitors Center, located at 1195 Baltimore Pike, on a shuttle bus. Car parking at the Eisenhower site is limited-and the bus drops you off right at the home.
For more information about the site, click here.
For information about shuttle tickets, click here.