While Tom and I were at Gettysburg, we visited the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The site adjoins Gettysburg and you have to buy a shuttle bus ticket in order to visit. This felt wrong to me, but it was the only way to see the site. So we forked over the $9 per person ticket and hopped on the 12:30 shuttle. This was in the middle of our trip to Gettysburg, so we did Eisenhower between the museum and the auto tour of the battlefield.
Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves the only home ever owned by Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower. They bought it as a retirement home while Dwight was the President of Columbia University, before he became President of the United States. It became President Eisenhower’s retreat from Washington DC and he spent a lot of time there. After serving eight years as President, Dwight and Mamie retired to the farm and lived there until they died. They left the home to the National Park Service, so it remains furnished exactly as they left it.
During Eisenhower’s retirement, he raised Angus cattle and took up painting. Mamie loved his paintings and the home is full of his artwork. After riding the shuttle bus, Tom and I checked out the Visitors Center and watched a documentary with Walter Cronkite on Eisenhower’s life. Cronkite was interviewing Eisenhower on the farm. Eisenhower said how he wanted, in his retirement, to leave some little piece of earth better off than he found it. I’m sure the farm was a respite to his soul after serving in the military and in politics.
Tours of the house are available on the hour and half hour. Tom and I were part of a group of 20 people that went through the house. The ranger gave an introduction outside and talked a little bit about the house while in the formal living room. The living room was furnished with gifts from world leaders such as a coffee table from Korea, and a silk rug from Iran. As beautiful as this room was, the sun porch was Mamie and Dwight’s favorite room. An easel holds an unfinished painting on the porch. Family pictures are set out all over the house.
After viewing all the bedrooms, etc, inside the house, we walked around and checked out the barns and other outbuildings. Because the shuttle bus comes to the Eisenhower National Historic site on the half hour and leaves on the hour, you pretty much have to stay at least an hour and a half. This gave us plenty of time to see everything. We saw the barns, the guest house, the orchard, and the teahouse.
Visiting the Eisenhower National Historic site felt like stepping back in time to the early 1960’s. Everything was decorated exactly as Mamie had decorated it herself. Through our visit we learned more about Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower and how they lived in their retirement.