Dwight Eisenhower 34th President, 1953-1961

Birthplace, Denison, Texas
Born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, Dwight David Eisenhower spent his youth in the small farm town of Abilene, Kansas. His father David worked as a mechanic in a local creamery. His mother, Ida, a Mennonite, was a religious pacifist who opposed war and violence of any kind. Understandably, she instilled in her six sons a moral dislike to war. In this setting, Eisenhower did family chores, delighted in hunting and fishing and football, and was a passionate student of military history. In 1911, Eisenhower won an appointment to West Point, where his pranks, fondness for cards and smoking, and average grades earned him little respect from his teachers. They thought that he would be a good officer, but not a great one.

Dwight David Eisenhower was born in a modest two-story frame house at the corner of Lamar Avenue and Day Street in Denison, Texas. Ike was the only one of David and Ida Eisenhower’s seven children born in Texas. The future leader of the free world in war and peace was born in a railroad neighborhood, with the family home nestled within a few yards of three railroad lines.

Boyhood Home, Abilene, Kansas
The Eisenhower Family home was built in 1887, in typical nineteenth-century, Midwestern style. Constructed of white pine clapboard with a cedar shingle roof, it grew in stages from about the turn of the century until about 1915. The Eisenhower family occupied this house from 1898 until Mrs. Ida Eisenhower’s death in 1946. Her sons gave the house to the Eisenhower Foundation, which maintained it until it was given to the federal government in 1966.

The rooms of the house are small, with an eclectic mix of furnishings, reflecting the decades the Eisenhowers lived there. A front parlor was reserved for entertaining guests, and the family used the back parlor on a daily basis, pictured here. Ida’s prized piano is at the left, and examples of her quilting, embroidery, and other “fanciwork,” decorate the room. During her life, Ida’s love of plants was evident everywhere in her home and garden.

When Dwight Eisenhower lived here, this room served as kitchen, pantry, and dining room. Here, Ida taught all her boys how to cook, iron, and sew. Before a bathroom was added–when Dwight was in high school–it was also the room where six growing boys took their baths. An addition of a new kitchen and pantry in 1915 turned this room into a separate dining area.

Home, Eisenhower Farm, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The farm designated Eisenhower National Historic Site is the only place President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower ever called home. In 1950, the Eisenhowers, looking forward to retirement, purchased the Allen Redding farm adjoining Gettysburg National Military Park. The original 189-acre farm was transformed by stages into the 230-acre country estate of the 34th President of the United States. During his Presidency, President and Mrs. Eisenhower used the farm as a weekend retreat, a refuge in time of illness, and a comfortable meeting place for world leaders. From 1961 to 1969, it was the Eisenhower’s home during a vigorous and active retirement. In 1967, President and Mrs. Eisenhower deeded their farm to the United States to be administered by the National Park Service as the Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Library & Museum, Eisenhower Center, Abilene, Kansas
The mission of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, the “Eisenhower Center,” is to acquire, preserve, and disseminate the records and material culture relating to the history of Dwight D. Eisenhower and his times through research, exhibits, public programs, publications, and outreach.

Built by the Eisenhower Foundation with funds raised through public gifts, the museum was begun in 1952, and completed in 1954, to honor General of the Army, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the veterans of World War II. The museum collection consists of over 36,000 artifacts ranging from personal possessions of the First Family to jewel-encrusted gifts received from foreign heads of state. The Museum’s permanent galleries include an introductory gallery, an early career gallery, a changing exhibits gallery, a military gallery, and the presidential gallery. Here, a portion of the military gallery highlights some of the large artifacts of World War II, including General Eisenhower’s 1942 Cadillac staff car.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library, constructed of native Kansas limestone, was dedicated in 1962. Although called a “library,” it is actually an archive that houses and preserves the documents and audiovisual materials spanning the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Scholars from across the country and around the world come here to research. The Library includes a research room, archival stacks, a photographic laboratory, an auditorium, and offices for staff. On the second floor of the Library, is a temporary exhibit gallery and walkway that is used for short-term and special exhibits.

A Visitors Center, completed in 1975, is constructed of native Kansas limestone with wide spans of glass at its north and south entrances. The grounds of the Eisenhower Center are especially beautiful in the spring and autumn, reflecting seasonal color with a wide variety of trees and scrubs on 22 manicured acres. The Visitors Center contains a gift shop with a wide variety of books, videos, posters, T-shirts, and many other items relating to the life and times of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the presidency. In the large auditorium, a short film on Eisenhower is shown on a daily schedule. The Eisenhower Center hosts conferences and workshops in the auditorium as well.

Gravesite, Eisenhower Center, Place of Meditation, Abilene, Kansas
Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969. He went out like a general, commanding his troops and in complete control. After suffering four heart attacks in retirement, and being bedridden for several months, Ike called his wife, son John, grandson David, his two doctors, and a nurse to his room. He ordered them to “lower the shades” and to pull him up to a near sitting position in bed. Then holding Mamie’s hand, Ike looked at his son and grandson, who were standing at attention at each corner of the bed, and softly issued his final order: “I want to go. God take me.” With these words he died.

Ike was buried in Abilene, near the remains of his first-born son “Icky.” He had lived long enough to see Richard Nixon elected president, and his grandson’s marriage to Julie Nixon. Now much more satisfied with Nixon, whom he thought would make a great president, Ike had taken the election of 1968 as an affirmation of his own presidency. His death at age seventy-nine was mourned by a nation that still liked, indeed loved, Ike.

The Place of Meditation was built in 1966 with private funds under the auspices of the Eisenhower Presidential Library Commission. Constructed of native limestone, the interior contains Travertine marble wall panels, walnut woodwork, and brilliant stained glass windows designed by Mrs. Odell Prather, a Kansas native. On April 2, 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower was laid to rest, and Mamie Doud Eisenhower followed him in November 1979. Their firstborn son, Doud Dwight, was interred in 1966.

Memorial, Eisenhower Center, Abilene, Kansas
This statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the General, is eleven-foot high and made of bronze with a granite base. Cast in Florence, Italy, the sculptor is an American artist, Robert Dean. Located in the center of the complex, it faces west. The five limestone pylons, located at the east end of the Eisenhower Center, were originally placed to the south of the Museum. They are to honor David and Ida Eisenhower, their six accomplished sons, America’s Veterans, American democratic ideals, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the Army and 34th President of the United States. The first Dwight D. Eisenhower Day, October 14, 1999, was celebrated at the pylons.