Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top 10 After the Presidency, I like IKE!

Eisenhower Farm, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Sometimes if not often we forget our leaders have families and try to maintain normalcy while handling all the problems that go with running an entire country, not just one household.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower was a five star general in the United States Army before he became President  of the United States. After his presidency, he retired to his Gettysburg home and raised prize winning Angus bulls. The Eisenhower's never owned a home during Ike's military career. He retired from active military service in 1948, became president of Columbia University and become informally the chair of the Joints Chief of Staff under the newly created defense department. They purchased their first home in Gettysburg, PA in 1950.

The farm is impressive in size 189 acres to simple folk like you and me, yet the inside is a clear indication that this family that once occupied the White House were simple people too. The Gettysburg Battlefield was in view from their backyard.  You could look out the window at Seminary Ridge, they are neighbors.

Mamie loved costume jewelry and often went into the town of Gettysburg and shopped for it.  She also was a collector of knick knacks. There were at least two cabinets full that I saw. The first one I saw was immediately inside the front door and just across the doorway was the guestbook.  Mamie required all guests from grandchildren to heads of state to place their signature in the book.

The formal dining room was modest and seldom used only during large family gatherings and holidays like most families.  Ike and Mamie often dined off of TV trays on the porch, as they watched their favorite television shows.  Mamie was a soap opera fan, As the World Turns was her favorite, and she hardly missed a show.   If by chance she had to miss a show it was required of a secret service agent to watch it for her and tell her all about it when she returned.  Ike liked Bonanza and Gunsmoke.  Together, their favorite show was I Love Lucy and they watched Walter Cronkite every day on the Evening News.

This home reflects the personality of the woman who remained married to the general and the president throughout his career and service to our country.  The master bedroom was very pink as were many rooms in the house. After Ike passed away, Mamie kept his side of the bed piled with books stationery and candy so it would never seem empty.

The formal living room is adorned with many gifts the Eisenhower's received along with many family photographs which gave it a very personal touch.  The mother of pearl inlaid black lacquer coffee table was a gift from the Republic of Korea and the silk rug from the Shah of Iran.  The marble fireplace was a gift from the White House staff.  It was in the White House during five presidents including Lincoln and put in storage after its removal in 1873 for renovations during the Grant administration.

After retiring from the military, General Eisenhower took up painting.  He did this one from a photograph in a magazine.  It was one of Mrs. Eisenhower's favorite.  I believe they called it "The Mexican". It is located in the hallway on the second floor.

The porch was one of the most utilized rooms in the house.  Ike and Mamie watched television there, played cards with friends and entertained dignitaries such as Khrushchev in this relaxed atmosphere.

Former President Eisenhower also used this room to paint.  A copy of the painting he was working on the last year of his life is on display in the porch. In the last 20 years of his life, he painted over 260 paintings, giving many away as gifts; some were used as Christmas cards.

The President was also an avid golfer and credited for popularizing golf in the United States purely through visibility.  He had a putting green installed at the White House and here you see his putting green at the Eisenhower farm.

President Eisenhower had a small office at the farm.  He was in residence when he took the call on that phone sitting on the desk about the 1960 U2 spy plane incident which proved to be a great embarrassment to the United States just before the Paris summit. Of note, but I did not get any pictures, Eisenhower had gouges into the wooden floor under his desk from the spike golf shoes he was famous for wearing.  Jacqueline Kennedy reportedly had a fit when she saw the damage that was done to the Oval Office floors and the ladies down on the farm are still talking about it.  Also note the pictures on his wall, Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg generals on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Just next to the office is the den. It is part of the original house.  The fireplace was from the kitchen hearth.

There is a story down on the farm, about the pouf that sits in the formal living room.  It goes like this, Mamie asks Ike if she could purchase a pouf similar to the one in the White House, Ike hated the pouf and said, NO!.  Obedient and loving wife that she was, she asked her mother to purchase it for her.  You can't say no to a gift from your mother in law.  After touring their home, I have to say, I like Ike but I think I like Mamie even more.

There are stories in just about every room. There is a self guided tour of the house, barn, milk house, garage, barn, secret service headquarters and all the grounds.  It is a beautiful place and ever so welcoming.  It is a treat to see how and where the Eisenhower's lived.

Ike's website has a Top 5 list check it out.





In 1967, the Eisenhower's donated their home and farm to the National Park Service with the contingency that it remain just as it was when donated and that any one of their family members could continue to live there. In 1969, Eisenhower died at the age of 78; Mrs. Eisenhower continued to live at the farm until her death in 1979. In 1980, the National Park Service opened the farm to the public as Eisenhower National Historic Site. 

It is tough to get an invite to the White House but the Eisenhower's home is open to the public and anyone who has a ticket can get in.  You can obtain tickets and catch the shuttle at the Gettysburg visitors center.

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's home in Gettysburg
Eisenhower Farm 

If you ever take a trip to Gettysburg Battlefield, include the tour of Eisenhower Farm.  It is well worth the visit.  The reception area is also full of Ike and Mamie Eisenhower memorabilia.

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