Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in 1890 in the front downstairs bedroom of this house in Denison, Texas, near the border of Oklahoma.
His father worked for the railroad, which ran right by the house, and rented this home for his wife and two sons.
When Eisenhower was two they moved to Kansas, and for 50 years no notice was made of the house’s historical significance. Until World War Two, when Eisenhower became a famous general, few people seem to have known or cared where he was born, even himself.
A former school teacher from Denison who remembered bouncing him on her knee when he was a baby wrote to Eisenhower to officially confirm his birthplace, and he said he couldn’t remember, but that she should ask his mother. His mother confirmed that he was indeed born in Denison.
That was enough to begin a local initiative to identify, secure, and preserve his birthplace. After World War Two, a group of local residents formed the Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation, and purchased the house and five acres.
In 1946, Eisenhower came to Denison for the first time since his birth, and was met by the school teacher and nearly 40,000 others. After he became president, more money was raised, the house was further restored, most of the other houses on the property were removed, and it became the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.
It is now owned by the Texas Historical Commission, and has a small visitor center.
With a gift shop and admission desk.
A large statue was added in 1972.
An even larger statue of Eisenhower appeared on the highway at the edge of town recently.
The 21 foot-tall head was unveiled in 2011 by David Adickes, next to the highway, as part of a veteran’s memorial. Adickes, a sculptor based in Houston, has made dozens of large white presidential heads which can be found here and there, usually in groups, all over the nation.
When the Eisenhower family moved out of Denison with their new infant, in 1892, they headed to Hope, Kansas, where his father once owned a store, and got a job as a refrigeration engineer in a creamery. They soon moved on to Abilene, which would become the young Dwight Eisenhower’s home town.
In 1898 the family purchased this house, near downtown Abilene, from a relative. This would be young Dwight’s boyhood home from the age of 8 to 20, when he went to West Point Military Academy. His parents lived here until their deaths in the 1940s.
After that, Eisenhower and his brothers gave the house, and most of its contents, to a foundation to preserve it. It is now open for tours, and is at the epicenter of the Eisenhower Presidential Center.
Eisenhower helped to develop the site as his primary and official legacy location during the period after he left the White House in 1961, until his death in 1969.
It covers a few acres of land around the boyhood home, and includes the official Presidential Library, Museum, and his tomb.
Visits usually start and end at the visitor center, which shows an introductory film.
The visitor center also sells tickets for the museum and house tour, and offers gifts and memorabilia for purchase. Busloads of people come nearly every day.
After the film, visitors head out the back doors, and outside to the grounds.
The library was dedicated in 1962. It is one of the thirteen Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives, and has 26 million pages of papers and records, 335,000 photographs, 768,000 feet of motion picture film, and 70,000 artifacts.
An oversize statue of Eisenhower was installed at one of the axis of the grounds, between the library and the museum. It was erected in the 1980s, long after he was gone.
The Museum was dedicated in 1954. After he died, in 1969, it was updated and enlarged, and rededicated in 1971.
The lobby has murals showing scenes of Eisenhower’s life, as a Kansas farm boy, soldier, military hero, and president.
Displays inside go into more detail.
The final place to visit at the site is the Place of Meditation, which opened in 1966.
The Place of Meditation became his tomb after his body was brought here from Washington DC by train in 1969.
Eisenhower lies inside, next to his wife and a son who died young.
Though the Eisenhowers were involved in designing the Presidential Center in Abilene, most of the time they were living in semi-retirement on a farm in Pennsylvania.
The Eisenhowers bought the farm in 1950, motivated primarily by Mamie Eisenhower. She worked with architects on the additions and transformations of the existing structures into a new house with eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms. It was finally finished by 1955, and they moved in full time in 1961.
Inside there would be enough space for her collections of ceramics and family furnishings. Mamie Eisenhower would live there after her husband died until her death in 1979.
A smaller structure, based on an existing farmhouse on the site, was her husband’s domain within the home.
Its interior more dark and clubby.
They spent a lot of time on the east-facing sun porch.
Here the President could practice golf, his favored pastime. The putting green was installed by the PGA as a thank you for his dedicated promotion of the sport over his lifetime.
The green overlooks the Gettysburg Battlefield, immediately adjacent to the house, a fitting place for a military man to end up, though a very somber and blood-soaked landscape to have in a backyard.
CLUI logo