Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Webpage: National Park Service
General Description: In 1950, then General Dwight D. Eisenhower, purchased a farm on the edge of the Gettysburg battlefield for retirement from the military, even though he would have to put off retirement when he accepted the position of Supreme Commander of NATO and elected to be the 34th President of the United States in 1953. He and Mamie Eisenhower fell in love with Gettysburg while he commanded Camp Colt during World War I in 1917 to train tank corps using the Gettysburg battlefield for maneuvers. After extensive renovations of the property, they used the home as a weekend retreat from Washington D.C. and then invited dignitaries to tours of the farm after attending conferences at Camp David. In 1955 their country home became a temporary White House as he recovered from a heart attack and the structure used by the Secret Service at that time are still in evidence. When they finally retired to the farm in 1961, he maintained an active office at the farm meeting with political and business associates. By this time the farm had grown into a prosperous Black Angus Enterprise with many prize winning grand champions. The Eisenhower Farms included both the 189 acres of Eisenhower’s land and 306 adjoining acres owned by his partners. The Eisenhowers made a gift of the farm to the federal government in 1967 and it has been maintained in the conditions that existed at the time of President Eisenhower’s retirement. The Historic Site consists of the Eisenhower’s home, barn, guest house, greenhouses and gardens along with the herdman’s home, barns and sheds on Farm 2.
1) To tour the Eisenhower National Historic Site, you have to purchase tickets at the Gettysburg National Military Park and board a bus that runs every half hour to the farm. Except for a brief introduction in the formal living room of the home, the tour is a self guided tour of the home and grounds. Available are a small pamphlet that gives limited information about each room in the home and interpretive signs around the grounds and on Farm 2. Each sign also includes a phone number for more information about each location on your cell phone. I found this to be a good addition for a self guided tour. There was also a NFS volunteer in the Show Barn on Farm 2 that could answer questions about the operations and farm machinery on display.
2) The main driveway leading into the farm is lined with 50 Norway spruce trees that were birthday gifts from each of the 50 state Republican Party Chairmen in 1955. President Eisenhower used these trees during his recovery from his heart attack to mark how far he was able to walk each day as he would remark he “made it to Florida today”, for instance.
3) They attempted to “rennovate” the farm house on the property, which in the 1950s meant replacing any structure that was determined to be unsound. Part of the house turned out to be an old colonial log cabin that had been covered over. They were able to keep part of the original structure that President Eisenhower used as a Den and Office, leading to the strange look of the home.
4) Except for the formal living room and dining room, the house is modest in its furnishings. The living room is dominated by a marble fireplace that was removed from the White House by President Grant in 1873. The modest living conditions could be seen on the porch which was their favorite room and the Den with its old fireplace and oven. The kitchen reflects a 1950 style with a linoleum coutertop, Crosley refrigerator, and stoves. The most surprising feature was that the kitchen had both an electric and gas stove!
5) The grounds surrounding the home are impressive from the three rose gardens, greenhouses, and gardens. There are four features that you don’t find at many homes. The first is the helicopter landing area in the front of the house, the putting green just off the back porch, the massive brick barbeque grill, and the “state-of-the-art” surveillance equipment used by the Secret Service.
6) The maternity barn, loafing shed, and show barns were all innovations for the raising of prize winning Angus cows. The Show Barn was both heated and cooled with concrete pads in each of the stalls.
7) Although the farm machines look dated based on current standards, they were certainly “state-of-the-art” in the 1950s. There were even manure and fertilizers spreaders that were prototypes built by a farm equipment “start-up” that has since gone out of business.