GETTYSBURG, PA- March 30, 2016
After our morning visit to the Flight 93 National Monument we headed east. We decided to go to Gettysburg.
We’d been to the famous battlefield, so we wanted to do something different.
Wednesday was a long day. After the sobering visit to the Flight 93 Memorial in the morning, we drove two hours to Gettysburg.
Driving east the gently, rolling hills of south-central Pennsylvania gave way to a flat scenic countryside. It was perfect driving weather- a cool, crisp early spring day with a cloudless blue sky.
The drive was breathtaking. We saw the small buds beginning to burst open from the warmer weather on the trees. The landscape filled up with winding creeks and flat rivers. Sprinkled on the hilltops were small towns, cows, farms, fields, and forests.
We arrived in Gettysburg a little after 3pm. We got the last shuttle of the day from the Gettysburg Military Park Museum and Visitor Center to Eisenhower’s Gettysburg Farm.
We took the self-guided tour of the home and grounds.
Ike the Man
Dwight David Eisenhower (Ike) is one of the most fascinating figures in American history. He is one of five Presidents who was also a General.
Born into hardscrabble poverty in rural Kansas, the son of stern pacifists, Dwight David Eisenhower graduated from high school more likely to teach history than to make it (D’Este, 2003).
There was nothing in his family background, but a surplus of love. This formed the backbone of his Midwestern values and how he saw the world.
Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general during World War II. He served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.
Despite all his success he saw himself as a farmer.
Ike and Gettysburg
Ike visited Gettysburg in 1915, when he visited on a battlefield tour with his West Point class. In 1918, he served at Camp Colt- the same field as Pickett’s Charge and the 1913 Great Reunion of Civil War veterans.
In 1950, Ike bought the farm, but the Eisenhowers didn’t take up permanent residence until 1961.
The Gettysburg Farm
The 189 acre farm sits next to the Gettysburg National Military Park, near Pitzer Woods and Warsfield Ridge.
Ike bought the farm in 1950 for $40,000.00, or $400,900 in today’s money. It came with 600 chickens and 25 cows.
The home was a seven-room fixer upper. In 1955, they gutted the house and rebuilt it. The Eisenhowers chooses it because it’s halfway between New York City and Washington DC.
In 1961, President Eisenhower, at age 70, retired to his Gettysburg farm. He and his wife lived there until they died. The Farm served as a weekend retreat when Eisenhower was in office.
It is a peaceful setting with a great view of the South Mountain of Camp David and the battlefield. Ike was the first President to travel by helicopter. Camp David was a ten minute helicopter to the Farm.
For Ike, the Farm served as a refuge from the bustle of Washington DC. After he retired it was a meeting place for world leaders- a neutral spot that helped to cool the hot tensions of the Cold War.
Ike’s Gettysburg Farm is still a working farm.
As you arrive you walk down farm lanes, past pastures and crops to the big green barn with cattle inside.
The Eisenhower home was a 100 year old weathered white, two-story stone farmhouse. Dark green trim and shutters frame the windows. You start the tour passing through a large, flat black door.
The sun porch on the rear of the 4 bedroom home overlooks the President’s putting green. Ike was an enthusiastic golfer, he loved to work on his short game.
Throughout the house are paintings by Ike. He did over 300 paintings in his lifetime. They are haunting watercolors of smiling young men in hats and blue vases and pink roses.
The living room has a beige carpet that matched the curtains. It’s full of gifts from heads of state and friends. The centerpiece is a silk Tabriz red and black rug from the Shah of Iran. Next to it is a mother-of-pearl, black lacquer from the wife of the President of South Korea.
The marble fireplace mantle was in the East Room of the White House when Lincoln was President. Ike loved Lincoln. He could recite whole passages of books written by the tall, bearded President.
The Eisenhowers seldom used the room except for entertaining. Ike thought it was too stuffy.
In the kitchen is a sturdy enameled ivory oven and stovetop. We spotted the original medium brown, random-width hardwood floors, they creak as you walked on them. It reminded you of the famous feet that passed this way.
The sun porch is where the family really lived. It has one of the first televisions in America. This was the most comfortable room in the house. The table and chairs are arranged like they just got up to run an errand and they’ll be right back.
You move upstairs and realize the white wallpaper had brown symbols of all fifty states on it.
The upstairs of the house is much more personal and full of family stories. You see books, bedrooms and the private collections of a loving family that traveled the world.
The view from upstairs is the field of Pickett’s Charge- a bloody Confederate infantry assault and the culmination of the Battle of Gettysburg. Like Flight 93, you are humbled by history because it’s hallowed ground.
Back downstairs, Ike’s den is a man cave with a green poker table, floor-to-ceiling bookcase, a gun display case and a fire place. The President was an avid reader and loved to play cards.
Ike’s office reflects the humble, down-to-earth man he was. It’s a simple desk with a rickety, wooden oak kitchen chair.
The Public Man
In 1952, Eisenhower ran for President. Like the man, he kept things simple. “I LIKE IKE!” read his campaign buttons.
His explosive charisma, his modest, self-deprecating humor allowed some folks to be fooled by his “aw-shucks attitude” but he was a shrewd judge of character.
Americans could easily relate to his plain talk, his firm handshake and reassuring smile. They respected his heroic military service.
A lieutenant colonel at 50 with no military future ahead of him in the stifling between-the-wars promotion system, Eisenhower became, in little more than three years and three months, a five-star general.
He commanded the Allied Forces in Europe from the landing at Normandy to the end of the war. Later he was the head of NATO and President of Columbia University.
The farm was the only home the Eisenhowers ever owned. Unlike other Presidents, Ike came from a poor background and never had much money.
The museum highlights the life of Ike and 1950’s era America, when he was President.
I loved the house. I got a better understanding of one of my heroes. Ike went off to war unknown and returned an idol. He was the architect of the Allied victory in Europe.
As President his modest way of talking and simple manner spoke to the nation. During his time in office America had its most prosperous decade.
Ike was the quintessential American- smart, middle-class, honest and hard working. His Gettysburg home was the last stop for an American hero.