Historic Sites and Buildings
Near the edge of historic Gettysburg stands the farm that Dwight D. Eisenhower purchased after his retirement from the U.S. Army. During his Presidential years, he used it as a retreat; later, it became his main residence.
In 1948, while serving as president of Columbia University after more than three decades of military life, Eisenhower, confident he could finally settle down at a permanent address, began searching for a home. At the suggestion of a friend, he decided to scout the Gettysburg, Pa., area for a farm. The locale appealed to Eisenhower for several reasons. For one thing, he possessed a sentimental attachment to the town, which had been his temporary residence during his early married life, in 1918, when he commanded nearby Camp Colt. Reinforcing this attachment was his historical appreciation of the nearby site of a major Civil War battle. Also, he desired to live in a rural setting but within convenient commuting distance of New York City and Washington.
Late in 1950, southwest of and adjoining Gettysburg National Military Park, the Eisenhowers purchased the only home they ever held title to, a 189-acre farm. It had been owned by the Allen Reddings since 1921 but predated that time. They had made considerable improvements. These included installation of plumbing and central heating in the farmhouse, enlargement and modernization of the barn, and construction of several outbuildings. The purchase included all livestock and farm equipment.
Eisenhower had planned to occupy the farm by April 1, 1951, but the preceding December President Truman recalled him to active service to organize and command the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In April Gen. Arthur S. Nevins and his wife, friends of the Eisenhowers, took possession for them and assumed the management. Upon his return to the United States in June 1952, Eisenhower entered politics. His subsequent campaign for and election in November to the Presidency led to an indefinite postponement of his occupation of his new home. Late that same year, General Nevins, who had been hospitalized for tuberculosis, placed it under the management of its senior hand, Ivan Feaster, who operated it until the former recovered in 1954.
In 1954-55 the Eisenhowers completely rebuilt the Redding farmhouse, an ample, two-story, red brick structure; only the foundations and Dutch oven were retained. Many of the materials, however, including timber, bricks, floor planks, roof shingles, accessories, and fixtures, were reused. In addition, all new landscaping was provided, the barn was repainted, and the chickenhouse that was attached to the south elevation of the barn was converted into a garage and apartment. An open house, held by the Eisenhowers for newsmen on August 9, 1955, marked the official beginning of their residence there, though they continued to live primarily in Washington, D.C.
Eisenhower's first prolonged stay at the farm occurred in November-December 1955, while recuperating from a heart attack he had suffered in September at Denver. To carry out official duties, he utilized facilities in the town of Gettysburg. The next year, he conducted part of his second Presidential campaign from the farm and town. Thereafter, he visited the former more regularly, often entertaining visiting dignitaries and heads of state there. Among his guests were Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India (1956), Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery of Great Britain (1957), Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany (1957), ex-British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1959), Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union (1959), and President Charles de Gaulle of France (1960). On January 20, 1961, Eisenhower retired from the Presidency. The following day, Gettysburg honored him and his wife with a grand "welcome home" dinner at the Hotel Gettysburg.
During retirement. Eisenhower devoted much more personal attention to farm management than he had before. From 1961 until 1966, he bred Black Angus show cattle, but in the latter year switched to feeders. The herd, which at a maximum numbered about 250, was sold each year to packing companies in Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Lancaster. A dedicated conservationist, Eisenhower utilized his profits to improve his land and soil. Also, for expansion and preservation of the rural setting, friends acquired several tracts of adjacent land.
Except for the winters, which he spent in California, Eisenhower resided at the farm until his death at Washington's Walter Reed Hospital in March 1969; he was buried in the chapel near the Eisenhower Library and Museum, Abilene, Kans., which incorporates his boyhood home. Some 2 years earlier, he had donated the farmhouse and 230 acres of land to the U.S. Government for preservation as a historic site. The agreement insured him lifetime occupancy rights, but required his wife to vacate the premises within 6 months after his death. In 1969 the Government waived the latter requirement, allowing Mrs. Eisenhower lifetime rights to the farmhouse and 14 acres.
The main focus of historical interest at the farm are the residence and adjacent structures. The former, 2-1/2 stories high and painted white, consists of two sections. The northern part, in which the entrance way is centered, is of frame. It contains the living room; dining room; and at the eastern, or rear, facade, a glass-covered porch overlooking the lawn. In the brick south section are the kitchen; the "Old Dutch Room," which preserves the original Dutch oven and fireplace; a study; two bedrooms; two baths; and a laundry room. Six bedrooms, five baths, and a studio occupy the second floor; a studio, half-bath, and storage area, the attic. Directly to the south of and connected to the main house is a small, 1-1/2-story stone addition that houses the library.
Northwest of the farmhouse is a two-room guest cottage that was originally a garage. To the southeast are an ivy-covered brick teahouse with fireplace and flagstone patio, behind which are two greenhouses. Rounding out the immediate grounds are the large stock barn, various utility structures, a skeet-shooting range, and a putting green.
Eisenhower National Historic Site comprises about 493 acres.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004