Our trip to Abilene, Kansas would not be complete without a visit to the site that honors one of the most famous Kansans. The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Boyhood Home is a top destination for travelers from all over the country and world. They come to Abilene to pay homage and learn more about the man who served as the 34th President of the United States.
We want to thank the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Abilene Visitors Bureau for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Exploring The Grounds
We arrived at opening time and made our way to the Visitors Center. After getting our tickets, we had a few minutes to kill prior to our tour of the Eisenhower Boyhood Home. We wandered around the grounds and noticed it was very much a park-like setting. Nice shaded spots allowed visitors places to escape the morning sun, while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. We took time to take a few selfies, which we are trying to get better at. It was a great way to start off our morning.
The Eisenhower family moved into the six-room house in 1898, and here David and Ida raised their six sons. Tours of the home are pre-scheduled, so each group of visitors gets a personalized visit. While we waited for our turn, we noted how small the home would have been for such a sizable family. We could almost picture Ida shooing the boys outside, so that she could get the house straightened up. We would later find out that Ida lived here until the time of her death in 1946.
The interior has been maintained as it was when the family donated it to the Eisenhower Foundation. The furnishings are original, although some have been moved to make room for tours to pass through. As we made our way through the home, our guide pointed out artifacts and pictures that were specific to the family’s history. The tour is well presented, so be sure to leave time for it when you visit.
Renovation in Progress
The Eisenhower Presidential Museum is currently undergoing renovation, and will reopen in 2019. For the time being, a large collection of memorabilia has been relocated to the Eisenhower Presidential Library. (If you visit this year, your tickets will allow a reentry after the museum reopens.) In the main entry hall of the library there is a display set up, which shows the planned displays in the newly renovated space. We kept our tickets for a revisit. After all, it’s just a short drive to Abilene from our hometown of Kansas City.
We made our way into the main exhibit area and found it laid out as a chronological timeline of Ike’s life. This is a great way to display this type of museum, as it helps the visitors better grasp the upbringing and world events that shaped him. The timeline also feature Mamie (Doud) Eisenhower’s life, which intersected with Ike’s when they met in Texas. They wed prior to his deployment in WWI and would end up moving over 30 times during their life together.
The War Years
Dwight Eisenhower lived during a period that saw two world wars and he served in both. During the first world war, he spent his time stateside in charge of training various groups. His multiple requests to be transferred to active duty overseas were thwarted until the very end. He finally received orders to head to France, but the Armistice was signed just a week prior to his deployment. Between the wars, he would spend his career time working with the tank divisions. His ideas for revolutionizing tank warfare were met with great reluctance from his superiors. As the world marched into WWII, Eisenhower’s role would greatly expand.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the government moved quickly to develop a strategy for the two pronged war. In 1942, Ike was assigned the role of Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the North African Theater of Operations. Here his leadership skills would be challenged by Germany’s General Rommel. After securing this arena, President Roosevelt determined that Eisenhower would be made Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The displays in the temporary gallery walk visitors through the highlights of Ike’s career in the military, and include a nice assortment of artifacts from these periods.
I Like Ike
As we made our way through the timeline, we passed from his military career into his presidential period. Eisenhower was not as interested in running for the presidential office as some of those around him. He received pressure from many, but it was the urging of a fellow Midwesterner that finally convinced him. President Harry S. Truman had requested Ike run earlier and he jumped into the fray wholeheartedly in June of 1952. Much to the chagrin of the Democrats, Ike switched parties and ran as a Republican. Eisenhower would go on to serve two terms as the last president to have been born in the 19th century. His political career was unusual, in that he had never served in an elected office prior to the presidency.
With a better understanding of this remarkable Kansan, we were ready to head to our next destination. While we were a little disappointed to find the museum under renovations, we completely understand the reasoning. We are looking forward to making a return visit to see the new exhibits when they reopen. Until then, we are satisfied with having the chance to get to know our 34th president a little better. In the words of Ike, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.” Be sure to make plans to visit Abilene, Kansas and see for yourself why Eisenhower loved his hometown.