Introduction to Every Leader
Being There: Encountering America's Presidents
34th President of the United States, 1953-1961
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary

Eisenhower National Historic Site

President Eisenhower and
President Eisenhower and
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
at Camp David, September 25, 1959
United States Navy

Eisenhower National Historic Site is the only home Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, ever owned.  Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, loved their weekend, later retirement home adjoining the Gettysburg Battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The farm also provided a relaxed atmosphere for meetings with international leaders during the Cold War.  A hero of World War II and a five-star general, Eisenhower won the presidential election in 1952 with the help of an irresistible slogan, “I Like Ike,” and an instantly recognizable smile.  The Cold War dominated his two terms in office, but his moderate Republican domestic policies left permanent marks on the nation.  Today the virtually unchanged house, furnishings, landscape, and views at Eisenhower National Historic Site offer an intimate look into the lives of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower.

Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Texas on October 14, 1890, but grew up in Kansas.  The nickname he got in school, “Ike,” stayed with him for the rest of his life.  Attracted by the free education the military academies provided, he applied to West Point and received an appointment in 1911.  He graduated in the top half of his class in 1915. A year later, he married Mamie Geneva Doud, whom he met in Texas on his first assignment as a second lieutenant.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Eisenhower hoped for duty overseas.  Instead, he spent the war setting up and commanding a new tank training center at Camp Colt, located on the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Eisenhower rose rapidly through a series of staff jobs.  When World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, he started to earn promotions—and stars—at record speed.  Eisenhower commanded the Allied invasions of North Africa and Italy, and in December 1943, he became Supreme Allied Commander for “Operation Overlord,” the invasion of mainland Europe.  On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he directed the Allied landings on the beaches at Normandy. Eleven months later, he accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, ending the war in Europe.  By then a five-star general of the Army, Eisenhower served three years as Army chief of staff in Washington.  He retired from active duty in 1948 to become president of Columbia University.

When Eisenhower and Mamie wanted to find a retirement home, they remembered their happy early-married life at Camp Colt and looked for a farm in the Gettysburg area.  The Gettysburg Battlefield was another attraction.  Eisenhower loved military history since his childhood and studied the strategy of the battle in depth at West Point.  He also liked the convenient location between Washington, DC and New York City.  The Eisenhowers purchased the 189-acre farm adjoining the battlefield in 1950, but new responsibilities prevented them from living there for four years.

The porch of the Eisenhower home
The porch of the Eisenhower home
Eisenhower National Historic Site

In December 1950, President Truman called Eisenhower out of retirement to command the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Upon his return to the United States, the enormously popular war hero decided to run for president as a Republican.  Eisenhower easily defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson, as he would again in 1956.  This was the first Republican victory in a presidential election since Herbert Hoover beat Al Smith in 1928. 

The Eisenhowers began rebuilding the house at Gettysburg shortly after the election.  The architects found a decaying 200-year old log cabin inside the walls of the existing house.  Mamie asked them to save and reuse what they could of the old timbers and other building materials.  The finished house was a “modified Georgian farmhouse,” with eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a formal living room, dining room, kitchen and butler’s pantry, and glassed-in porch with a view of the mountains.  The porch was their favorite room. Gifts to the Eisenhowers filled the house.

Eisenhower was a man of many interests. He enjoyed playing golf and painting, especially portraits and landscapes. The Eisenhowers added gardens, paths, a skeet-shooting range, a teahouse, and a putting green with a sand trap. They converted the old garage northwest of the main house into a guesthouse.  The Secret Service adapted a concrete milk house attached to the barn for their office.  The immediate grounds also include a large stock barn and various utility structures.  Eisenhower started a successful cattle enterprise, Eisenhower Farms, during his presidency. The business included 189 acres of Eisenhower’s land and 306 adjoining acres owned by partners.

Ike and Mamie accepting an anniversary gift
Ike and Mamie accepting an anniversary gift
from White House staff in the back yard of their Gettysburg home July 1, 1955
Eisenhower National Historic Site

On July 1, 1955, the Eisenhowers invited the entire White House staff to the house to celebrate both its completion and their wedding anniversary.  Later that year Eisenhower had a major heart attack, and the farm became the “Temporary White House” during his recuperation.  He started spending more time at the farm after he returned to work, often bringing foreign dignitaries there after meeting with them at nearby Camp David.  Visitors included former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Prime Minster Nehru of India, Chancellor Adenauer of West Germany, and French President De Gaulle.  He always showed them his prize herd of Angus cattle, of which he was very proud. 

From the Korean War at the beginning of his two terms to the U-2 spy plane incident at the end, the Cold War dominated Eisenhower’s presidency.  By 1953, both the Soviet Union and the United States possessed nuclear arms, and many people feared that a nuclear war might break out between the two super powers.  Eisenhower did what he could to reduce tensions.  Honoring a campaign pledge, he brought about an armistice in the Korean conflict.  He repeatedly sought an agreement with the Soviets to reduce nuclear arms.  In 1953, he proposed an "Atoms for Peace," program for the peaceful use of atomic energy in developing countries.  Stalin's death in that same year raised hopes for “peaceful co-existence.”  In 1955, Eisenhower proposed his ‘Open Skies’ plan to the first Geneva Summit meeting between heads of state from Britain, France, the United States, and Russia.  The proposal called for an international aerial monitoring system of nuclear weapons. Although the Russians rejected the proposal, the conference did improve relations between the two countries.  In September 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as premier, visited President Eisenhower at the farm for informal meetings, but that produced only a brief thaw in the Cold War.

For most Americans the “Spirit of Geneva” ended with the brutal Soviet suppression of a revolt in Hungary in 1956.  Concerned about Soviet influence in the Middle East, the president and John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, announced the “Eisenhower Doctrine,” which provided economic and military aid to help the countries in that area resist communism.  The launch of “Sputnik,” the first earth satellite, suggested that Soviet military capability might be greater than had previously been thought.  The capture of a U-2 reconnaissance jet over Soviet territory in 1960 caused Khrushchev to end a summit meeting taking place in Paris and to cancel Eisenhower’s planned visit to Russia.  The Cold War was at the forefront of the 1960 election.  In 1961, Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba, because of its close relationship with the Soviet Union.

Domestically, Eisenhower worked with a Democratic Congress to pass many bills continuing New Deal and Fair Deal programs.  He supported the expansion of Social Security and Federal aid for health assistance and educational programs and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  He signed the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956.  He balanced the Federal budget.  In one of his last speeches as president, he warned the country about the dangers posed by the huge “military-industrial complex” that had grown out of the protracted crisis of the Cold War.

The mantel plaque reads:"In 1854 this mantel was installed in the White House and was in use there during the terms of five presidents, until 1873.
The mantel plaque reads:
"In 1854 this mantel was installed in the White House and was in use there during the terms of five presidents, until 1873.
Presented to the PRESIDENT AND MRS. EISENHOWER on their 38th wedding anniversary July 1, 1954 BY MEMBERS OF THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF."
Eisenhower National Historic Site

The 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared segregation of schools unconstitutional led to a new emphasis on civil rights.  Eisenhower had already extended Truman’s policy of desegregating the Armed Forces.  In 1957, he proposed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.  Congress approved most of his recommendations in the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which provided, among other things, for the formation of a permanent Civil Rights Commission.  In that same year, the president sent Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect black students newly enrolled in formerly all-white Little Rock High School.  In 1960, he sponsored another civil rights bill providing voting registration protection for blacks.  He wrote, “There must be no second class citizens in this country."

In 1961, Eisenhower retired to the Gettysburg farm, although he stayed busy meeting political and business associates and writing his memoirs. He served as an elder statesman, advising presidents and meeting world leaders. The Eisenhowers’ greatest joy was spending time on their farm with family and friends.

Eisenhower and his wife donated their home and farm to the National Park Service in 1967.  He died two years later, at the age of 78.  His wife continued to live on the farm until her death in 1979.  The National Park Service opened the site to the public in 1980.  Visitors can see the house and grounds and the barns.  The house retains almost all its original furnishings, including an Italian marble mantelpiece in the living room salvaged during an 1873 renovation of the White House.

Plan your visit

The Eisenhower National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park, in Gettysburg, PA. The site includes 690 acres of farmland, meadows, pastures, and forest. Open daily: 9:00am to 4:00pm. The site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.  Visitors to the Eisenhower home must use a shuttle bus, which leaves from the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA. An admission/shuttle fee is charged.  A visit to the site begins with a 15-minute orientation tour of the grounds and farm operation, highlighting how the farm was used during Eisenhower’s presidency.  Self-guided walking tours are available year-round.  Ranger-conducted walks lasting 30 minutes are offered throughout the summer and during the spring and fall as staffing permits. Visit the National Park Service Eisenhower National Historic Site website for more information, including the shuttle schedule, or call 717- 338-9114 ext. 10.

The site is the subject of an online lesson plan, Thaw in the Cold War: Eisenhower and Khrushchev at Gettysburg. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

A number of buildings on Eisenhower’s farms have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey including the Eisenhower Farm One, Bank Barn; Eisenhower Farm Two, Bank Barn; and the Eisenhower Farm Two, Showbarn. For a virtual tour, visit the National Park Service Virtual Museum Exhibit on Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Next page
Comments or Questions

Itinerary Home | List of sites | Maps | Learn More | Credits | Other Itineraries | NR Home | Search