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Contact: Ahna Wilson, 717-338-4411
The National Park Service at the Eisenhower National Historic Site and the Gettysburg Foundation invite you to celebrate this holiday season at the home and farm of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower. The Eisenhower home will be decorated for Christmas, December 1 through 31, 2015. The celebration includes a holiday reception on Saturday, December 12 complete with cider and cookies courtesy of Gettysburg Tours, Inc. The Eisenhower nativity dioramas, exhibited in the East Room of the White House during his presidency, will be on display in the lobby of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. A set of Mamie's Christmas China, a recent donation to the Gettysburg Foundation by the Eisenhower family, will also be displayed in the lobby of the Museum and Visitor Center.
Mamie Eisenhower loved to decorate their only home for Christmas. As White House Chief Usher J. B. West said, "Mamie Eisenhower decked the halls with more than holly." Her hand is evident in the home's recreated decorations, complete with mistletoe, wreaths, and poinsettias. A brightly lit, candy cane-covered Christmas tree surrounded by presents illuminates the living room. A life-sized Santa Claus enlivens the casual atmosphere of the Eisenhowers' porch while, in the kitchen, gifts of sugar cookies and plum pudding await the arrival of the Eisenhower grandchildren. The Eisenhowers' Christmas records playing in the background and the dining room table set for Christmas dinner add to the holiday atmosphere.
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower owned a set of Christmas china made in England for sale in Plummer Ltd., a New York City store that went out of business in 1962. It was a large set with service for 24 and had an image of a decorated Christmas tree with presents underneath on all the pieces. Several pieces of this Christmas china can be seen on display in the lobby of the Museum and Visitor Center from December 1 through 31. The set also includes serving pieces. The platter and serving bowl have the same maker's mark as the place setting. Mrs. Eisenhower must have added to the set later since the cake stand and 3-tier server have different maker's marks, Barrington Ironstone and Bertson House Ltd.
Mrs. Eisenhower later gave her set of Christmas china to her daughter-in-law Barbara Eisenhower, likely in the 1970s. In a 1983 interview, Barbara said, "I love that Christmas china. … It's that one that was made by Plummer's in New York and it's just a little Christmas tree…very old-fashioned."
The Eisenhowers' specially designed White House Christmas cards are on exhibit, along with Christmas gift prints of the President's paintings. One of the original decorations from the first family on display is a 1950s handmade Christmas shadow box. Park interpreters are on hand to share Eisenhower family recollections of Christmas in Gettysburg.
The three Nativity dioramas on display in the lobby of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center were gifts to the Eisenhowers from Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn. Handcrafted by artists Winfred S. Hyatt and Hanna Weil Fischer-Binder with additional work by Bryn Athyn Studios of Building &Architectural Arts run by Mr. Pitcairn, the first diorama depicting the manger scene was presented to the Eisenhowers in 1954. In 1957, two additional scenes depicting the shepherds and wise men were crafted and presented. The Eisenhowers displayed the dioramas each year through 1960 in the East Room of the White House.
Before leaving the White House, Mrs. Eisenhower gave the dioramas to the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. The church displayed them each year at Christmas until they renovated in 1994. Donated to the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the dioramas were displayed annually until one was damaged in 2000. Thanks to a generous donation by the Gettysburg Foundation and others, the newly repaired and conserved dioramas will be exhibited as they were at the Eisenhower White House.
The Eisenhower National Historic Site is open daily with shuttle buses leaving the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $5.00 for youth ages 6 -12;children age 5 and under are admitted free. Advance reservations are available and highly recommended for groups. Reservations can be made by calling 877-874-2478.
For the holiday reception on December 12, shuttle buses will depart from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center on the hour between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Please note: the last bus departs the Museum and Visitor Center for the Eisenhower Site at 4:00 p.m. The Site is closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
For more information contact the Eisenhower National Historic Site at 717/ 338-9114 or visit the website at www.nps.gov/eise`