President Eisenhower was always a “country boy” at heart and in 1955 he was able to obtain 189 acres where he maintained a successful farm with partners under the name of Eisenhower Farms. My husband and I were privileged to visit that farm recently and enjoyed a tour around Ike’s playground.
The tour began with the 1887 bank-style barn, which held hay and straw on the upper floor. In the middle 1950’s the lower level became a stall for the horses and ponies kept for his grandchildren. The strobe light in the barn’s south window was installed after Ike’s presidency as an emergency aid for helicopter pilots. My husband viewed some of Ike’s farm machinery on display here.
The small, two-room guest house, called “the Little House” was once a garage. Young David Eisenhower called this site “home” for a summer while he worked on the farm as a farmhand for his grandfather.
Marking a guardhouse site, a concrete pad stands as evidence of several places that staffed secret service agents at the farm. These were inhabited for protection from 1955 to 1961, resuming again after President Kennedy’s assassination.
The brick barbeque was a favorite spot of Ike’s. He loved to cook and was a perfectionist. He didn’t have to ring the farm’s dinner bell twice for his guests.
When Eisenhower stayed at his farm as President, the flagpole displayed a Presidential standard as well as the stars and stripes. After leaving the White House, he was reinstated as General of the Army and proudly flew the five-star flag, now a symbol of Ike at Gettysburg.
The next interesting item on the tour is the brass “Frisco Bell” presented to Eisenhower by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company. We were told that the grandchildren loved to ring the bell but Mrs. Mamie was always afraid the people of Gettysburg would think there was a fire!
We stopped to visit at the putting green, complete with sand trap! It was installed in the 1950’s for the famous presidential golfer by the Professional Golfers Association.
Once a chicken house, the garage later housed vehicles, a walk-in meat cooler and the chauffeur’s apartment. I was most delighted at the modern “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” parked in one stall. The Eisenhowers used it to show guests around the farm.
We returned to the reception center that has exhibits of Eisenhower’s life, a video program and a bookstore that helps share the story of the remarkable “farm boy” as well as our President.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
National Park Service, US Dept. of the Interior