While covering travel, I’ve explored quite a few Presidential sites in the United States. I’ve seen libraries, burial grounds, childhood homes, statues – and on it goes. The Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is one of my favorite Presidential destinations for one sole reason: it’s authentic.
Park Ranger Barb Sanders laughs as I tell her the Eisenhower’s home reminds me of Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate in Memphis. I explained that obviously the house doesn’t remind me of a rock and roll legend – but the fact that touring Graceland gives you a feeling that Elvis literally just stepped outside the house and could be coming back in at any moment. The Eisenhower home is exactly the same way. At least 95 percent of what you see inside the home is the way it was when he lived there. Unlike some other Presidential homes and properties – there aren’t reproductions or furniture that just resembled what was once there – it’s actually all of the Eisenhower’s stuff.
What’s most fascinating about visiting the property – you walk away with the feeling that General Eisenhower didn’t want to be President. We know he had to be convinced to run – even prodded some might say – but walking through the home – you really would never know that he was once President of the United States. Sure, there are gifts from world leaders spread around the estate – mainly in the living room where Mrs. Eisenhower liked to welcome special guests. Most of the home is very down to Earth – including the TV trays that the couple used to eat dinner many nights while Ike flipped through channels on his black and white TV in the sun room.
Many visitors enjoy the decorating style of Mamie Eisenhower – in perhaps a humorous or nostalgic way. Her love of all things pink is sensory overload as you tour the upstairs of the home – especially the bathroom and bedroom. A quick peek into the closet shows more pink towels and wash cloths than one person should be allowed to own.
The backside of the home has a garden area and my favorite – the place where Ike would BBQ – just like every other normal American. One thing every American probably can’t relate to however – a PGA approved and installed putting green in the back yard. Today, it’s still maintained as though the former President could show up at any minute to practice his putting.
Other highlights of the property include the Eisenhower farm, the landing pad for the Presidential helicopter (it’s just grass) and the barns and garage where you’ll find equipment and vehicles used by the family.
Visitors cannot drive directly to the property but instead must book a tour through the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and join a tour group that will arrive via shuttle bus. Most of the property can then be explored at your own pace – including the house. There’s a modest fee of $7.50 for Adults to visit.
It’s also interesting to note the subtle hints that the Secret Service once maintained a presence at the property. If you look close enough, you’ll see small holes that were drilled into buildings for cameras. The small shack that was once their office is still in tact. Protection for the property was still in full swing until Mrs. Eisenhower passed away in 1979.
Using the media player below – hear my interview with Park Ranger, Barb Sanders who shares tips for visiting the property as well as what guests will experience when they come to the Eisenhower Estate in Gettysburg, PA: