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Please note that the following is a digitized version of a selected article from White House History Quarterly, Issue 52, originally released in print form in 2019. Single print copies of the full issue can be purchased online at Shop.WhiteHouseHistory.org No part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photographs contained in this journal unless otherwise noted are copyrighted by the White House Historical Association and may not be reproduced without permission. Requests for reprint permissions should be directed to rights@whha.org. Contact books@whha.org for more information. Š 2019 White House Historical Association. All rights reserved under international copyright conventions.


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PRESIDENTIAL SITES Quarterly Feature

A COTTAGE in Denison, Texas The Birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower LONN TAYLOR

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previous spread

An early twentiethcentury photograph captures Eisenhower’s birthplace in Denison, Texas, after his family had relocated to Abilene, Kansas. left

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separated by a central hallway, with a one-story ell on the back containing a dining room and kitchen, and a porch across the front. Three handsome gables with single windows rose above the porch, providing light for the upstairs rooms. The house was in a working-class neighborhood, and a railroad track ran just 60 feet away, over which fifteen to twenty trains a day trundled by. The house had no running water or indoor plumbing. When Jennie Jackson learned from Eisenhower’s mother that Denison was indeed the general’s birthplace, she launched a campaign to purchase the house and create what the Dallas Morning News called a “shrine” to the general. The Denison Garden Club formed a committee to raise the funds, and with the support of Mayor W. L. Ashburn, the city of Denison purchased the property from E. H. Mullen, in January 1946 with the intention of beautifying the grounds and furnishing the house to the period of the 1890s but making no structural changes to the building.

B O T H I M A G E S T H I S PA G E : N A T I O N A L A R C H I V E S PREVIOUS SPREAD: TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION

dwight david eisenhower was the first U.S. president born in Texas, but he did not know that he was born in Texas until he was a grown man. His family was from Kansas. They had lived in Denison, Texas, for three years, between April 1889 and March 1892, and Ike was born there. They moved back to Kansas when he was two years old, and he always assumed that he was born in Kansas. During World War II, when he was supreme allied commander in Europe, he received a letter from a retired Denison school principal, Miss Jennie Jackson, asking if he was related to the Eisenhowers who had lived across the street from her in Denison in the early 1890s. Eisenhower forwarded the letter to his mother, who told him that he was indeed born in Denison, in a frame cottage that his parents were renting while his father was working as a wiper cleaning machinery in the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway roundhouse nearby. The modest six-room, story-and-a-half gabled house on the corner of Lamar and Day Streets that the Eisenhowers rented, and in which Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, was built in 1877 as a rental property by William Henry Harrison Schuck, a Civil War veteran from Iowa who worked at the Lone Star Mill in Denison. It changed owners several times, once while the Eisenhowers were renting it, but it remained a rental property until 1915, when it was sold to a family named Mullen, who occupied it for the next three decades. When the Eisenhowers lived there the house was a standard southern I-type: two rooms downstairs separated by a central hallway, in which there was a staircase leading to two upstairs rooms, also

The earliest known photograph of the future President Eisenhower was taken in 1893 with three of his brothers. Dwight Eisenhower is seen in the front right. His parents, David and Ida, posed for this wedding photograph in 1885.

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right

These plans were under way when Eisenhower visited the house on April 20, 1946, accompanied by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and seven other congressmen. According to the Dallas Morning News, Miss Jennie Jackson was in the hallway to greet the general with outstretched arms. “So this is Miss Jennie,” he said. “It’s certainly nice to see you.” “It’s nice to see you, too, Dwight,” Miss Jackson answered, and the general gave her a big hug. Eisenhower and the other guests then sat down to a breakfast of ham, eggs, biscuits, toast, flapjacks, relish, strawberries, and coffee hosted by Miss Jackson in the dining room. Afterward there was a parade through town, and the general spoke to a crowd of ten thousand people. Eisenhower returned to Denison and the birthplace in June 1952, during his first campaign for president, and again rode in a parade and made a speech. He returned once more in 1965, after his retirement, when he dedicated the Eisenhower Auditorium at Denison High School. The Dallas Morning News

columnist Frank Tolbert once quoted Eisenhower as saying that “he could be called a Texan if a kitten born in an oven could be called a biscuit,” but he always spoke proudly of his Texas heritage when he was in Denison.

T O P : H A N K WA L K E R / T H E L I F E P I C T U R E C O L L E C T I O N / G E T T Y I M A G E S BOTTOM: ALAMY

After an absence of more than fifty years, Eisenhower returned to Denison in 1946 accompanied by the Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Then, and again in 1952 ( far right) while campaigning for president, he addressed large crowds and rode in a parade. He spoke proudly of his Texas heritage during the visits.

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From its opening in 1946, the Eisenhower Birthplace was staffed by volunteers and was open to the public only on Sunday afternoons, but in December 1952, a month after Eisenhower’s election as president (he was the second Republican candidate in history to carry Texas), Fred Conn, editor of the Denison Herald, established the Eisenhower Foundation to purchase additional land around the house and transform it into a national tourist attraction. A year later Conn announced that the foundation, now renamed the Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation, would launch a statewide fund-raising effort under the leadership of Fort Worth lawyer Web Maddox, with Eisenhower’s longtime friends and political supporters Amon Carter, publisher of the Fort

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Worth Star-Telegram, and legendary oilman Sid Richardson serving as honorary co-chairs. With Carter’s and Richardson’s backing, the new foundation quickly raised the funds needed to acquire sixteen parcels of land around the house. The foundation moved or demolished the structures on them and landscaped the newly acquired land as a park, giving the urban dwelling a near-rural setting. It also brought in Fort Worth architect Joseph Pelich to examine the birthplace, which Web Maddox described as “about to fall down.” Pelich determined that several changes had been made to the structure after the Eisenhowers had moved away, and the foundation authorized the removal of a narrow addition along the side of the ell, a reorientation of the staircase, the replacement

Eisenhower’s Birthplace at the corner of Larmar and Day Streets in 2014.

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ALL IMAGES THIS SPREAD: TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION

Clockwise from top left: The dining area, kitchen, main bedroom, and parlor in the Eisenhower Birthplace as they are arranged today for public view.

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State of Texas acquiring the president’s birthplace. The acquisition was delayed until the fall of 1958, when the Eisenhower Birthplace officially became a Texas State Park. In 2008 the administration of the property, along with a number of other historic sites overseen by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was transferred to another state agency, the Texas Historical Commission. Today the Eisenhower Birthplace is officially the Eisenhower Birthplace Texas Historic Site, open six days a week with a staff of four full-time and two half-time employees and receiving some fourteen thousand visitors per year.

AP IMAGES

of the window sashes, changes to the front balustrade and porch, and changes to the south and east elevations of the rear ell. This work was carried out in 1956 by a local contractor, Mickey Guise, and a local architect, Donald Mayes. In 1957 Governor Price Daniel recommended that the Texas Parks Board (now the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) acquire the entire site, and at its August 1957 meeting the Parks Board voted to do so. The next month President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce desegregation at Central High School, and the Parks Board was deluged with letters from members of the public who objected to the

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A float boasting of Eisenhower’s Texas birth and bearing a replica of his family home in Denison moves past the U.S. Capitol in the president’s inaugural parade, January 1953. right

TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION

In July 1973, Julie Nixon Eisenhower unveiled this bronze sculpture by Robert Lee Dean Jr. of her fatherin-law, which stands within the Eisenhower Birthplace State Park. The president is portrayed in uniform as he appeared during World War II. The inscription reads “This memorial is dedicated to young people everywhere that they may be inspired to greatness by the example of our most distinguished son, Dwight David Eisenhower.”

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White House History Quarterly 52 - Mid-Century Fashion - Taylor  

White House History Quarterly 52 - Mid-Century Fashion - Taylor  

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