Thursday, September 1, 2011


Our drive across eastern Colorado and western Kansas was uneventful. Our overnight in Ellis, Kansas was as peaceful as could be. (We simply love that campground!) From Ellis we made our way along very familiar I-70 to Salina to rest up for a couple of days. Paul's sister and brother-in-law took a break from work today and, despite the scorching 100-plus degree heat, the four of us made a trip to nearby Abilene, which is the boyhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Before Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected the 34th President of the United States, he was a five-star general in the U.S. Army. He resigned his commission as General of the Army before his inauguration, but it was reinstated after he left office. Between the two prestigious positions, Eisenhower said he always thought of himself as a general. So, it seems fitting that this commanding sculpture of the general stands guard over the museum campus.

Like Abilene, the Eisenhower campus is quiet and peaceful. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie are buried in the Place of Meditation on the campus, behind the Visitors Center. All of the modern buildings on the campus are constructive of native Kansas limestone.

The Presidential Library houses an archive of documents and audio-visual materials spanning the Eisenhower's life. This has been a record-breaking year at the library, which has been visited by more than 800 scholars who have come here to conduct research.

The Library's second floor houses temporary exhibits. The current installation highlights the Wonders of Kansas. (It just so happens that the Eisenhower Library and Museum is one of the top eight wonders!) As native Kansans, we found this exhibit fun and informative.

The 8 Wonders of Kansas project was designed "to help the world get to know Kansas" by selecting eight of the state's best art, architecture, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history and people from 218 finalists. One of the top eight Kansas customs is Chanting a School Fight Song in (You guessed it.) Lawrence. Rock Chalk!

Speaking of Jayhawks, one of the eight Wonders of People in Kansas is James Naismith, who started the basketball program at our beloved alma mater right after he invented the game.

We picked up a map that plots the locations of all 218 finalists in this stately competition. This could keep us roaming around Kansas for awhile! (Click here to create your own map. Then, come to Kansas!)

Across from the Eisenhower Presidential Library sits the Eisenhower Museum. We've been to several Presidential Libraries in our travels, and we've yet to see one in the shadow of a grain elevator!

The museum houses several permanent galleries, including a military gallery, which chronicles the history of World War II. This area of the gallery featured personal accounts of the war as written in letters and diaries of soldiers and family members.

This display featured the living room of a typical home in the booming suburbs of 1950's America. Televisions, telephones and home decor have come a long way in the last 50 years!

Eisenhower enacted the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which paved the way (pardon the pun) for the Interstate Highway System. As frequent travelers on this nationwide span of more than 46,000 miles of highway, we appreciate President Eisenhower's efforts.

One of the things we enjoy when we visit museums like this is seeing replicas of Presidential offices. While other museums feature replicas of a President's Oval Office, the Eisenhower Museum displays a replica of the retired general's office in the first couple's first permanent home in Gettysburg, PA.

The library and museum are built around Eisenhower's childhood home, a white clapboard with a cedar shingle roof that is typical for a 19th century Midwestern home. The Eisenhower family resided here from 1898 until 1946.

Today the house is furnished to reflect the decades the Eisenhower's lived here. This room is the back parlor, which was used by the family on a daily basis. These days, it would probably be referred to as a family room.

After our tour, we enjoyed lunch at Kirby House, a lovely restaurant in a restored 1885 mansion near the center of Abilene. And, of course, we made time for a bit of shopping, too.

Despite the heat, we enjoyed our day in Ike's hometown. Many thanks to Susan and Doug for making it a great day!

1 comment:

E Squared and Mui said...

We stopped at the Boyhood Home when we were relocating from Utah to Virginia in 1991 -- didn't have much time to explore, so we'll have to go back when we get on the road.