The sun porch at the Eisenhower National Historic Site

photo by: Scott Suchman

Preservation Magazine, Summer 2022

The Eisenhowers' Escape is Back in Business With a Few New Touches

Two years before he was elected the 34th president of the United States in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, purchased the only home they would ever own together—a Pennsylvania farmhouse right next to Gettysburg Battlefield. The couple donated the site to the National Park Service in 1967 but kept it as their residence until President Eisenhower died in 1969, and Mamie chose to live there until her death a decade later. The bucolic property, now a National Historic Site, features cattle barns, a skeet range, and views of South Mountain.

The house reopened for tours over Memorial Day weekend in 2022, after two years of pandemic closure. But its staff kept busy with improvements during the shutdown, including replacing the building’s 1955 HVAC system. “It’s much more efficient than what we had before,” says Michael Florer, the site’s curator.

Florer and his team also took the opportunity to conserve or reproduce some of the house’s original furnishings. Conservators repaired the burgundy silk cushioning on a set of 14 Jacobean-style dining chairs that were last reupholstered in the 1950s. The site also purchased two new West Point chairs from the former president’s alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy, to match the pair already on display in the den.

And the curators commissioned reproductions of two wool Bokhara rugs for the house’s sun porch (shown). Members of the Eisenhower family loaned them the originals to help with the reproduction process. “The rugs were gifts during Ike’s administration,” Florer says—one from the prime minister of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, in 1958; the other, from the country’s King Mohammad Zahir Shah in 1959. The new versions were woven in Nepal and now grace the white-walled porch, where the former president often painted landscapes, portraits, and still lifes.

Editor's note: This story was updated on October 25, 2022.

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

mdrueding@savingplaces.org @mdrueding

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