Sixty years ago on July 29, Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the idea of NASA to Congress. That same year the Eisenhower Birthplace Museum was established in Denison.
The house that sits at 609 S. Lamar Avenue in Denison was given to the Eisenhower Birthplace site by the Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation on Oct. 3, 1958. The site will honor that date this year with an open house, refreshments and free tours of the site.
“October 3rd is the 60th anniversary of the Eisenhower Birthplace becoming a state historic site,” Eisenhower Birthplace Site Manage John Akers explained via email. “The State of Texas received the site in 1958. Originally operated by Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Texas Historical Commission has cared for the site since 2008. October 3, 1958, was when the Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation donated the site to the State of Texas. This was the last step on behalf of the citizens of Denison and north Texas to acquire and preserve the house.”
The process of getting the house back into the hands of the the state of Texas took decades.
“These efforts began during World War II when General Eisenhower was sent to Europe and the press wanted to know where he was from,” Akers said. “The town purchased the house, with community support, and opened it as a museum in 1946. The Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation formed in 1953, shortly after Eisenhower became president.”
A city’s history is a big part of what makes that place different from other places.
“Think about Denison and Sherman,” Akers said. “The reasons for founding each place and the things that happened shaped each in different ways. Choices made or not also shape a place. History helps explain what we see today and the choices we made as a city. These differences also attract visitors or heritage tourists who are interested in what makes a particular place different. The Eisenhower Birthplace helps to tell the story of Denison as the site is located in what was once a working class neighborhood near the railroad yards. The railroad brought Dwight Eisenhower’s father to Denison as well as many others.”
Top things that Akers said people should know about Eisenhower’s life start with his connection to Denison.
“Dwight Eisenhower was the first Texas-born President of the United States,” he said. “While there have been four U.S. presidents with a Texas connection, only two were born in the state. The other was Lyndon B. Johnson. Texans were full of pride when Dwight Eisenhower ran for President in 1952 and he carried the state that year and in his re-election in 1956.”
Akers also said we continue to experience Eisenhower’s legacy in our daily lives, even though his presidency was 60 years ago.
“Most of us probably travel on the nation’s interstate highways on a regular basis,” he said. “He signed the legislation creating the interstate highway system in 1956. Today there are over 48,000 miles of highways in the system. President George H.W. Bush signed legislation in 1989 that renamed the system for Eisenhower. Travelers can see blue signs with five stars at rest stops throughout the state identifying the Eisenhower Interstate System.”
People should also know that Eisenhower’s story is very relatable and he is proof that humble beginnings can turn into great accomplisments.
“He once said that growing up, he didn’t know that his family was considered poor,” Akers said. “That was not unusual as many Americans were not born in wealth. Yet he graduated from high school, got a free college education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, had a successful career in the military and was our 34th President of the United States.”
Eisenhower had a great sense of duty to his nation.
“There is an inscription on the side of his statue at the Eisenhower Birthplace, ‘This memorial is dedicated to young people everywhere, that they may be inspired to greatness by the example of our most distinguished so, Dwight D. Eisenhower,’” Akers said. “Every student who visits the Eisenhower Birthplace reads that inscription.”
In preparation of the anniversary this year, the house was repapered and the inside was repainted in September of last year.
“Visitors will now see typical wallpaper patterns and paint colors from the 1880s,” Akers explained. “We repainted the outside of the house in November. We also removed most of the old sidewalk around the house. It’s time to visit the Eisenhower Birthplace if you have not been there for a while.”