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Good For Kids
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There is a small chapel with the graves of Eisenhower and his wife.
Eisenhower Presidential Library
Closest available address
200 SE 4th Street Abilene, KS 67410
Open August - May 9:00am-4:45pm & June - July 8:00-5:45pm
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
The Eisenhower Presidential Library includes a library, museum, visitor center, chapel/gravesite, and the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. It’s located on a 22 acre site in Abilene, a small railroad town in Kansas where Eisenhower grew up. Construction of the library began in 1962 and was completed in 1966. Additional facilities were either built or expanded over the years. The building exteriors are made of a drab beige/grey Kansas limestone and have an inelegant institutional style that is typical of the architecture in the 1950s and 1960s.
Although he attained positions of significant leadership and influence in both military and civilian life, Dwight Eisenhower grew up in very modest circumstances. His parents instilled good core values though and also emphasized education. These qualities helped Eisenhower eventually to secure an appointment to West Point, which then led to his military career. World War II marked Eisenhower’s rapid ascension in both responsibilities and renown such that by the end of the war there was already talk of his running for president. He joined the Republican Party and was elected to two terms as president from 1953-1960. His time in office was generally one of peace and prosperity, even during the Cold War. Following his presidency, Eisenhower spent much of his remaining years quietly at his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He died in Washington, DC, in 1969. Popularly known as Ike, Eisenhower is remembered and admired for steady leadership, a calm demeanor, public service, and patriotism.
The primary attractions here are Eisenhower’s boyhood home and the main museum. There was a modest cost of $10 to see them during the visit in July 2015, but it’s a reasonable fee given the extent of information at the museum. Less interesting is the chapel where Eisenhower and his wife are buried and the visitor center/gift shop, although the biographical film about Eisenhower in the visitor center is worth watching; it provides a good perspective of his life. The library building typically has a temporary exhibit outside the main library areas which are used by researchers. The exhibit at the time focused on partisan resistance movements in World War II and was both interesting and detailed. There was also a detailed temporary exhibit in the main museum that focused on both significant events and lesser known aspects of World War II. As for the permanent museum collection, exhibits here included Eisenhower’s early years, a small section on his wife, a larger exhibit about his military service, especially during World War II, and a large section about his presidency. Of these the most interesting were the displays about World War II and some aspects of his presidency. The military area had an interesting model of an artificial port used after the D-day invasion and some other military equipment such as an artillery piece. The presidential gallery covered key aspects of the presidency, such as the Cold War and international relations. There were fewer exhibits on the domestic front and also limited multi-media exhibits. It should be noted that in 2016 a 10 month renovation and modernization plan is scheduled for the museum. While the museum could benefit from a face-lift, it still provided plenty of information and insight especially in regard to military affairs and international relations.
When visiting here it’s also worth a quick stop to see the boyhood home. A notable aspect of the home is that it became a museum shortly after Eisenhower’s mother died, so it appears virtually identically to how it looked when lived in. No pictures were permitted inside the house, but imagine a simple comfortable dwelling with standard rooms, appliances and decorations from the World War II era and you can get an idea. The house is shown by guided tour and only took about 20 minutes to view. It also was quite close to railroad tracks which are still in use and on which trains still blast their horns. The noise of the trains would have been a constant torment for anyone seeking rest or tranquility at the Eisenhower household.
Overall, this library slightly exceeded expectations. It rated well from an informational perspective, but it was not possible to read all the signs and displays even with a half day of time. Therefore, it’s wise to allocate a full day for a visit just in case you need it. The library will appeal most to those into history and government and the military. It will have less interest for kids, but may do better in this regard after the museum renovation in 2016.
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