Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site Capital Improvements Project
Why Eisenhower Birthplace, and Why Now?
The Texas Historical Commission is dedicated to telling the real stories of real Texans through the real places they happened–the most impactful way to tell a story. The stories about President Eisenhower's birthplace neighborhood, family, and friends, illuminate a larger narrative about what was occurring in Texas and across the country at the time, and about the circumstances that shaped the little boy and man who would eventually become President.
Today the birthplace house is mostly all that is left of the once-active and diverse neighborhood that surrounded it. The historic site is in need of significant restoration and renovations to fully and effectively tell President Eisenhower’s story, to share the impact of his achievements on today's world, and to illustrate for visitors what life was like in a working-class neighborhood in the late 1800s.
A Leader is Born
On October 14th, 1890, Ida Eisenhower gave birth to a baby boy in Denison, Texas, in a modest frame house a stones throw from the railroad track. The family lived in a working-class neighborhood on the town's east side. That boy would, 63 years later and after decades of notable achievements, become the 34th President of the United States, and the first from Texas.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was born to David and Ida as their third son. Eisenhower's father came to Denison, then a booming railroad town of 11,000, to work on the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (KATY) railroad. Relatively new to Denison, the Eisenhowers relied on their friends and neighbors. Years later, James Redmon, a railroad engineer who rented a room from the Eisenhower family, recounted the night Dwight Eisenhower was born:
“Several women had gathered in to do what they could as they did in those days. […] I was the only available man on the place with the exception of the husband, and so I hustled out of my apartment and went for the physician. […] It was a cold night in October, the fourteenth, when the birth took place. He was the only baby in the locality for a while and many of the neighbors came in and nursed the little fellow and kept ‘company’ for Mrs. Eisenhower.”
Miss Jennie Jackson, a young school teacher who lived across the street, visited the Eisenhower family often, helping Ida Eisenhower with the newborn Dwight and his older brothers. About 50 years later when that newborn was a man making headlines, Miss Jackson raised awareness within the community about the significance of the birthplace home and spearheaded efforts to preserve it. In 1946, the City of Denison purchased the property, and on October 14th, 1953 (on Ike's birthday), the Eisenhower Birthplace Foundation was established to raise funds for restoration. Ownership was transferred to the State Park Board (now Texas Parks and Wildlife) in 1958, and in 2008, the birthplace and the surrounding acreage were transferred to the Texas Historical Commission (THC).
To better tell the early Eisenhower family story and make the site more accessible to all, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) is planning a number of capital improvements. It is the THC’s aim to fully and accurately represent the birthplace house in context, both physically and historically. The City of Denison is rolling out the implementation of its Downtown Masterplan–Designing Downtown Denison (D3), and the THC's goal is to connect the Eisenhower Birthplace to the city's original business district, allowing better visibility and enhanced access to this unique historical resource to visitors and residents alike. Towards that end, the proposed site improvements include:
Development of lost neighborhood footprints, which will provide visitors, through detailed interpretation, with a clearer sense of the scale and complexity of the neighborhood and the families that lived there;
Restoration and relocation of the sculpture plaza, with associated exhibits, landscaping, and enhanced access;
New entrance with vehicular and pedestrian improvements to allow for improved access and visitor experience, and paved with dirt-colored surface to resemble the once unpaved roads; landscaping and lighting improvements;
Development of the rail car plaza to better reflect the historical context of the site; and
Updated indoor interpretive exhibits in the birthplace house and the visitors’ center, illustrating the story of the Eisenhower family, General and President Eisenhower's accomplishments, and the story of the neighborhood and larger city of Denison
The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission is honored to partner with the Texas Historical Commission on this critical preservation project. We are also privileged to work with a group of dynamic community leaders–the Eisenhower Birthplace Fundraising Advisory Committee–to build awareness about the site and the preservation needs.
The total cost of the restoration, outdoor exhibits and interpretation, and accessbility improvements is $2.02 million. Once the capital improvements are complete, the THC will continue to fund site operations through its biennial legislative appropriation, supplemented by public-private partnerships and the efforts of local volunteers.
Please join us in preserving this important chapter of United States and Texas history for future generations.