Eisenhower in Abilene title

Eisenhower in Abilene: 17 places to visit

Abilene, Kansas, is the home of Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. The pleasant city 130 miles west of Kansas City hosts the Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, as well as many other Eisenhower-related sites.

On June 22, 1945, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower returned to Abilene after the United States and its allies had triumphed over Nazism in Europe. The general was the European Theater’s Supreme Commander.

In his homecoming speech, Eisenhower proclaimed, “The proudest thing that I can say today is that I am from Abilene.” Abilene is still proud of him, and visitors can’t get far without seeing another reminder of Ike’s legacy.

First, we’ll tour the Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, then visit Eisenhower-related places in Abilene.

Eisenhower in the courtyard of his Abilene museum complex.
General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower’s statue wearing his Eisenhower jacket.

1. Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, Abilene

The Eisenhower Library complex covers the arc of his life from boyhood until he died in 1969. Coincidentally, the 34th President came from the 34th state.

Related: The Eisenhower Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home tops our North Central Kansas things-to-do list.

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Eisenhower Boyhood Home, Abilene
The Eisenhower brothers grew up in this home.

Boyhood Home

The David and Ida (Stover) Eisenhower family moved into their new Abilene home in 1898. After Ida died in 1946, her sons donated the house to the Eisenhower Foundation. The first tours began in 1947. The Eisenhowers were far from wealthy. Abilene’s elite lived north of the railroad tracks, not south of it like the Eisenhowers. 

Related: David and Ida met and married at Lane University in Lecompton.

Ida taught her boys to do typical male chores like caring for the chickens. Additionally, they also had to cook, sew, and do laundry – without running water. The house still has the original furniture and wall coverings. Her treasured piano was the centerpiece of the back parlor. She bought it with her inheritance from her father. David and Ida, and his father Jacob slept downstairs while the boys slept upstairs.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Take a virtual tour of the house before your visit.

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The Place of Meditation
The Place of Meditation, where Ike, Mamie, and their older son are buried.

Place of Meditation

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower rest with their firstborn son Doud Dwight “Icky” in the small chapel near the boyhood home. 

Ike and Mamie on their wedding day, July 1, 1916. He could not sit down lest he ruin the creases in his pants. (Eisenhower Library)

Meet a relatable Ike and Mamie in the museum

The Eisenhower Museum underwent a complete renovation in 2018 and 2019. The Abilene facility is entirely different than the pre-renovation facility. When I visited the complex before, I felt that I had met Ike the icon. The renovation makes Ike more human and relatable.

The initial exhibits explain Ike’s early life and career and how they prepared him for the outsize tasks ahead of him. I am a lifelong World War II buff, and I loved the exhibits covering Ike’s role in the war.

Related: Eisenhower once stayed at the Rock Island Arsenal‘s Quarters One.

Watching D-Day video in the Eisenhower Museum, Abilene
Watching a D-Day video in the World War II section.

The WWII section alone is worth the price of admission. The exhibit explains Ike’s planning role and his service as Supreme Commander. The D-Day planning table and chairs are beside an example of the artificial “Mulberry” harbors. Interactive map tables explain the timeline and geography of the global conflict. Beyond the planning and strategy, Eisenhower’s signature achievement was to hold together the often-fractious alliance.

1952 Eisenhower election memorabilia, Abilene
“I Like Ike” slogans were everywhere, including a telephone dial.

“I Like Ike,” to Mr. President

The general’s success propelled him toward the highest office in the land. Eisenhower began his campaign in Abilene. Americans agreed with his political campaign slogan, “I Like Ike.” When Eisenhower left office, his presidency wasn’t well regarded. Eisenhower appeared to be a genial, bumbling golf nut. Instead, more recent history has elevated his ranking. Declassified records show that Ike was a subtle, skilled politician who sought a middle way. The museum’s presidential gallery celebrates the administration’s signature achievements. 

Roxie’s reliable report: One of the achievements, Interstate 70, runs through Abilene’s northern edge. Look for the five-star Eisenhower Insterstate System signs.

Desegregation process under Eisenhower in Abilene
School desegregation progress under Eisenhower

Eisenhower and civil rights 

Black veterans had fought and died for their country. They deserved more from her than segregation. In response, Eisenhower banned segregation in Washington, D.C. He also pressured federal civilian and military workforces to finish President Harry Truman’s integration policies.

In 1954, the Supreme Court struck down segregation as unconstitutional. The controversial decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka sparked massive resistance in Southern states.

When Arkansas resisted the segregation of Little Rock Central High in 1957, Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and allow Black students to attend. 

Related: The Brown v. Board of Education is a must-see Kansas civil rights site.

The administration shepherded two civil rights bills through Congress in 1957 and 1960. The first created the Civil Rights Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The administration wanted more, but Southern senators gutted the bill. The second required election officers to retain and preserve voting registration records which eventually proved race-based voter suppression. The two Civil Rights Acts were the first passed since 1875.

Ironically, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) watered down Eisenhower’s civil rights efforts. However, LBJ enshrined protections into law as President in 1964.

Related: Visit LBJ’s Texas White House in Stonewall, Texas.

The first four satellites diagram at the Eisenhower Museum, Abilene
The Space Race begins with the first four satellites.

Eisenhower and the Space Race

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik. Sputnik II followed not quite a month later. The launches shocked Americans. In response, the administration asked Congress to change the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) to the National Air and Space Administration (NASA). Eisenhower signed the bill in July 1958, and NASA began in October. 

NACA had been working on spaceflight, and the embarrassed US science establishment sent Explorer I into space on January 31, 1958. Vanguard followed three months later. NASA announced the first group of astronauts, the Mercury 7, on April 9, 1959.

The Soviets won the early Space Race segments. They sent the first man and woman into space and landed the first object on the moon. Eventually, the Americans took the prizes. Ironically, Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Nixon, was President when Neil Armstrong made “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind on July 20. 1969.”

Ike and Mamie on their 40th anniversary
Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower on their 40th anniversary, July 1, 1956. Mamie is wearing her Eisenhower Toile dress. (Eisenhower National Historic Site)

Get to know Mamie Eisenhower in Abilene

Mamie Geneva Doud married Dwight Eisenhower on July 1, 1916. Mamie was used to the finer things in life. Therefore, adjusting to being an Army wife was difficult. Her husband put the Army first, and his family came second. But she persevered through numerous moves. She made her home a welcoming center for guests, which helped propel her husband’s career. People called their homes “Club Eisenhower” because they were so welcoming and comfortable. Life in the White House was no different. The Eisenhowers hosted more events than any previous administration.

Eisenhower china
The Eisenhower White House china

Mamie desired to provide a comfortable home for her family and to beautify the White House. She improved the White House china collection and obtained over 1,600 pieces of vermeil, gold-plated silver, for the historic house. The Vermeil Room currently houses the collection.

Eisenhower Toile detail
Detail of Mamie’s Eisenhower Toile dress.

When Mamie entered the White House, her signature color, Mamie Pink, became fashionable. She always wore coordinated hats, handbags, and gloves. She also mixed top designers with bargains from department stores. Friends gave her the Eisenhower Toile dress in a deeper shade of pink. The dress showed Dwight and Mamie’s milestones like the White House, NATO command, World War II, and more. Mamie was more than a fashion plate, however. She supported women’s rights and racial equality. Because Ike and Mamie both had heart conditions, she supported the American Heart Association.

Related: The Goodland library vote opened the door for women’s voting rights.

When Barbara Walters asked Mamie in a 1979 interview how her legacy should be remembered, Mamie answered, “just as a good friend.”

Related: Visit Thomasville, Georgia, where Eisenhower decided that he could run for President again after his 1955 heart attack.

Strike a pose with Ike.
StIKE a pose with Ike.

StrIKE a pose with Eisenhower in Abilene

Before leaving the grounds, take a selfie with Eisenhower’s 11-foot statue that Robert L. Dean, Jr. sculpted. Copy Ike’s stance and use the hashtag #strIKEapose.

The Georgia granite base highlights Eisenhower’s illustrious service as President of the United States, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General of the Army, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and Army Chief of Staff.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Read the facility’s visitor tips. Don’t rush the experience. Instead, allow several hours.

In Eisenhower’s Abilene footsteps

Ike left his mark throughout Abilene. Explore beyond the library complex to learn more about the boy from the heartland of America.

2. Eisenhower’s first home in Abilene

David and Ida welcomed Dwight on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons. The Eisenhowers returned to Dickinson County in 1892. The family moved into his First Abilene Home three blocks north of the Eisenhower Library complex. The current owners also own the Eisenhower Museum in Oberammergau, Germany.

Related: Roy Eisenhower, Ike’s next-youngest brother, became a pharmacist in Junction City. Dwight and Mamie visited his brother and sister-in-law when they could.

Eisenhower sculpture in Little Ike Park with the Abilene postcard mural behind him.
Eisenhower sculpture in Little Ike Park with the Abilene postcard mural behind him.

3. Little Ike Park shows Eisenhower in Abilene

The young Dwight Eisenhower awaits you in Little Ike Park, Abilene. The charming sculpture of a boy in overalls looks straight at the viewer. He seems to anticipate whatever task or adventure is coming.

Roxie’s reliable report: The Abilene postcard mural is across the alley behind Little Ike’s head. The “B” shows the Eisenhower Library.

4. Belle Springs Creamery

David Eisenhower and every Eisenhower son worked at the Abilene creamery. Edgar and Dwight worked there the most. At its zenith, the creamery was Abilene’s largest employer, distributed throughout the United States. A plaque marks its location on Court Street behind the Dickinson County Courthouse.

For two years after he graduated from high school, Ike worked at the creamery to support his next-oldest brother Edgar’s schooling at the University of Michigan. Then Ike’s friend Everett “Swede” Hazlett persuaded him to apply to the military academies where education was free. Hazlett (PDF) attended the Naval Academy, and Ike went to the Military Academy. Of course, graduates had to serve in the military after graduation. The pacifist Ida would not have chosen this path, but she accepted her son’s decision. 

Roxie’s reliable report: Hazlett became a naval officer and lived to see his friend become a two-term President.

Brown Telephone Company timeline
The Brown Telephone Company timeline in the Museum of Independent Telephony

5. Museum of Independent Telephony

David Eisenhower became the Brown Telephone Company’s Director of Employee Savings. The Abilene telephone company eventually became Sprint, which merged with T-Mobile. The Museum of Independent Telephony preserves Brown’s and other early telephone technology. It’s part of the Dickinson County Heritage Center.

Seelye Mansion rear, Abilene
The rear of the Seelye Mansion, where Ike delivered ice.

6. Seelye Mansion

Patent medicines founded the Seelye family’s wealth, and the Eisenhowers didn’t impress them. People from the wrong side of the tracks didn’t get to enter the front, so Ike delivered ice to the large mansion’s service entrance.

7. Former Abilene High School marker

A marker preserves the location of the now-demolished Abilene High where Eisenhower attended from 1906-1909. Ike excelled at football and baseball, but his yearbook predicted that he would become a history professor at Yale.

Roxie’s reliable report: The yearbook predicted that his brother Edgar would become President. Instead, Edgar became an attorney who frequently criticized his brother, the President.

The Abilene train depot, now the visitors center
The Abilene train depot, now the visitors’ center

8. Abilene Travel Information Center

In 1911, Ike boarded a train at the Union Pacific Depot en route to the United States Military Academy. In 1929, the UP erected a new Abilene depot, where Eisenhower disembarked when he returned home. His funeral train arrived there in 1969. 

The depot became a community space in 1988. The center holds an event space, a souvenir store, and Visit Abilene’s offices. 

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Pick up travel brochures and buy a rhinestone Kansas brooch.

9. Abilene Cemetery

David and Ida Eisenhower rest in the Abilene Cemetery’s Section 3, Lot 20.

Cannas and a fountain in Eisenhower Park
Cannas and a fountain in Eisenhower Park

10. Eisenhower Park and Rose Garden, Abilene

The future President announced his candidacy in the park’s stadium in 1952. The Central Kansas Free Fair is held there. Visit the rose garden in the summer for beautiful flowers surrounding a fountain, a stone arch, and a copper-roofed gazebo.

11. “I Like Ike” Murals

Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign jingle “I Like Ike” is still considered one of the greatest political advertising campaigns in American history. Roy Disney produced the cartoon, the first political ad on television, with a jingle written by Irving Berlin. A storyboard from the ad adorns the Sunflower Hotel’s east side. The candidate and his wife watched their homecoming parade from the hotel’s now-removed balcony on D-Day’s eighth anniversary, June 6, 1952. The structure is currently an apartment building.

12. “Ike Wins” Mural

Seventy years after Eisenhower won his first presidential term, the muralist William Counter finished “Ike Wins,” a portrait of Ike and Mamie holding the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle emblazoned with a vast “Ike Wins” headline. A copy of the edition on the right shows more detail. 

13. Belle Springs Cemetery

David’s father Jacob Eisenhower lived with David, Ida, and the boys for several years until his 1906 death. His remains lie in the Belle Springs Cemetery southeast of Abilene with his wife. David and Ida’s fifth son Paul rests there, too. He died of Diptheria at the age of 10 months.

Abilene Eisenhower-themed food and lodging

Eat and stay where Ike went or where his memorabilia is collected.

14. Ike’s Place Bar & Grill

A knee injury cut short Ike’s West Point football career, but he remained supportive as a cadet cheerleader. Later, he coached football teams at Army bases. With that background, he would have enjoyed a game night at Ike’s Place. Look for Ike memorabilia.

Cartoon showing the paddling experience at Lena's.
One of Lena’s victims drew his experience on a paddle.

15. The Farmhouse in Abilene got a Eisenhower swat

The restaurant now known as The Farmhouse started as Lena’s Farmhouse on the Hill in 1939. The restaurant is filled with Abilene and Eisenhower memorabilia. Lena paddled customers on their birthdays, and she did not go easy on them. Look for the picture of Lena with her paddle below Ike’s picture. The paddle hangs beside the picture. A drawing on it says, “She hits hard.”

Roxie’s reliable report: The Farmhouse closed for renovation in 2022, but intends to reopen in 2024.

16. Abilene’s Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast

Dr. Edward E. Hazlett, father of Ike’s lifelong friend Swede, built the house in 1887. Stay in the Eisenhower Room, Hazlett Room, or Mamie’s Honeymoon Suite.

17. Engle House Bed & Breakfast

Jacob Engle was the vice president of the Abilene creamery where the Eisenhowers worked. As school board president, Engle signed Eisenhower’s Abilene High School diploma. Stay in the Belle Springs Room.

Camp at Walt’s 

Walt’s Four Seasons Campground offers sites from tents to Class A RV and camping cabins. Walt’s features pull-through full hook-up sites with water, electricity, sewer, and wi-fi.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Walt’s offers discount rates on Tuesdays.

More to explore

For more information about Eisenhower in Abilene, read Abilene’s visitors guide and Follow the Piper’s Abilene post, Wild West to White House.

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