Friday, July 17, 2009

First Ladies’ Homes

This is a neat article that talks about the preservation of the homes of First Ladies. As a tour guide myself at the Saxton House, I certainly can commiserate with these stories! While the NPS operate some of the museums, some are community efforts, like the Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace in Boone, Iowa:
The wooden cottage had a succession of owners since Mrs. Eisenhower's birth in 1896 and decades later faced demolition. A group formed to save the house, and a neighbor then offered to tear down a house on a lot across the street to make way for Doud residence. In 1975, the birthplace was moved to its new location and the museum opened five years later.

"We have a struggle," explains Charles Irwin, executive director of the Boone County Historical Society, which oversees the museum. "We've had declining attendance over the years, because we're getting further away from the Eisenhower era."

But even with the right factors – money and interest – many are lost, like Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island where Jackie Bouvier Kennedy spent her summers and had her wedding reception:
In 1977, the family sold the estate to a private GROUP called Camelot Gardens, which opened it as a museum. "It felt as if the family had just stepped outside," Anthony recalls. "Unfortunately, the state government didn't decide to buy it and it became too expensive to maintain. It was sold to a private owner and all the furnishings auctioned off."

Unlike presidential museums, the First Ladies often get overlooked and I commend the organizations and people who have managed to save the ones that we do have. I rather enjoyed this quote at the end:
"People often crack that had these women not been married to these men, we'd never know of them," Anthony said. "But the other side of that truth is that had many of these men not married the women they did, we'd never have heard of these men."

So go support a First Ladies' home today!

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