Years ago, many of my summertime Saturdays and Sundays were spent at Lake Texoma, on the border of Texas and Oklahoma. On the drive up Highway 75, a historical marker in Denison Texas became one of my time marking milestones on the trip. The marker noted the town of 20,000 people as the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. Because we looking forward to having fun on the lake, we never took the time to stop, but I always said I wanted to visit. I had a Friday off in June and decided this was a good day to check out a historic site and also to catch a sunrise.
To make it to the lake before sunrise, I was on the road at 5 AM. Although I had been to the lake many times, I had never been to this bank near the state park. Since I was there before the park officially opened, I paid the $5 admission through the night drop (Note: I’ve since learned that not all parks accessible after hours, so I now check in advance so I don’t experience a bad joke at an impassable gate).
Sunrise At Eisenhower State Park
Nature At Lake Texoma
After the sun came up I was able to see more of my surroundings and walk around for a bit. Most of the overnight campers were still asleep, so birds and fishing boats were the only addition to the peaceful calm.
This part of the park is a swimming area with scenic views from water level and from walking trails at the top of bluffs surrounding this area of the lake. There are some very small caves nearby, but I did not find them during my walking around although I will admit that I was not looking very hard.
Presidential History – Eisenhower Birthplace
As beautiful as the lake was (Note to self: Future camping trip), I wanted to make it to the Eisenhower Birthplace National Historic Site around opening time to beat any crowds. I grabbed a quick breakfast nearby and drove through downtown Denison to 609 S. Lamar Avenue.
There are two parts to this state historic site, a welcome center and the birthplace home.
The welcome center and gift shop has exhibits about Eisenhower’s military and presidential career. There is an 8 minute biography film produced by the Texas Historical Commission. A helpful hint for you – the tour guide gave me a pop quiz, so pay attention when you visit! I did correctly answer 2 of the 3 quiz questions!
The home where Eisenhower was born is about 200 feet from the welcome center. While this is in the middle of a residential area, the streets nearby have been reconfigured to allow for safe pedestrian traffic within the six acre site.
On the approach to the home, there is a tall bronze statue of Eisenhower. This is one of five that were sculpted by artist Robert Dean. Each one is slightly different in pose, but this one is the most unique. Of the five statues he created, this is the only one that does not portray Eisenhower wearing a cover (Cover = military term for hat). The other statue locations:
- Abilene, Kansas – Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum
- US Military at West Point – Eisenhower graduated the academy in 1915
- Normandy, France – Site of D-Day Landings commanded by Eisenhower
- Grosvenor Square in London – Former US Embassy Location
To the right of the statue is the frame home where Eisenhower was born. Ike’s parents relocated from Kansas in the late 1880s after economic hardship. His father David found a job with the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad.
The job should have provided a comfortable life for the Eisenhowers, but due to housing shortages in a town growing faster than available housing, the only available housing was slightly beyond their price range. To help make ends meet, they rented a portion of home to a fellow railway employee.
The housing issue is a big reason the family relocated to Abilene Kansas in 1892, which is where Ike grew up in a more prosperous situation. He did not see this home again until 1946, after it became a historical site.
The tracks just outside of the house represent what was the now inactive railroad line, also referred to as the M-K-T Railroad or Katy Railroad. The tracks are in this spot to show how close they were to the Eisenhower household. The family had to endure heavy soot from the passing trains. For those familiar with the Katy Trail in Dallas, the trail is also part of and named after the former M-K-T line.
Dwight David Eisenhower was born in this bedroom on October 14, 1890. While this is not the original furniture owned by the family, this is representative of the time period.
Another nearby tribute to Eisenhower that can be seen from Highway 75 in Denison is the President Eisenhower Veterans Monument. Dedicated on Presidents’ Day in 2011, the flags represent each branch of the military. The bricks are personalized memorials to military veterans.
My day trip to Denison Texas was a quick but enlightening experience. In addition to seeing an awesome sunrise, I learned more than I expected at the Eisenhower sites and found other things in town to return to see later, including a railway museum in downtown.
Have you visited Denison, Texas or a presidential birth place? If so, feel free to comment below. Also, if you enjoyed this post, please follow the social media links in the header above to stay informed on future posts.