22 Places to Celebrate Presidents in the Midwest | Midwest Living

22 Places to Celebrate Presidents in the Midwest

Homes, museums, parks and other destinations throughout the Midwest honor U.S. presidents such as Heartland residents Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman. Check out some of the places you can engage with presidential history.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield Exploring a re-creation of the one-room cabin Lincoln lived in and catching a Lincoln-theme film in the Union Theater provide a good introduction to his life. illinois.gov/alplm

Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail, Alton Bronze sculptures depict Lincoln and Douglas at the site of their final debate. It’s one of 10 sites on a self-guided history trail; pick up a brochure at the Alton visitors center or download a free trail app for your smartphone. visitalton.com/lincoln

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield Tour the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned. Lincoln and his wife, Mary, lived in this Greek Revival-style house from 1844 to 1861; the decor captures 1860s style. Tickets are required; pick them up for free at the nearby Lincoln Home Visitor Center. nps.gov/liho

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, Petersburg Visit a reconstruction of the town Lincoln lived in for six years  (20 miles northwest of Springfield). Interpreters chronicle frontier life, and self-guided tours weave through a tavern, store, one-room school and timbered houses. lincolnsnewsalem.com

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, Springfield On free self-guided tours, docents answer questions about the lives and deaths of Lincoln and his family (all but son Robert were laid to rest here). illinois.gov

Old State Capitol, Springfield Take a free 30-minute guided tour of the building where Lincoln served in the Illinois Legislature, gave his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858 and his body laid in state following his assassination. illinois.gov

Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center, Dixon Guided tours show the home where the 40th president and his family lived in the 1920s as well as the family barn, Model T and garden. reaganhome.org

Ulysses S. Grant Home, Galena A tour of the 19th-century Italianate house gives insight into post-Civil War life in Galena and Grant’s prepresidential years here. granthome.com

Photo courtesy of Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, West Branch Eleven miles east of Iowa City just off I-80, see the birthplace cottage, library, museum and burial site of the first U.S. president born west of the Mississippi. nps.gov/heho

Photo courtesy of National Park Service


President Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, Indianapolis Guides passionate about the Harrison family and Indiana’s place in history lead tours of the two-story Italianate home. Born in Ohio, Harrison (grandson of President William Henry Harrison) moved to Indianapolis in 1854. presidentbenjaminharrison.org

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln City Abraham Lincoln spent 14 formative years of his young life in southern Indiana. Today’s visitors can see a museum, 15-minute film, cabin site memorial and recreated 1820s homestead with living history interpreters. nps.gov/libo


Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, Abilene See the house occupied by the Eisenhower family from 1898 until 1946 as well as a museum with both permanent and temporary exhibits. eisenhower.archives.gov


Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids This museum dedicated to the 38th president of the United States, a Grand Rapids native, explores key moments in his life and includes a replicated Oval Office. fordlibrarymuseum.gov


Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, Independence Take a lively tour through the home of the only U.S. president to use nuclear weapons. Save for the book-filled study, much of the furnishings and decor look like that of a 1950s middle-class home—making even more poignant Truman's ability to walk away from power when his service was through. nps.gov/hstr

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence Multimedia exhibits reveal the plainspoken man who lived down the street before and after his presidency. The museum celebrates Truman’s humble beginnings and his leadership style. trumanlibrary.org

Gateway Arch National Park, St Louis A tribute to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, the Gateway Arch, its museum and grounds are just finishing a multi-year makeover. In summer 2018, a renovated museum with interactive exhibits opens on the Arch grounds to commemorate pioneers like Lewis and Clark, who launched their expedition in earnest from this Mississippi River town. nps.gov/jeff

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora Painted canyons and grasslands draw visitors to the landscape that inspired Theodore Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation. The busy South unit includes a museum with information about Roosevelt and the Badlands; next door is the Maltese Cross Cabin, Roosevelt’s first ranch cabin. Visitors are more likely to see wildlife such as herds of bison on the scenic drive through the North Unit (66 miles away). nps.gov/thro


Harding Home, Marion Tours of this home reveal zany details you don’t expect from a presidential site: a sideways chair, a haunted clock and a canary (now stuffed) that allegedly predicted Harding’s death. It’s not a mansion, just an average home in a cozy neighborhood. Don’t miss the regal Harding Memorial a mile and a half away. Open by appointment during the winter. hardinghome.org

James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor Garfield began the tradition of front-porch campaigning, so his home offers plenty of grassroots-style political punch. Guided tours explore family life; if you want to see the presidential memorabilia, leave time to wander in the visitors center (which once served as his pressroom). A short film puts his presidency in context, making a stop on the front porch more meaningful. nps.gov/jaga

McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, Canton Learn about the life and death of the assassinated leader, as well as the history of Stark County. April through November, also visit the domed McKinley memorial, topped by a stained-glass window. mckinleymuseum.org

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, Fremont History buffs find much to explore on the sprawling Spiegel Grove estate. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, are buried on the wooded grounds, and a five-year renovation has restored the original post-Civil War décor to part of the 31-room mansion. The museum was renovated in 2016 to add new, more interactive exhibit galleries telling the story of Hayes, Lucy and the era when they lived. rbhayes.org

Photo courtesy of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum

South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone The 60-foot-tall faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved from 1927 to 1941, rank as one of America’s must-see destinations. The visitors center details how the monument was created and why these presidents are included. nps.gov/moru


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