Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ronald Reagan Trail: Dixon

Ronald Reagan lived in five northern Illinois towns while growing up, but he considered Dixon his hometown; in An American Life he wrote, "It was in Dixon that I really found myself."

More from Reagan's autobiography:
With nearly 10,000 people, Dixon was more than ten times larger than Tampico. We arrived there in 1920 when I was nine years old, and to me it was heaven.

Dixon had a busy main street lined with shops, several churches, an elementary school and a high school, a public library, a post office, a wire screen factory, a shoe factory, and a cement plant. At the outskirts of town, dairy farms stretched as far as you could see. It was a small town universe where I learned standards and values that would guide me the rest of my life.
That busy main street was Galena Avenue, which doubles as the Lincoln Highway, which I wrote about in my Fulton post.

Above Galena Avenue is the Dixon Victory Arch. It's the fourth incarnation of the arch, the first one was erected a few months before the Reagans arrived and was dedicated to the soldiers and sailors who served during World War I. The "Dixon" letters are purple--the school colors of Dixon High School are purple and white. At night the letters are lit with neon.

Reagan lived in several houses in Dixon, but he and his brother Neil considered the one at 816 S. Hennepin their home. They lived there from 1920-1924, it's a national historical site dubbed the Reagan Boyhood Home. I've been inside just once, in 2005. What made a lasting impression to me was the cast-iron bed in Dutch and Neil's bedroom. It's not the actual bed of course, but it's as imposing as Reagan's legacy.

Hennepin Avenue is also known as Reagan Way.

Sorry, but I'm not a fan of the Reagan statue adjacent to the boyhood home. Yes, corn is Illinois' primary agricultural product and a lot of corn is grown in California, but Reagan holding corn kernels in his hand isn't a good combination.

I like this bronze statue much better, which is about a mile north of the boyhood home, just steps from the Rock River, which will figure into my next post. Reagan on horseback was unveiled in 2007. This picture was taken last August, the sun was in a bad position last month when I returned.

I wrote about a Dixon bit of history earlier this month. In 1856, as the historical markers note, Abraham Lincoln gave a campaign speech for Republican presidential candidate John C. Frémont in front of the Lee County Courthouse. As you'll read in the related posts, Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled through Dixon in 1919 with the trans-continental Motor Transport Corps convoy.

The Marathon Pundit can't overlook the annual Reagan 5K Run.

Once again, here is a Reagan Trail YouTube video:

Next: Lowell Park

Related posts:

Midwestern Presidential Pathway: Dixon, a shining city upon a hill
Midwestern Presidential Pathway: Ronald Reagan's Dixon, Illinois
Ike, the military truck convoy, the Lincoln Highway, and Dixon, Illinois
The only statue of Lincoln in military dress is in Dixon, Illinois
New Reagan statue in Dixon, Illinois
On this day 155 years ago: Lincoln campaigns for Frémont in Dixon, IL

Earlier posts:

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