Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ronald Reagan Trail: Tampico

After an unexpected diversion to Chicago, the Ronald Reagan Trail series returns to northwestern Illinois. Our 40th president was born 100 years ago in Tampico. "Dutch" was born in the apartment above the First National Bank building. It was a bakery when the Reagans lived there.

All of the below photographs were taken on June 6, 2011. I visited Tampico on Reagan centenary day, February 6. The entries from that visit can be found below.

Unlike my February visit, I was able to get a parked-car free photograph of the birthplace at 111 S. Main Street.

Reagan home, 1911-1914

Three months later the Reagans moved to 104 W. Glassburn, about a block's walk from the birthplace. Were it not for the town's grain elevator, it could be seen from the bedroom where Dutch was born. The house was for sale in February, I've been unable to ascertain whether it was sold or if it was taken off of the market. Sometime around New Year's Day the Reagans moved to Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, into a six-flat that will probably be demolished soon by its owner, the University of Chicago.

Tampico bicentennial mural
I am a huge aficionado of small-town wall murals. Yet I've never gotten around to photographing Tampico's American bicentennial salute. Reagan's penultimate visit to Tampico was in 1976, when he was challenging President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination that year. The campaign appearance went poorly, as did Reagan's performance in the Illinois primary that March--Ford won. One more indignity: Dutch was unable to gain access to his birthplace.

Reagan's star-crossed authorized biographer, Edmund Morris, wrote about that time five months ago:

Nancy Reagan loyally accompanied him, although a depressed village on the Illinois corn flats was not her kind of place. Somehow the town's least desirable citizen managed to infiltrate the receiving line, and welcomed her to Tampico with open arms and a loud wet kiss. He was hustled off by outraged aides while she searched for a Kleenex, and that part of Illinois was declared terra non grata on her husband's future itineraries.
But as Morris wrote in Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, the former first couple returned to Tampico in 1992. A docent at the birthplace told me that their last visit could have gone poorly as well. A few days before the Reagans last trip to the Whiteside County village, the secret service advance team told the people in charge of the museum to remove the photograph of Reagan's first wife, Jane Wyman, from the parlor, as it would upset the former first lady. They complied. But the picture returned to the same spot after the Reagans left. It was there when I visited on February 6.

Reagan home and workplace, 1919-1920
Reagan's father Jack worked at the H.C. Pitney Variety Store for the first few three years of Dutch's life and from 1919 to 1920, before moving to Dixon to work in another retail outlet owned by Pitney, the Fashion Boot Shop. This presidential residence appears to be vacant. It's right across the street from the birthplace.

Tampico has another famous-son, Admiral Joseph Mason "Bull" Reeves, who was a pioneer of naval aviation and served his country in both world wars and the Spanish-American War. He was born in Tampico in 1872. Two years after Reeves' birth, a tornado devastated the town. The village's defunct newspaper was the Tampico Tornado.

In 1982, Tampico's Main Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tampico Area Historical Society is raising money to build a bronze statue of a nine-year old Dutch to be placed in Ronald Reagan Park.

Here is the Reagan Trail YouTube video about Tampico:

Next: Fulton

Related posts:

Report from Tampico, Illinois on Reagan's 100th birthday
Reagan centennial: Tampico's churches
Reagan centennial: Ronald Reagan Park in Tampico, IL

Earlier posts:

Chicago and the likely demolition of the Reagan apartment
Hennepin Feeder Canal
Tampico Village Hall
Ohio, Illinois
Peoria Heights
Washington, Illinois
The town of Eureka
Eureka College's Reagan Museum
Returning to Eureka College and the 1982 address
Eureka College
Carl Sandburg
Wyatt Earp

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