This short list includes four homes where US presidents have lived at one point in their lives. Some are quite modest, while others are grand mansions, but all of them are open to the public.
1. Harry Truman’s Little White House, Key West, FL
The Harry S. Truman Little White House is the State of Florida’s only presidential site. The Little White House was originally built in 1890 to host naval officers working at the submarine base in Key West, Florida. In 1946, the house was used for the first time by US president Harry Truman. Truman’s decision to stop at the Little White House in Key West came after his doctor, Wallace Graham, advised him to take a warm vacation to recover from a cold. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz recommended Quarters A in Key West as a secure retreat. The president followed the advice and arrived in Key West in November 1946. He loved the place so much that he came back to the Little White House for 11 presidential working vacations and five post presidential trips after he left office. In total, he spent there 175 days of his presidency between 1946 and 1952. Other five presidents have stayed at the Little White House, including William Howard Taft in 1912, Dwight Eisenhower in 1955-56, John Kennedy in 1961 and 1962, Jimmy Carter in 1996 and 2007, and Bill Clinton in 2005. Today, the house is open to the public. Visitors can take a guided tour of the home and learn about the history of Key West, and the presidents who have visited it.
2. Roosevelt’s Little White House, Warm Springs, GA
In 1921, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio and since then has been paralyzed from the waist down. In 1924, he first visited Warm Springs, hoping to find a cure for its paralysis. While swimming in the 88-degree spring waters, he felt his symptoms were alleviating. In 1932, when he was governor of New York, he decided to build a house in Warm Springs, GA, to enjoy hydrotherapy cures. After he became president in 1933, he visited the house several times and died there in 1945 while posing for a portrait. Today, the unfinished portrait is featured in a museum that showcases many other exhibits, including Roosevelt’s 1938 Ford convertible and his stagecoach. Visitors can tour the Little White House, Historic Pools Museum, and several other buildings on site.
3. Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, Dixon, IL
This small and modest two-story house is located on a hilly street near the Rock River in the town of Dixon, around 100 miles west of Chicago. It is a typical late 19th-century American house, with a front porch with a white painted balustrade. The first floor includes a hall, a dining room, a double parlor, a kitchen, and a pantry. All bedrooms are on the second floor. Born in 1911 in Tampico, IL, Reagan moved to Dixon during the 1920s, and lived in this small house with his parents Jack and Nelle Reagan, and his older brother, Neil. The family stayed at the house for about 3 years. After they moved out, Reagan continued to live in Dixon until his early 20s. Near the city center, there is a bronze statue of a young Reagan with a cowboy hat and riding a horse. Today, the house is home of a museum open from April to October where visitors can experience how Reagan lived as a young boy and learn about the history of the little town of Dixon. The museum was established as an educational destination during Reagan’s first presidential term and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
4. Woodrow Wilson House, Washington, DC
Woodrow Wilson served two terms of office. He was first elected as a reformer in 1913, and then reelected in 1916. After a policy of neutrality at the outbreak of World War I, Wilson led America into war in order to “make the world safe for democracy.” His second mandate ended in 1921. After he retired, President Wilson spent the last three years of his life in a house near Embassy Row in Washington, DC. The house – a beautiful five-year old Georgian mansion – was selected by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, as an appropriate residence for a former president. Before moving in, the couple made several changes to the house to better accommodate the needs of Wilson, who suffered from a stroke. They installed an elevator and created a terrace on the second floor to make it possible for president Wilson to walk outside without having to take the stairs. Additionally, they added a billiard room and a library for Wilson’s 8,000 books. The couple finally moved there in March, 1921. After Wilson’s death, his wife donated the house and many of its furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation but continued to live there until her death in 1961. The National Trust opened the house to the public in 1963. In 9164, the Woodrow Wilson House was designated a National Historic Landmark.