Own a Slice of History ... and Celebrity

By: Mary Butler , Contributing Writer
In: Uncategorized, Old Houses, Old House Musings, Old House History

If you love Ronald Reagan and old houses, why not buy the Great Communicator’s childhood home? The (Galesburg, Ill.) Register-Mail reported on Aug. 22 that the historic home in northwestern Illinois, about three and a half hours outside of Chicago, is set to go up for sale.

Owners Nancy and Mike Reathaford bought the 1 ½-story home without knowing its place in the nation’s history. But it wasn’t long before the local Reagan Association contacted them and let them know it would be interested in buying the home if they ever decided the sell. Lucky for you, the association has since disbanded due to local’s “lack of interest in Reagan,” the newspaper reported.

It turns out the former president’s old house is not a bad deal. The Galesburg Township Assessor’s website lists the 1,352-square-foot home, with a full basement, a finished attic and a garage that is heated and air-conditioned, (”perfect for a museum gift shop,” the Register-Mail noted) as being valued at $109,230, as of 2008.

An original kitchen cabinet remains in the dining room, and a bathroom cabinet is also still in the home, but it was moved to the garage as part of a previous remodel.

The city of Galesburg offers an interesting history, too: It was home to the state’s first anti-slavery society, founded in 1837, and was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today it is well known as being home to Knox College.

However, Reagan’s modest home is nothing special architecturally. It isn’t included as part of the city’s formal old house walking tour, which features two other homes on North Kellogg Street. And it also appears that Reagan’s old stamping grounds aren’t quite old enough to make the cut: Each of the featured homes was built in the late 1800s.

But the historic home of famed poet and writer Carl Sandburg, who was born in Galesburg, didn’t make the walking tour cut either. However, Sandburg’s home at 331 Third St., is landmarked as a state historic site and is connected to a museum and museum shop.

As an Illinois native, who grew up outside of Chicago, which the poet famously dubbed as the City of Big Shoulders, I have to say Sandburg has a place in my heart, and for that matter, so does the 40th president. My now-deceased mother was a big fan of Reagan and probably would have loved to have lived in his boyhood home.

What about you?