Washington Times columnist Cheryl K. Chumley is biking the battleground states as part of an ongoing series, visiting 14 states in 14 days to hear what real Americans think of the 2020 election. All of her interviews may be found HERE.
DIXON, ILLINOIS — Tripadvisor lists as number one of 22 things to do in Dixon, Illinois, a visit to Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home.
But it’s closed due to the coronavirus.
And more than that, it’s in trouble, financially speaking.
“Money Woes May Force Ronald Reagan’s Boyhood Home too Close,” The Associated Press wrote in fall of 2019.
Patrick Gorman, the executive director of the historic site, gave it “probably a year or two at the very, very most” before the 1920-1923 home of the nation’s 40th president would have to permanently shut its doors to visitors. Why?
It’s running at a deficit.
Through tours and gift shop purchases, the home brings in about $30,000 a year in revenues, AP reported. But operating costs are between $70,000 and $80,000 a year. And even though the structure in 1982 was placed on the National Register of Historical Places, its funding is entirely self-sufficient. Taxpayers do not support its operations.
Reagan’s family moved into the home when he was 9 years old.
Since, it’s undergone $100,000 in renovations, some of which was paid by philanthropists. But not all.
And now closures due to COVID-19 are hampering the site’s money-making abilities further.
It’s a shame.
“All of us have to have a place we go back to,” Reagan was quoted as saying about his former home. “Dixon is that place for me. There was the life that has shaped my body and mind for all the years to come.”
For now, reaganhome.org is offering virtual tours.
But that’s hardly the same as standing on the street — standing on the very grounds — where Reagan once played.
That’s hardly the same as seeing first hand the fairly nondescript home of one of the nation’s greatest presidents, surrounded as it was, as it still is, by scores of other fairly nondescript houses, and experiencing an in-your-face example of the awesomeness of the great experiment called America.
From humble beginnings to soaring stature: only in America.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.