Gipper's Philosophy Puts Boyhood Home in Limbo; Budget Dispute Also Stalls Federal Purchase

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

Gipper's Philosophy Puts Boyhood Home in Limbo; Budget Dispute Also Stalls Federal Purchase


Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Nearly a decade after Congress told the National Park Service to try to buy Ronald Reagan's boyhood home, the plan remains in limbo - the victim of a budget dispute and of the former president's own limited-government philosophy.

The Dixon, Ill., house is one of a number of places where the country's 40th president lived when he called the small town on the Rock River, 100 miles from Chicago, his home from 1920 through 1933. But it's the one that has been preserved for the past three decades by a nonprofit foundation as the official boyhood home, and it's also the most likely candidate for the Park Service to incorporate.

Or it would be, if Reagan - whose 100th birthday Sunday will kick off a yearlong national commemoration of the nation's 40th president - hadn't preached a limited-government, free-market philosophy that his supporters say makes a government takeover unthinkable.

I'm not in favor of the government owning property, never mind Reagan's house. That's like Southerners who want the federal government to buy up Civil War battlefields, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and founder of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.

The Park Service preserves sites honoring nearly two dozen presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft. It preserves four sites apiece for the Roosevelts - Theodore and Franklin. In December, it officially accepted the William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site into its holdings. But Reagan is unrepresented.

That is not to say the Park Service hasn't tried.

Pushed by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Congress enacted a law in 2002 ordering the Park Service to buy the boyhood home in Dixon if the price was right and the owners were willing to sell. Mr. Hastert, whose Illinois district included Dixon, said he was working to put together a financing package.

The Congressional Budget Office and an outside appraisal put the value of the home at $400,000. The CBO said the overall purchase and setup of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site would cost about $700,000 over two years.

The foundation, though, was looking for much more than the $30,000 or so that CBO officials said it paid in the early 1980s for the property. It was more in line with the millions of dollars that the budget office said had been invested in the home and surrounding property in the ensuing years.

The price got way over what I could put together, Mr. Hastert told The Washington Times.

Connie Lange, executive director of the home and the foundation's only paid staffer, came on board in 2006. Shortly after the deal fell apart, she said, the foundation and the neighbors who had put their own efforts into restoring the home, began rethinking the desire to sell.

They kind of put their heads together and all agreed they wanted to keep it the way it was, she said. It relates a lot back to Ronald Reagan's way of thinking, and at least how we see it here - he didn't think that government needed to be so big, he didn't think government needed to be involved in our daily lives, and people really took that to heart here.

Local news accounts say the last time Reagan visited was in 1984, but to the thousands of Reagan fans and curious tourists who tour the home each year, it's the place that shaped his values and character for showdowns with political foes in the U. …

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Gipper's Philosophy Puts Boyhood Home in Limbo; Budget Dispute Also Stalls Federal Purchase
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