Eisenhower House History

The house was erected ca. 1873 as the commandant’s residence at Fort Adams, an important citadel that was built to protect the bay and Newport Harbor from naval invasion. Newport architects George C. Mason and Son designed a substantial house outside the walls of the fort, and General Henry Jackson Hunt was the first in a long line of military officers to live here. In 1958 and again in 1960, the commandant’s residence welcomed its most famous occupant, President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The President spent his first summer in Newport in September 1957, when he resided at the Naval War College. Eager to return, he settled into the Summer White House at the commandant’s residence at Fort Adams in August 1958. In a letter to Col. Edythe P. Turner, the President wrote:

As you know, we are spending our second summer “vacation” in Newport. This year Mrs. Eisenhower and I have managed to achieve a little more isolation than formerly, and–despite the fact that I have already been called back to Washington twice–I have managed to keep paper work to a minimum. Of course there are always trouble spots that give me great concern, but I have become reconciled to the fact that in this job there is always a crisis of some kind or other. I am trying to get in as much golf (of a rather poor variety) as possible and in general charge my batteries for the months ahead. [DDE to EPT, 9/15/1958]

Certainly there were crises and trouble spots during President Eisenhower’s vacations. In September 1957, he was contending with the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In September 1958, it was the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. And in July 1960, it was Soviet interests in Cuba and Congo and a downed American patrol plane over the Barents Sea. But there was also time for golf at the Newport Country Club, movies and social calls, and visiting local attractions such as Colony House, Trinity Church, Touro Synagogue, and Washington Square.

President Eisenhower insisted that the demands on a President were no different during his summers in Newport, despite the “change of scenery.” He said, “The White House office is wherever the President may happen to be.” For the summers of 1958 and 1960, that happened to be the historic commandant’s residence at Fort Adams, or as we call it now, Eisenhower House.

The United States Navy transferred Fort Adams and Eisenhower House to the State of Rhode Island in 1964 for use as a state park. Today Eisenhower House is a historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the property is the scene of many public and social events.