There was a big push early in this decade to add Monmouth and Galesburg to the Reagan Trail. The General Assembly added the two towns in 2004. The hope at that time was that when the house where Reagan lived as a child was put up for sale, it could be bought and made into a museum. The house is on the market, but the chances of it becoming a museum appear slim.
There was a big push early in this decade to add Monmouth and Galesburg to the Reagan Trail.
The General Assembly added the two towns in 2004. The hope at that time was that when the house where Reagan lived as a child was put up for sale, it could be bought and made into a museum. The house is on the market, but the chances of it becoming a museum appear slim.
In the early years of the Ronald Reagan Association here, there was talk of the lack of places for people traveling the Reagan Trail here to visit. It was thought the home, owned by Mike and Nancy Reathaford, would someday serve that purpose. However, enthusiasm for the Reagan Trail never seemed to catch on here as it did in Dixon, Reagan’s hometown; Tampico, his birthplace; and Eureka, where he attended college.
In March 2006, the local Reagan Association became a committee of the Galesburg Historical Society.
The Reathafords always seemed receptive to the idea of selling the house to a group that would make it into a museum. Local historian Tom Wilson said that Nancy Reathaford “called me, it must have been about three months ago. She told me they were putting a brand new roof on the house and the garage.”
Wilson said he was asked if he or some group were interested in it if the home went on the market.
“I made a couple of phone calls and got frustrated,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately, our group just fell apart months and months ago.”
In Wilson’s words, “from a financial standpoint, we were kind of up a creek.”
Nancy Reathaford said it is disappointing to her the Reagan Association here basically no longer exists.
“I was always under the impression there was some group in town that would buy the house because of tourism,” she said.
Reathaford said the garage is spacious, heated and air-conditioned, and has a number of doors, which would make it ideal for a gift shop, for instance.
The Reagans lived in the house when Ronald was attending first grade and part of second grade at Silas Willard.
Jack Reagan then moved his family to Monmouth.
“When he was learning to read, that happened here,” Reathaford said. “He talked about the parlor, which, I assume, is the room I’m sitting in. And, we know which room was his bedroom.
“They’ve got the Sandburg cottage. The monument (plaque) has been out in front of this house for five or six years,” she said. “It’s amazing the number of people who pull up and read this.”
She said a number of people also take pictures of the house and the plaque.
Wilson went so far as to ask city Community Development Director Roy Parkin if zoning and parking requirements would have to be considered if the house was bought and turned into a museum.
“I got told both of those factors would probably jump in there,” Wilson said.
Wilson has long been a supporter of Galesburg doing more with its history and sounded disappointed but realistic about any chances of the house becoming a museum.
“I found there just was not much interest in Ronald Reagan here,” he said. “It’s tremendously unique that he started his formal education here and the connection with Nancy.
“Unless I could myself win the $200 million lottery ...,” Wilson mused, then added, “I think I would give it to the library.”
Nancy Davis Reagan’s stepfather lived in Galesburg. When she was young, she was a regular visitor here, sometimes staying the summer in Galesburg.
Wilson said he’s afraid that if somehow the house could be bought by an historic group, “we’re going to be in the same boat as the Orpheum Theatre and countless other groups” struggling for enough money to keep their heads above an ocean of red ink.
“I think they’re missing the boat here,” Reathaford said.
“I’d like to say ‘Galesburg, wake up and quit passing up these opportunities,’ ” Wilson said.
John R. Pulliam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.