Preserving history: Reagan Boyhood Home under new ownership

Young America’s Foundation looks to preserve home for future generations

The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home is under new ownership by the Young America's Foundation.

DIXON – The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home has a new caretaker, and officials are confident it’s in good hands.

The Young America’s Foundation announced today that it’s the new caretaker and owner of home and visitors center at 810 and 816 S. Hennepin Ave. in Dixon.

Since 1998, the YAF has owned Reagan’s 688-acre Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California, known as the Reagan Ranch and the only home he owned while president.

Pat Gorman, the boyhood home executive director, said he looks forward to a smooth transition and ongoing partnership with the YAF.

“I am pleased to announce Young America’s Foundation has chosen to carry on the work we have been doing since 1980 to share Ronald Reagan’s life and legacy as a critical part of Dixon’s and America’s history,” Gorman said. “For the past year, in our discussions with YAF’s leadership, it was clear this was the right decision, not only financially, but also to secure the future of the home in Dixon for many years to come.”

The Ronald Reagan Home Preservation Foundation has owned the home, which was built in 1891, since 1980. It was there, in the 1920s, that Reagan spent his formative years in Dixon, which he always considered his hometown. Reagan was born in Tampico.

“All of us have to have a place we go back to. Dixon is that place for me. There was the life that has shaped my body and mind for all the years to come,” Reagan had said.

Gorman led a donation campaign during the last few years focused on funding repairs and renovations to the historic home and visitor’s center, following decades of deferred maintenance. They completed more than 100 upgrades, including projects during the summer after winning a $100,000 state grant.

Marilyn Shippert, president of the Ronald Reagan Home Preservation Foundation, said YAF will be a great asset in showcasing the home to future generations.

“In addition to the home’s availability to the public, the foundation will be promoting Reagan’s legacy along with the conservative values he learned as a young man in his hometown,” Shippert said. “I view this as a win for both our community and the values of Ronald Reagan.”

The nation’s leading conservative youth organization, YAF emphasizes the importance of Reagan’s belief that “there is a flickering spark in us all which, if struck at just the right age … can light the rest of our lives,” YAF said in a news release.

Ronald Reagan Preservation Foundation director Pat Gorman announces to a group of volunteers Friday afternoon that the boyhood home in Dixon has a new caretaker. The Young America's Foundation is also the caretaker of the the Reagan ranch in California, the only home Reagan owned while President.

In 1962, Reagan joined YAF’s National Advisory Board, eventually becoming the organization’s honorary national chairman. In 1974, the foundation sponsored a nationally syndicated radio program featuring Reagan as the then-California governor.

During each year of Reagan’s presidency, he hosted students attending YAF’s National Conservative Student Conference at the White House.

“It is my hope that by sharing the story of Ronald Reagan’s early years through his boyhood home in Dixon, we will give young people and all visitors a new appreciation for one of our nation’s greatest leaders and the values he learned and fought for,” said former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, CEO and incoming president of YAF.

As with the Reagan Ranch, YAF will preserve the home through private funding rather than through state or federal taxpayer dollars.

“Patriotic Americans in Dixon, Illinois, have done great work in preserving this important piece of American history for many decades,” YAF President Ron Robinson said. “Young America’s Foundation looks forward to a strong partnership with the Dixon community. The involvement of the community in the Santa Barbara area is still strong more than two decades after YAF acquired the Reagan Ranch. YAF plans to build on that model while we open this historic presidential site to visitors from across the country and around the world.”

Director Gorman has worked closely with YAF and will stay on staff going forward.

Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, said he was excited to see YAF acquiring the home.

“From the outset, they have done exemplary work preserving Dad and Nancy’s beloved ranch,” Reagan said. “They’ve stayed true to Dad’s values and beliefs and have always treated our family with the utmost respect. I trust YAF to bring the same care and professionalism to dad’s home in Dixon.”

Volunteers, docents and board members listen as Gorman outlines the agreement between the YAF and the Ronald Reagan Home Preservation Foundation. The agreement will ensure the home stays financially viable and preserved.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.