The birthplace site of Ronald Reagan is a small residence in a rural Midwestern town of approximately 800 people. Tampico, Illinois, a tiny blip on the map surrounded by silos and cornfields, dust from grain elevators, and tidy little farmhouses that spread out in perpetuity on all sides, is home to a Reagan museum, a Reagan park, and a hair styling business called “Hair Force One.” Born February 6, 1911, Reagan lived in Tampico for approximately three months after his birth. The quaint apartment is reconditioned and decorated to its fundamental 1900’s style.
Ronald Reagan Birthplace and Museum, Tampico Illinois
Staffed by volunteers who proudly recall holding their breath as the votes to the 1980 presidential election were counted, the Ronald Reagan Birthplace Museum is in a storefront, below the actual birth site. Museum pieces include an assortment of movie posters, political buttons, souvenirs, books, and other Reagan-related memorabilia. There are also, of course, small dishes of free jellybeans scattered around. The free tour of the Reagan birthplace takes visitors to the second floor of a late 19th-century commercial building – known as the Graham Building – built in 1896 for G.W. Stauffer by Fred Harvey Seymour. The 40th President of the United States was born in modest quarters above what was then an established drinking hole, but the family relocated to a different place in Tampico shortly thereafter.
On October 1, 1906, Jack Edward and Nelle Wilson Reagan moved into the humble abode, and Nelle gave birth to two sons in the apartment. In 1908, John Neil Reagan was born, and the couple’s second son, Ronald Wilson Reagan, entered the world February 6, 1911. The Reagans lived at 111. West Main Street from 1906 until May 5, 1911, and then moved into a house across town on Glassburn Street.
While the Reagans lived in Tampico, Jack worked at the H.C. Pitney Variety Store across the road. The family lived in Tampico until the closing of the Pitney Store in 1914, bouncing from Chicago to Galesburg and Monmouth, Illinois. When Pitney’s store reestablished itself in 1919, the Reagans came back to Tampico, living in an apartment above the store. Pitney’s store soon shut its doors once again, however, and on December 6, 1920, the Reagans headed to nearby Dixon, Illinois. There, they lived in a series of houses, one of which (816 S. Hennepin Avenue) now operates as the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home. As far as the birthplace site, it housed a bakery and the First National Bank from 1915-1931. In 1968, the structure was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Nicely. Following Mrs. Nicely’s death in 2003, WPW Partners of Chicago procured ownership.
Ronald Reagan Birthplace and Reagan Centennial Trail
The Reagan Birthplace is located smack dab in the center of ice-cream and apple pie America, a quiet land of dirt roads and chugging pickup trucks. The demure, two-story brick building, similar to its neighboring structures along Tampico’s Main Street, was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The museum is also part of the Ronald Reagan Trail, a string of Reagan-related sights that hope to illustrate how Reagan’s roots shaped his character.
Ronald Reagan Birthplace Museum Address, Directions
The Reagan birthplace is located at 111 S. Main Street, Tampico, Illinois, 61283. Birthplace phone: 815-438-2130.
Directions: Downtown Tampico. On Hwy 172/Main Street, just south of Market St.