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60 years later, Ike's stay at Glendalough celebrated

Burt Hustad of Battle Lake remembers an early September day in 1952, as an 18-year-old, when Dwight Eisenhower waved to him and his brother, Roger, while entering Glendalough. At that time the land was privately owned and was four decades away from becoming a state park.

"Roger and I were wearing our Levi jeans, playing some catch at our parents' farm adjacent to Glendalough," said Hustad on Saturday, during a 60th anniversary of Eisenhower's visit. "His car caravan was quite a sight. When he waved to us, Ike had that classic smile that we all remember."

On Sept. 6-7, 1952, Eisenhower took time for some rest and relaxation, two months before being elected president of the United States. He was an overnight guest at Glendalough, owned at the time by Minneapolis-based Cowles Media Company.

Eisenhower had served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and later was Supreme Commander of NATO. Battle Lake area residents were elated when Ike visited their community and nearby Glendalough.

Among those attending the 60th anniversary Sept. 8, at the Glendalough State Park Trail Center, was Ann Cline, named for her grandmother (Ann Severson) who attended Sunday church services with Ike at First Lutheran Church in Battle Lake. Her grandfather, Dave, also attended church with Ike, as did Axel Hansen, Vivian Ramberg, Phil Holmen and Anita Lien, photographed with Ike.

Eisenhower, while at Glendalough, had a tour of the game farm managed by Alex Johnson. The future president also took some time to fish at Annie Battle Lake, as noted by current Park Manager Jeff Wiersma, who delivered a Power Point presentation for guests on Sept. 8.

Cal Larson, former state senator who served in the U.S. Navy when Eisenhower was president, also spoke during the 60th anniversary program. Larson was among those instrumental in seeing that Glendalough became a state park in 1992.

"Other are like me who see Glendalough State Park as the finest among all the state parks in Minnesota," said Larson.

Larson praised Dan and Sandy Thimgan, who reside at Silver Lake and who were in attendance at the anniversary celebration, for their work in raising money during the annual Walk for Glendalough. The Thimgans also produced a newsletter for Friends of Glendalough and worked on park video productions.

Other special memories of the park's history were provided by Chris Estes, son of the late Les Estes, who worked at Glendalough Farms from 1965 to 1991 as farm manager, and then joined the DNR as the first Glendalough State Park manager.

Estes, his wife and children lived at two different houses at Glendalough for 27 years. Les and Helen raised their four children in what they termed "a wonderful experience." While Les did his chores, Helen did all of the housekeeping at Glendalough, operated the food service and ran many errands. Son Chris also pitched in to do the work, along with his siblings.

Another person at the anniversary celebration was Carol Nelson, who worked for the Cowles family and who has pleasant memories of life at Glendalough. Wiersma, after the anniversary program, gave a tour of the historic Glendalough lodge where Eisenhower stayed overnight in 1952.

Four years after Ike's visit to Glendalough, his vice president, Richard Nixon, came to the future state park in the fall of 1956. Nixon went for a quick swim on a hot day in Annie Battle Lake. Photos of Ike and Nixon can be seen at an outdoor kiosk near the main lodge.

Today, visitors to Glendalough appreciate that much of the acres are unchanged, just the way it was when Eisenhower and Nixon visited the area during the 1950s.

More on the history of Glendalough

Originally acquired by Ezra Valentine of Breckenridge in 1903 as a summer retreat, the land, which later became known as Glendalough, was sold in 1928 to F.E. Murphy, owner of the Minneapolis Tribune Company. Murphy expanded the property.

Glendalough became widely known as a game farm in the 1930s and 1940s. Thousands of ducks, pheasants and turkeys were hatched at the site and later released into the wild. Today, deer are in abundance at the park.

The land is named after Glendalough in Ireland.

In 1941, the property as well as the Tribune newspaper was sold to Cowles Media Company. The Cowles family continued to operate the game farm and add more land to the property, which they used as a private family and corporate retreat.

On Earth Day, 1990, this largely natural and undeveloped property was donated to The Nature Conservancy. On June 10, 1992, the deed was transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for use as a state park.