A Road Trip to Tampico Illinois, President Reagan’s Birthplace

We are never defeated unless we give up on God.” – Ronald Reagan

President Reagan, the 40th President of America, is still remembered today for many things, including his straight-forward message, “Morning in America” which was a significant part of his reelection campaign. The 1984 election was one which he won without much ado. 

America still honors Reagan today, and this includes his birthplace in the little town of Tampico, a two hours drive from Springfield Illinois. Tampico is a village with over 700 residents, located in Whiteside County, next to Rock Falls and Sterling Illinois. The drive on the country roads wasn’t too bad.

Some years ago (it is believed in October 1906), Reagan’s parents Jack and Nelle Reagan moved into a second-story in an apartment at 113 Main Street. According to some sources, the apartment was situated above what was either a tavern or a bakery. The two-story brick apartment has a similar architecture with its neighbors. 

The Main Street became notable mainly because the former president was born here on Feb. 6, 1911; unfortunately, several buildings in the district suffered significant damages in the 1870s (before Reagan’s birth) due to major tornadoes and fires.

I have been to this historical home a few times in the past years, I couldn’t tell the events that took place in this apartment, but with a tour of the apartment, I could note that it was decorated and refurbished (but only in a manner to portray what it could have looked like when Reagan’s mother Nelle Reagan gave birth to him on February 6, 1911).

I noted that even though the furniture and furnishings would be considered sparse and outdated by modern standards, one could still say they are up to standard for a middle-class family that existed in the early 20th century. Lying by the corner of what I assumed was Nelle Reagan’s room was a wood-framed bed such as the ones you will see in movies shot in the early 20s.

Going through the apartment, I couldn’t help but what wonder what life was like growing up here, what happened here. I could imagine Reagan, a baby sleeping in a crib by the window which faced Main Street basking in the early sun rays. 

The smell of the freshly baked cake from the bakery below (if it were bakery that was situated there), must have wafted through the thin air calling out to the family. If it were a tavern, then it must have been to his father’s advantage as men would cherish having a glass of beer after a stressful day.

The Reagan family lived at the address from 1906 until May 5, 1911 when they moved into a house on Glassburn Street, just across Main Street. While the Reagans lived in Tampico, Jack was employed at the HC Pitney Variety Store, across the street from the Reagan Birthplace in the 100 block of Main Street.

As a visitor, I wanted to visit everywhere and see everything; thus, I ventured to tour the restored First National Bank as well. The bank still had an ancient look as it still featured the antique safes, teller windows and other equipment that looked like they have existed from way back.

Next to the birthplace building, you will find the Tampico Historical Museum. Much of this museum is being devoted to Reagan and to many tourists who see the former president as a hero.

I have learnt that even though the ex-president did not spend many of his childhood days in the town of Tampico (the Reagans moved to Dixon Illinois where they occupied a house that would later be known as the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home), he did share a deep connection with his town. It was the sort of relationship that brings an incredible source of joy and pride to the locals.

If you want to pay a visit, bear in mind that due to the pandemic the Reagan Birthplace and the Museum business hours may have changed.