Colorado History

A President Hospitalized...It's Happened Before, in Denver

The restored Eisenhower Suite on the eighth floor of Fitzsimons.
The restored Eisenhower Suite on the eighth floor of Fitzsimons. CU Anschutz Medical Center
A president hospitalized with a potentially deadly illness.

It happened before, right here in Denver. Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, was a frequent visitor to the Mile High City, the home town of his wife, Mamie Geneva Doud, whom he married in 1916. Even after he was elected president in 1952, Eisenhower would come to Colorado to go fishing at the Byers Peak Ranch in Grand County, stay with his wife at the Brown Palace (which still has a suite dedicated to the president) or visit Lowry AFB — all spots that earned the title of "Western White House" and "Summer White House."

But the place where he spent the most time in metro Denver? Fitzsimons Army hospital.

On September 23, 1955, the 64-year-old president, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (who had a four-cigarette-pack-a-day habit during WWII), was playing golf at Cherry Hills Country Club when he started complaining of indigestion, which he blamed on the hamburger with Bermuda onions he'd eaten for lunch. He went on to play 27 holes, then went to his mother-in-law's house on Lafayette Street...where he suffered a heart attack.

The next day, America learned that the president had been admitted to Fitzsimons, where he was in an oxygen tent. He stayed in a suite of rooms on the eighth floor of Fitzsimons, which had gotten its start almost four decades before as a spot for servicemen suffering from tuberculosis. Ordered not to work until October 1, he was soon welcoming cabinet members and foreign dignitaries who'd flown into Colorado.
CU Anchutz Medical Center
Eisenhower was released from the hospital on November 11, Armistice Day, after he was able to walk up the stairs of his plane under his own power; he spent a few weeks on his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, before returning to the White House.

In February 1956, Eisenhower announced that was running for re-election that November — a race he easily won.

Today, Fitzsimons is part of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center; the Eisenhower Suite has been restored to its circa 1955 glory and is open to the public — when the country is not in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that now has claimed President Donald Trump as a casualty. Trump is now in Walter Reed Hospital, after testing positive for the coronavirus.

By the way, Colorado has another connection to a hospitalized president: Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr., a 25-year-old who left his room at the Golden Hours motel at 11080 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, flew to Washington, D.C. ...and shot the president.

Hinckley's room at the Golden Hours does not have a plaque.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun