The Reagan Library, Simi Valley

Reagan Library

Just 30 or so minutes from LA's ever-busy streets and highways, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum holds enough beauty, awe and reverie to sooth even that most savage of beasts: the frazzled, strung-out SoCal workaholic. Grandly crowning a sweep of hills in the picturesque Simi Valley, the former President's monument to patriotism and cold-war heroics is seeing brisk business these days as fans and critics alike flock to the pristine site.

The complex itself has been paid for entirely out of private donations. It consists of four floors?two above ground and two below?equaling some 150,000 square feet. Above ground are the museum, museum store and Ronald Reagan Foundation offices. All Presidential documents and gifts are below ground.

Reagan Bronze Eagle

Location, location, location. Apparently, brochures tout the location as overlooking the Pacific Ocean?I didn't see it. And unless I'm mistaken, that particular body of water is hard to miss. But the June-gloom smaze (that's a combination of smog and haze for those of you unfamiliar with how we Angelinos describe our air quality) might have obscured some of it?or maybe I was just looking the wrong way. Either way, the locale is beautiful, and the museum is expansive.

The 22,000 square foot museum has an adult admission of $7 and contains things ranging from yearbooks, letters, photos, and world artifacts, to a nuclear missile deactivated when the President and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty. You can also see numerous videos and films and rotating exhibits. Currently, the western explorers Lewis and Clark are getting top billing in the museum.

Also of note, the library houses a full-scale replica of the Oval office, furnished with reproductions and staged exactly as it was on the last day of his Presidency. And since the general public might enjoy knowing about the other 43 Presidents as well, California Congressman James Rogan has donated a collection of political campaign materials, banners, buttons and images featuring the administrations of Andrew Jackson through William Jefferson Clinton.

Getting the most attention, naturally, is the gravesite where Mr. Reagan was laid to rest just a short while back. Situated on the grassy flat overlooking the valley below, the sickle-shaped monument is adorned with potted plants around the top, and a cement-tiled covering for the actual gravesite. Guest books are close by for visitors to leave messages. On this day, visitors from as far away as Maine paid their respects.

Perhaps getting the second highest level of attention is the huge chunk of concrete sitting on the same grassy field as Reagan's grave. It is a full section of the Berlin Wall, felled in 1989, but given to President Reagan at the library on April 12, 1990. Who can forget the Gipper's historic speech imploring, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" How fitting that two giants of the Cold War now lay peacefully beside each other in death.

A new expansion of on the hillside outside the main building is currently underway. It will showcase the Boeing jet that served as Reagan's Air force One, and also the military helicopter that carried the President.

No visit to the library is complete without a jaunt through the gift shop. If you want a cook book featuring the favorite Washington cookies of politicians, it's here. If you want a book chronicling the Gipper's radio career with the Chicago Cubs, it's here. If you want a talking Ann Coulter action figure, it's here too. You'll also find flags, videos, maps, and other assorted memorabilia.

THE RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL FOUNDATION and LIBRARY
40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065
Telephone: (805) 522-2977
Fax: (805) 520-9702
www.reaganlibrary.com

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