By Amanda Beck
Yorba Linda – Nearly 15 years after it opened, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace today unveils a $14 million addition that provides a grand new entertaining space and a home for the 46 million pages that are the treasure trove of Nixon's presidential materials.
Loyalists say the expansion is one in a series of steps that is bringing the library into its own -- a place for serious scholarship and a monument that stands, without apology, to its namesake.
"We've certainly reached a fork in the road," Executive Director John H. Taylor said.
"Certainly by the end of this decade, if not before, the Nixon library will have come into its own as one of the nation's premier centers for ... study."
The ribbon-cutting on this new wing is part of a string of recent positive events. The library also claimed victory in January, when President George W. Bush signed legislation allowing the facility to house Nixon's White House materials and thereby take the mantle of an official presidential library.
On Aug. 9, the stewards of the Nixon legacy also weathered the 30th anniversary of the president's resignation, which brought not only a revisiting of Watergate but also some moderate scholars to say Nixon will be remembered for more than scandal.
Wrap it all together, and you've got a group of Nixon enthusiasts who are relishing a new time for the facility, once ridiculed as what private funds could do for a disgraced man and a wannabe presidential library that boasted few research materials.
"I think it's a dream come true for some of the people who have worked at the Nixon library so long and hard and loyally," said Harry P. Jeffrey, a Nixon scholar at California State University, Fullerton.
Especially with the eventual addition of Nixon's presidential papers, scholars and journalists will come from all of the world to sift through its secrets, Jeffrey added.
"It's going to be one of the best sets of presidential papers and presidential libraries in America, because it's a presidency that lasted more than one term -- and there was so darn much going on at the time."
Sentiments like these are undoubtedly a pleasure for the Nixon entourage, who have relied on private donations and innovative programming to keep the library profitable since its opening in 1990.
Because the library received no federal funding, many supporters -- even Nixon himself -- were concerned about its viability, said Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the president's daughter.
"What he really wanted was for the birthplace to be preserved. He loved that little house. ... And he was concerned about the fund raising -- that it would always be a struggle," Eisenhower said.
She added that the addition will also help alleviate such concerns by providing a rentable entertainment venue.
"I think it's really exciting to bring a little bit of the White House to the West Coast -- to have this magnificent room re-created," Eisenhower said, tossing aside concerns the party venue might lessen the stature of the new facility.
"It all goes hand and glove."