August 2012 Issue
Visit Ohio’s eight presidential sites for a dose of executive-branch history.
For years, Ohio and Virginia have battled over which state has produced the most U.S. presidents. Although both states are quick to claim eight of our country’s leaders as their own, William Henry Harrison is doing double duty. The apparent discrepancy relates to whether the numbers are tallied based on birthplace or where the president lived at the time of election. Harrison was born in Virginia but later lived in Ohio, where he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a U.S. senator before being elected as the country’s ninth president. While it may be safe to say that both states deserve some bragging rights, we’re giving Ohio the upper hand. So pack your bags for a driving tour of Ohio’s presidential sites — all eight of them.
Hayes Presidential Center
Begin your adventure in Fremont at the Hayes Presidential Center, also known as Spiegel Grove, the home and estate where Rutherford B. Hayes lived before and after his presidency. The 31-room, 17,000-square-foot house recently underwent a four-year, historically accurate renovation. Guide-led tours are 45 minutes long and jam-packed with factoids about Hayes and his family. As you enter the triangle-shaped property, pay special attention to the gates, which were originally at the White House. After the advent of the automobile, the gates were discarded, but the president’s second-oldest son, Webb C. Hayes, petitioned Congress to have the gates reinstated at Spiegel Grove. Both the 19th president and his wife, Lucy, are buried on the grounds, not far from burial markers for the president’s beloved horses, Old Ned and Whitey. Free concerts take place on the grounds Aug. 1 and 15. Corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues., Fremont 43420, 419/332-2081. rbhayes.org. Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. noon–5 p.m. Adults $7.50, seniors $6.50, children (6–12) $3, under 6 free.
McKinley Presidential Sites
Learn about President William McKinley at the McKinley Presidential Library, Museum and Monument in Canton. The McKinley Gallery features the world’s largest collection of McKinley artifacts as well as animatronics of William and Ida McKinley and a three-room setting that includes a law office, living room and bedroom with brass beds from the White House. It also includes information about the construction of the McKinley National Memorial where William, Ida and their two daughters are buried. The fact that this is the only presidential library with an interactive science center, including a 65-seat planetarium, is not surprising, considering that the 25th president was keenly interested in science. Enjoy a self-guided tour, and during the summer months, don’t miss the special history tours on weekdays at 11 a.m. 800 McKinley Monument Dr. N.W., Canton 44708, 330/455-7043. mckinleymuseum.org. Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sun. noon–4 p.m. Adults $8, seniors $7, children (3–18) $6, 2 and under free.
Drive north to the Trumbull County town of Niles to see a replica of President McKinley’s birthplace home, constructed in 2003 by The McKinley Memorial Library and Museum. The replica home includes a small library devoted to materials on the 25th president and a research center. The McKinley Memorial Library and Museum houses memorabilia from McKinley’s early life in Niles, Civil War and Spanish-American War artifacts, campaign materials and other presidential items. The replica home, library and museum are in close proximity, making the sites a great destination for presidential history buffs. 40 N. Main St., Niles 44446, 330/652-1704. www.mcklib.org. Home: Sat. 10 a.m.—4 p.m. Museum: Mon.—Sat. 9 a.m.—4 p.m. Library: Mon.—Thu. 9 a.m.—8 p.m. Fri.—Sat. 9 a.m.—5 p.m. Free admission.
James A. Garfield National Historic Site
Drive east to Mentor and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, also known as Lawnfield. Garfield, the 20th president, purchased the 29-room house in 1876 and lived there until he moved into the White House in 1881. Lawnfield is most famous for its role in the front porch campaign of 1880, where it was used as a platform to greet thousands of well-wishers. Today, 45-minute, guided tours showcase the house, library and surrounding property. On the first Saturday of every month, the popular Behind the Scenes Tours feature parts of the house, the windmill and buildings not included in the regular tours. Another special tour, Garfield in the Civil War, takes place on the third Saturday of every month, and focuses on Garfield’s service in the Union Army. Both of these special tours require reservations, cost is $15. On Aug. 3, 10 and 17, the Old Village Market takes place on the grounds and features a farmers market, live music, refreshments and crafts. 8095 Mentor Ave., Mentor 44060, 440/255-8722. nps.gov/jaga/index.htm. Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. noon–5 p.m. Adults $5, children 15 and under free.
Home of Warren G. Harding
The next stop is the Marion home of Warren G. Harding, the 29th president. Built in 1891, this 2,500-square-foot Queen Anne Victorian-style house is best known for the front porch presidential campaign of 1920. It was the fourth and last of these campaigns and drew more than 600,000 people to Marion during a 3-1/2-month period. Today the house features an unusually large number of original objects, including everything from clothing and shoes to items in the couple’s medicine cabinet. New this year is a pair of opera glasses that belonged to Harding’s wife, Florence, an accomplished pianist who attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Also worth noting is Harding’s most prized possession, the key to the building that housed the Marion Star. Harding and two friends purchased the newspaper when he was only 19 years old, and it became his life’s vocation. Harding’s tomb is located about 1-1/2 miles from the house and is open daily from dawn to dusk. 380 Mt. Vernon Ave., Marion 43302, 740/387-9630. ohsweb.ohiohistory.org; hardinghome.org. Wed.–Sun. noon–5 p.m. Adults $6, children (6–12) $3, 5 and under free.
Birthplace and Boyhood Home of Ulysses S. Grant
A drive to the south takes you to the birthplace and boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant. Located in Point Pleasant, the restored, three-bedroom cottage where the 18th president was born showcases some of the family’s personal belongings. The Grants relocated to nearby Georgetown when their son was 11 months old, and Grant lived there until he left to attend West Point. Highlights of the boyhood home include a history of Grant’s military career and a display case of Civil War items. The schoolhouse he attended is within walking distance of the house, and the tannery where Grant’s father worked is across the street. Grant Birthplace: 1551 St. Rte. 232, Point Pleasant 45153, 800/283-8932. ohiohistory.org/grant. Wed.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (closed noon–1 p.m.); Sun. 1-5 p.m. Adults $3, seniors $2, children (6–12) $1, 6 and under free. Grant Boyhood Home: 219 E. Grant Ave., Georgetown 45121, 877/372-8177. usgrantboyhoodhome.org; ohsweb.ohiohistory.org. Wed.–Sun. noon–5 p.m. Adults $3, children (6–12) $1.
Travel to the southwestern corner of the state and the small town of North Bend, home to the tomb of President William Henry Harrison. Although he was originally buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, the body was transported to Cincinnati three months later for a Queen City funeral and burial on family property that overlooks the Ohio River. A museum in nearby Cleves features items that belonged to the ninth president. Harrison Tomb: Cliff Rd. at the St. Rte. 50 North Bend exit, North Bend 45052, 513/941-0610. northbendohio.org. Daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Free admission. Museum: by appointment, 513/941-3744.
Harrison House Historical Marker
Fast forward several years for a history lesson on the country’s 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of William Henry Harrison. He was born on a farm west of North Bend, and today an Ohio Historical Marker is located where the house once stood. Symmes and Washington avenues, North Bend, about two blocks from the Harrison Tomb.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site
The last stop on the tour is the birthplace and boyhood home of William Howard Taft in Cincinnati. The 6,000-square-foot Greek Revival-style house sits on a hill about one mile north of downtown. Taft’s parents purchased the home in 1851, the same year his grandparents came to live with them. Today everything in the house has been restored to the time Taft lived there, from 1857 to 1877. Guided one-hour tours begin in the Education Center, which is located next to the house, and feature family stories, changing exhibit galleries and a 14-minute video of the 27th president’s life and career. It’s interesting to note that this was once the home of three generations of public servants. Taft’s grandfather served in the Vermont legislature, and his father was a member of Grant’s cabinet. 2038 Auburn Ave., Cincinnati 45219, 513/684-3262. nps.gov/wiho. Daily 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Admission free.