Benjamin Harrison

The Ohio Presidents Tour

For a Presidents nerd such as myself, Ohio is Presidents Mecca. Eight Presidents were either born in Ohio or lived there a substantial part of their lives. Between our 17th President Andrew Johnson and our 28th President Woodrow Wilson, every President was either from Ohio or New York. The Presidents with Ohio connections were (by number):

9. William Henry Harrison

18. Ulysses S. Grant

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

20. James A. Garfield

23. Benjamin Harrison

25. William McKinley

27. William Howard Taft

29. Warren G. Harding

I decided to tour as many sites as I could for a week in addition to attending the Dayton Book Expo. I made it to sites for each of these Presidents with the exception of Grant. Here are some pictures:

This is Rutherford B. Hayes’ home in Fremont, Ohio. It was called Spiegel Grove. They did not allow picture taking inside the house which was unfortunate because most of the furnishings are original from when Hayes and his family lived in the house. It started as a 4000 square foot house but eventually was 21,000 square feet. One of my favorite President homes ever.

This is Rutherford B. Hayes’ home in Fremont, Ohio. It was called Spiegel Grove. They did not allow picture taking inside the house which was unfortunate because most of the furnishings are original from when Hayes and his family lived in the house. It started as a 4000 square foot house but eventually was 21,000 square feet. One of my favorite President homes ever.

President Hayes was buried a short walk from the house. Despite winning one of the most controversial elections in our history, he appears to have still enjoyed a reputation for high integrity. After he left office he and his wife continued to serve for many worthy causes. If he had lived a hundred years later he would have been known as a civil rights activist.

President Hayes was buried a short walk from the house. Despite winning one of the most controversial elections in our history, he appears to have still enjoyed a reputation for high integrity. After he left office he and his wife continued to serve for many worthy causes. If he had lived a hundred years later he would have been known as a civil rights activist.

This was too good to resist, particularly for an old BP hand. Hayes’ birthplace in Delaware, Ohio hasn’t been given a real prominent display.

This was too good to resist, particularly for an old BP hand. Hayes’ birthplace in Delaware, Ohio hasn’t been given a real prominent display.

James Garfield’s home just outside of Cleveland in Mentor. They only give tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so I was only able to walk around the perimeter. Garfield was quite an orator so, even though it was still unseemly for a candidate to openly campaign to be President, Garfield gave a lot of speeches from this front porch in 1880. It was the first of a series of “Front Porch Campaigns” for the next several elections. Wouldn’t it be nice to just go to the candidate’s house and hear him or her speak? Would save a lot of money and a lot of grandstanding I suspect…

James Garfield’s home just outside of Cleveland in Mentor. They only give tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so I was only able to walk around the perimeter. Garfield was quite an orator so, even though it was still unseemly for a candidate to openly campaign to be President, Garfield gave a lot of speeches from this front porch in 1880. It was the first of a series of “Front Porch Campaigns” for the next several elections. Wouldn’t it be nice to just go to the candidate’s house and hear him or her speak? Would save a lot of money and a lot of grandstanding I suspect…

This is William McKinley’s tomb in Canton, Ohio. It is apparently the largest monument for any of our Presidents. I was very surprised by this one.

This is William McKinley’s tomb in Canton, Ohio. It is apparently the largest monument for any of our Presidents. I was very surprised by this one.

A bit about McKinley. By all accounts, a really decent guy. I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame while I was in Canton as well. I really like football but did find it a little sad that mine was the only car in the parking lot at the McKinley Memorial but the Hall of Fame parking lot was packed.

A bit about McKinley. By all accounts, a really decent guy. I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame while I was in Canton as well. I really like football but did find it a little sad that mine was the only car in the parking lot at the McKinley Memorial but the Hall of Fame parking lot was packed.

McKinley was very devoted to his wife Ida who suffered from epilepsy. Legend has it that when she would have a seizure her husband would calmly throw a ‘kerchief over her head until the seizure abated. Sounded a bit cold to me but the contemporary accounts always seem to be touched by the whole display.

McKinley was very devoted to his wife Ida who suffered from epilepsy. Legend has it that when she would have a seizure her husband would calmly throw a ‘kerchief over her head until the seizure abated. Sounded a bit cold to me but the contemporary accounts always seem to be touched by the whole display.

Warren G. Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio. It is closed for refurbishing but I braved the rain and cold to get this picture…just for you.

Warren G. Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio. It is closed for refurbishing but I braved the rain and cold to get this picture…just for you.

This is the monument to Harding in Marion. Again, I was surprised by the grandeur of this. Ohio makes a fuss over its Presidents.

This is the monument to Harding in Marion. Again, I was surprised by the grandeur of this. Ohio makes a fuss over its Presidents.

Harding’s and his wife’s graves. He turned out to be less than savory in many ways so, again, I was surprised.

Harding’s and his wife’s graves. He turned out to be less than savory in many ways so, again, I was surprised.

William Howard Taft’s childhood home in Cincinnati. They don’t have a lot of the original furnishings so I can’t say I recommend it highly. It may also have something to do with the fact that I managed to hit the house at the same time as a busload of senior citizens from upstate New York who were not nearly as curious about Taft as they were about where they were going to stop and eat next.

William Howard Taft’s childhood home in Cincinnati. They don’t have a lot of the original furnishings so I can’t say I recommend it highly. It may also have something to do with the fact that I managed to hit the house at the same time as a busload of senior citizens from upstate New York who were not nearly as curious about Taft as they were about where they were going to stop and eat next.

Taft is a favorite of mine. He was the only man to serve as President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If that didn’t make his Mama proud, she was a hard woman. I liked this early time lapse sequence of him finding out he had been nominated to run for President.

Taft is a favorite of mine. He was the only man to serve as President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If that didn’t make his Mama proud, she was a hard woman. I liked this early time lapse sequence of him finding out he had been nominated to run for President.

William Henry Harrison’s tomb at North Bend, Ohio. You will recall that Harrison died after only a month in office. This site is way out of the way but it’s a lovely spot.

William Henry Harrison’s tomb at North Bend, Ohio. You will recall that Harrison died after only a month in office. This site is way out of the way but it’s a lovely spot.

I thought the entrance to the tomb was cool.

I thought the entrance to the tomb was cool.

I find it amazing when one of the 44 people who have held our highest office is tucked away in a tomb that you really have to be looking for to find.

I find it amazing when one of the 44 people who have held our highest office is tucked away in a tomb that you really have to be looking for to find.

The view from Harrison’s tomb. This is standing in Ohio looking across the river at Kentucky. It reminded me of Alexis de Tocqueville’s vivid description of the stark contrast between free Ohio and slaveholding Kentucky during the 1840s. The passage is quoted in Part IV, Chapter 1 of  A Presidents Story . Read it again—I think it’s one of the best arguments ever against slavery.

The view from Harrison’s tomb. This is standing in Ohio looking across the river at Kentucky. It reminded me of Alexis de Tocqueville’s vivid description of the stark contrast between free Ohio and slaveholding Kentucky during the 1840s. The passage is quoted in Part IV, Chapter 1 of A Presidents Story. Read it again—I think it’s one of the best arguments ever against slavery.

Finally, I visited Benjamin Harrison’s house in Indianapolis. Even though he was born and raised in Ohio, the 23rd President became a Hoosier. He was the grandson of William Henry Harrison.

Finally, I visited Benjamin Harrison’s house in Indianapolis. Even though he was born and raised in Ohio, the 23rd President became a Hoosier. He was the grandson of William Henry Harrison.

Harrison collected canes. Apparently, they were considered quite a fashion accessory in the late 19th century, whether you needed one or not.

Harrison collected canes. Apparently, they were considered quite a fashion accessory in the late 19th century, whether you needed one or not.

A local whittler made Harrison a cane with the face and name of every President that preceded Harrison carved into it. I wanted it.

A local whittler made Harrison a cane with the face and name of every President that preceded Harrison carved into it. I wanted it.

Harrison’s home is another hidden treasure. The majority of the items in the house belonged to the Harrison family. This is the bed where both he and his first wife Caroline died. The guide said that Caroline died while Harrison was running for reelection in 1892. After she died, he suspended his campaign. Remarkably, his opponent Grover Cleveland suspended his campaign as well to show his respect for the First Lady. One of those “oh for the good old days” moments.

Harrison’s home is another hidden treasure. The majority of the items in the house belonged to the Harrison family. This is the bed where both he and his first wife Caroline died. The guide said that Caroline died while Harrison was running for reelection in 1892. After she died, he suspended his campaign. Remarkably, his opponent Grover Cleveland suspended his campaign as well to show his respect for the First Lady. One of those “oh for the good old days” moments.

Harrison had an outstanding reputation in Indianapolis that was only tarnished late in life when he remarried. This is his second wife. It’s also his first wife Caroline’s sister’s daughter or, in other words, his niece. That was a bit creepy to me.

Harrison had an outstanding reputation in Indianapolis that was only tarnished late in life when he remarried. This is his second wife. It’s also his first wife Caroline’s sister’s daughter or, in other words, his niece. That was a bit creepy to me.

My last stop was to visit the cemetery in Indianapolis where President Harrison is buried. His first wife is on one side, his second wife (and niece) is on the other. Might be an awkward afterlife.

My last stop was to visit the cemetery in Indianapolis where President Harrison is buried. His first wife is on one side, his second wife (and niece) is on the other. Might be an awkward afterlife.

November Update--Book Festivals and More Presidents sites

October took me to book festivals in Williamsburg, Virginia and Fort Worth, Texas. The book festivals are great places not just to showcase A Presidents Story but to meet other authors and the locals who come and book shop. I learn something new about marketing my book and have several great conversations at each event. I’ve added a few pictures below of the events as well as from some of the historical Presidential sites Kay and I visited along the way. All of the President sites I visited were for Presidents that figure prominently in my book, so, if you’ve read the book, here are some shots for the movie!

At the Williamsburg Festival. I was given the table right by the entrance which I thought was great. I learned that you actually want to be somewhere in the middle…

At the Williamsburg Festival. I was given the table right by the entrance which I thought was great. I learned that you actually want to be somewhere in the middle…

This is John Tyler’s home at Sherwood Forest Plantation. I highly recommend visiting this site near Charles City, Virginia. It is the only President’s home that has remained continuously in the same family right up to the present day.

This is John Tyler’s home at Sherwood Forest Plantation. I highly recommend visiting this site near Charles City, Virginia. It is the only President’s home that has remained continuously in the same family right up to the present day.

As described in my book, Sherwood Forest was filled with Tyler’s many children and their numerous pets. So there is a fairly extensive pet cemetery which includes President Tyler’s long time horse.

As described in my book, Sherwood Forest was filled with Tyler’s many children and their numerous pets. So there is a fairly extensive pet cemetery which includes President Tyler’s long time horse.

Berkeley Plantation is also near Charles City, Virginia. It is where William Henry Harrison (9th President) was born. His father Benjamin Harrison was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of Virginia’s most prominent citizens. The delightful tour guide said that no less then ten U.S. Presidents were in this house at one time of another.

Berkeley Plantation is also near Charles City, Virginia. It is where William Henry Harrison (9th President) was born. His father Benjamin Harrison was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of Virginia’s most prominent citizens. The delightful tour guide said that no less then ten U.S. Presidents were in this house at one time of another.

John Tyler’s gravesite in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

John Tyler’s gravesite in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Somewhat to my surprise, James Monroe’s tomb was just a few steps away from Tyler’s in Hollywood Cemetery. Jefferson Davis is also buried in the same cemetery. Not shown here is Elizabeth Monroe’s modest plot at the side of President Monroe’s impressive structure. Not sure how that’s going over in the afterlife.

Somewhat to my surprise, James Monroe’s tomb was just a few steps away from Tyler’s in Hollywood Cemetery. Jefferson Davis is also buried in the same cemetery. Not shown here is Elizabeth Monroe’s modest plot at the side of President Monroe’s impressive structure. Not sure how that’s going over in the afterlife.

We moved on to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where Kay got chummy with this fellow.

We moved on to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where Kay got chummy with this fellow.

I don’t know if I just don’t have high testosterone levels or what, but I’ve never been much of a war history buff. I’ve always preferred the personalities and issues of the day than tales of strategy and slaughter. Nonetheless, Gettysburg is impressive and sobering.

I don’t know if I just don’t have high testosterone levels or what, but I’ve never been much of a war history buff. I’ve always preferred the personalities and issues of the day than tales of strategy and slaughter. Nonetheless, Gettysburg is impressive and sobering.

Our 15th President, James Buchanan, graces the cover of  A Presidents Story . We visited his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The estate was called Wheatland and it is a very well maintained historical site. The older gentleman who led us on a tour of the home was funny, knowledgeable and, in Kay’s words, “adorable.”

Our 15th President, James Buchanan, graces the cover of A Presidents Story. We visited his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The estate was called Wheatland and it is a very well maintained historical site. The older gentleman who led us on a tour of the home was funny, knowledgeable and, in Kay’s words, “adorable.”

Wheatland is filled with many original items from Buchanan’s life. This is the room where he died.

Wheatland is filled with many original items from Buchanan’s life. This is the room where he died.

Buchanan’s grave in Lancaster at Woodward Hill Cemetery. He was not a popular figure by the time he left the Presidency but his gravesite is well manicured befitting a man who held our highest office.

Buchanan’s grave in Lancaster at Woodward Hill Cemetery. He was not a popular figure by the time he left the Presidency but his gravesite is well manicured befitting a man who held our highest office.

My table at the Fort Worth Book Festival. One of the things I learned early in this process is that chocolate is a fairly sure-fire magnet for getting people to come take a peek at your book.

My table at the Fort Worth Book Festival. One of the things I learned early in this process is that chocolate is a fairly sure-fire magnet for getting people to come take a peek at your book.