There’s a reason Ohio is referred to as “the home of Presidents” or “the Mother of Presidents”. Seven U.S. Presidents have been born in the Buckeye State while another simply claimed Ohio as his home.
And while you’ll find historical markers, boyhood homes, museums and memorials for William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison, some of my favorite Presidential sites pay homage to Ohio’s other five presidents.
As a homeschool mom, I’ve planned several field trips at presidential sites over the years but these sites aren’t restricted for school groups and are open to the public. Each of these attractions provide visitors the opportunity to not only learn about Ohio’s history, but of our nation’s as well.
Ohio, the Home of Presidents
Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th President of the United States. Hayes was an attorney, Union Officer, U.S. Congressman and two- term Ohio Governor. Born in Delaware, he inherited his uncle’s summer home, Spiegel Grove, near Fremont where he would raise his family and spent his last days. Spiegel Grove is part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, the location of the first Presidential Library. If you’re looking for an escape from Ohio’s cold winters, you’ll find it here. A family can easily spend an afternoon at the complex to browse the museum exhibits, tour the stately home and in warm weather, stroll the grounds where you can view the grave of the President, his wife and a separate grave for “Old Whitey” the war horse that belonged to then Major Rutherford B. Hayes during the Civil War.
The guided house tour shows off the one million dollar renovation that was completed in 2012. The home is beautiful and while my husband and I enjoyed learning about the estate and life of President Hayes, the 1-hour tour may be a bit long for young children.
James A. Garfield served nine consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before he was elected as the 20th President of the United States. Garfield was born in a log cabin in Moreland Hills. Though the home is no longer there, you will find a historical marker erected at the site where it once stood. Garfield purchased Lawnfield, his estate, in 1876. This property is where he campaigned from his front porch as journalists and spectators gathered to hear his speeches. Tours of the estate include the 29-room home, grounds and visitor center. Garfield was also the first President to be assassinated. His casket is draped with a United States flag and on display in the James A. Garfield Monument in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, minutes from University Circle where you’ll find many museums and cultural attractions.
The Garfield Monument is a prominent piece of architecture in the historic Lake View Cemetery where you’ll find the graves of prominent Clevelander’s. Visitors receive a short introduction to the memorial before exploring on their own. Make sure you climb to the very top of the monument and step out on the outdoor balcony to learn how the cemetery got its name.
William McKinley, 25th President was the second of Ohio’s presidents to be assassinated. Born in Niles, you can see his birthplace, the McKinley Museum and McKinley Memorial Library in the small town of his birth. McKinley considered Canton his home which is where you’ll find the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum and memorial. Plan to spend several hours at the museum which houses a large collection of galleries and science exhibits, including the Hoover-Price planetarium. The museum offers several hands-on exhibits and a large train collection that captivated my then, younger children. Don’t forget to climb the 108 steps to the memorial outside for a great photo op before leaving the grounds.
William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati and became the 27th President of the United States and 10th Chief Justice, the only person to ever hold both of these titles. You can visit the birthplace and boyhood home of Taft in what was once a prestigious section of Cincinnati. Operated by the National Park Service, the home has been restored to its original luster and includes a separate Education/Visitors Center. Plan to spend 1-1 ½ hours at the attraction, a little bit longer if you plan to participate in the Jr. Ranger program.
Warren G. Harding, born in Blooming Grove, would become the 29th President and 4th Ohio Commander-in-Chief to die in office. Today you can take a guided tour of the Harding Home in Marion, where Harding served as a newspaper editor prior to the presidency. The home has been restored to be as accurate as possible to when he lived in the property and is best known for the front porch campaign was held, drawing crowds of up to 30,000 people. You’ll also find a small on-site museum and gift shop on the property. Nearby McKinley Park is a great place for the kids to run off some energy and picnic before you visit the Harding Tomb, the last elaborate presidential tomb which was financed in part from pennies collected by school children. Plan to spend 1 ½ – 2 hours to tour both the home and tomb and though it has nothing to do with Ohio’s presidential heritage, you may enjoy a stroll through the Marion Cemetery to view the Mysterious Revolving Ball as seen on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Have you visited any of Ohio’s Presidential sites? If not, which one would you like to see?