Presidents Day 2007

There are really only two choices when it comes to celebrating Presidents Day, buy a mattress or learn more about those select few who have held our highest office. So on this clear and beautiful day I drove an hour east of Toledo to the small farming town of Fremont Ohio. It is here that the first Presidential Center sits on a marvelous example of beautiful American real estate. If it were built today, we would call it a presidential library; instead it is a “center.”

Several of the boys from Ohio have told me that they had been to the center on field trips in school. I often compare it to going to Detroit’s own Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum - a home to the early 20th century innovators belongings and homes, which lead me to believe for most of my youth that the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford were all neighbors living on the same block.

The Presidential Center is the home of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United Sates of America. He took office after Ulysses S Grant in a cloud of scandal made worse by loosing the popular vote and having a committee decide he had won the electoral election. He was sworn into office during a private ceremony in the White House red room, only to have the public ceremony a few days later. President Hayes was:
  • the first president to take the oath of office in the White House.
  • the only president whose election was decided by a congressional commission.
  • the first president to travel to the West Coast during his term as president.
  • the first president to have a telephone in the White House.
  • the first president to have a typewriter in the White House.
Other interesting facts…
  • Though other presidents served in the Civil War, Hayes was the only one to have been wounded - four times!
  • Hayes began the "Easter Egg Roll" for children on the White House Lawn (1878) - a tradition which still continues on the Monday after Easter.
  • Lucy Webb Hayes was the first wife of a president to graduate from college,
  • Lucy Webb Hayes was the first wife of a president to be called "First Lady".
  • Hayes' best-known quotation - "he serves his party best who serves his country best." Inaugural Address, 1877.
The center is made up of the summer home of Hayes. It sits on lovely grounds in the shape of a triangle. There is also a museum on the grounds that look exquisite from the outside.

The house was still in use until 1968 by the family - that makes it the Hayes family home for just over 120 years. It is beautiful. The tour guide gave us (me and the ten school children I was walking with) a great background with a genuine sense of the family. The only down side is that they ask you don’t take pictures in the house.

The museum was disappointing. While it looks amazing on the outside, there was not a lot going on inside. At first I thought it might be because he was only a one-term president; but that was not the case as he was also a three-term governor, two-term congressman, and had some amazing adventures in the Civil War. It turns out that they are renovating the museum, and most of the interesting things are in transition. Nothing made this more apparent than having President George HW Bush as the last president in the Hall of Presidents. The worst part is that after not being able to take pictures in the house, there was nothing to take pictures of in the museum.

Still, the house and the grounds are well worth the trip on a beautiful winter day. So nice everyone wanted to get a ride in the horse drawn sleigh.

On my way out, I could not help but notice that the gate surrounding the center looks very much like the one surrounding the White House. I should be so fortunate to have gates like these.

The grounds are also home to very friendly squirrels.

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