Fourth Right : Visiting presidential birthplaces can remind us that all men are created equal
Like the rest of us, our Presidents are diverse. They are the children of the wealthy and educated, the children of the poor. They were born on historic plantations on the river banks of Virginia, in modest wood-frame homes on the Midwestern plain, on ranches in Texas cattle country. They are the sons of ministers, of farmers, of land barons, of laborers.
And some of the homes where they were born are open to the public. To visit those homes is to be reminded of several things: Of our right to travel to those homes. Of our right to aspire to their position. Of their origins, which often were humble. Of our right to elect the leaders of our choice.
When our nation was born on the Fourth of July, so were our opportunities. Let’s celebrate with a quiz on some lesser-known facts about our Presidents.
Which two Presidents died on the same day--July 4, 1826?
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Which state produced the President who held office for only one day?
Kentucky. David Rice Atchison, born in Frogtown, Aug. 11, 1807, who, as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, effectively became leader of our nation for one day--March 4, 1849, when President-elect Zachary Taylor, a staunchly religious man, refused to take office on a Sunday.
Which President’s birthplace is claimed by two states?
Andrew Jackson, born March 15, 1767, in Waxhaw settlement on the farm of his aunt near the North Carolina/South Carolina border, but before the border was drawn. North Carolina commemorates its favorite son with a highway marker about 20 miles south of Charlotte. South Carolina celebrates its home-grown president with Andrew Jackson State Park on U.S. 521, north of Lancaster. The park features a picnic area, nature trail, camping and fishing facilities and a one-room schoolhouse and museum that contain artifacts of the period and the area. Call (803) 285-3344.
What is placed in a time capsule beneath the site of Gerald Ford’s Omaha birthplace?
In 1976, during the Bicentennial, officials planted a time capsule beneath the President Gerald R. Ford Birthsite & Gardens in Omaha. It contained, among other things, a six-pack of Falstaff beer, sealed but empty. In addition, it contained a football, a plastic telephone showing how the parts work, two manikins depicting 1976-era dress and income tax information from the IRS.
Who was the only President to be married in the White House?
Grover Cleveland, who in June 1886 married 21-year-old Frances Folsom, Cleveland’s ward since her father died in 1875. Her father had been one of Cleveland’s law partners.
What profession did the fathers of Presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson share?
Both were Presbyterian ministers.
Which birthplace is on land still inhabited by a late President’s widow?
The L.B.J. birth site, at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Johnson City, Tex., is on the ranch where Lady Bird Johnson sometimes resides.
Which state is birthplace of eight Presidents and the final resting place of seven?
Eight Presidents were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy all are buried in Virginia.
Which state was the birthplace of the second-greatest number of Presidents?
Seven U.S. Presidents--Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding--were born in Ohio.
Who is the only President born in California?
Richard M. Nixon.
Which President was born on the plantation where “Taps” was composed?
William Henry Harrison (son of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison, who also lived in the house, and grandfather of 23rd President Benjamin Harrison) was born on Berkeley plantation in Virginia. That is where “Taps” was composed in 1862 while Union Forces were encamped there during the Civil War, and where the first bourbon whiskey in America was distilled in 1621.
On what date was the Declaration of Independence formally adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia?
If you don’t know the answer to this, ask any grade-school child. (Penalty for an incorrect answer is that you must go to work on Tuesday.)
As a reward for successfully completing this quiz, here are a few Presidential birthplaces to visit at your leisure. They also are a reminder of how we began and who we have become.
George Washington (first President): Born Feb. 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County. The original house burned in 1779. A memorial house was reconstructed on the site. A Colonial farm, kitchen and workshop also help show a typical plantation. The land is tilled by oxen and the crops are the same as those planted during Washington’s childhood. Washington’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father are all buried there, about 38 miles east of Fredericksburg, Va., near the Potomac River. Call (804) 224-1732.
John Adams (second President): Born Oct. 30, 1735, in Braintree, now Quincy, Mass. The house is at 133-141 Franklin St., Quincy. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, April 19 through Nov. 10. Call (617) 773-1177.
John Quincy Adams (sixth President and son of President John Adams): Born July 11, 1767, in Quincy, Mass., next door to the house in which his father was born. Both homes are open to the public (see preceding).
William Henry Harrison (ninth President): Born Feb. 9, 1773, on Berkeley plantation halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg in Charles City County, Va. The original Georgian mansion, built in 1726, is furnished with antiques. It is sited in 10 acres of formal terraced boxwood gardens on the James River, Virginia Route 5, Charles City, Va. Call (804) 829-6018.
Abraham Lincoln (16th President): Born Feb. 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Hodgenville, Ky., in rolling hills in the central part of the state. The log cabin, which has been reconstructed on the original site, is now housed in a stately granite memorial. At the time the family lived there, Lincoln’s father was a farmer. The family owned 348 acres, but probably only farmed a few acres at a time. The family of four, including Lincoln’s parents and one sister, lived in the cabin until Lincoln was 2 1/2 years old. The visitor center contains a family Bible with Lincoln’s name written in it. Three miles south of Hodgenville on U.S. 31E, the memorial is open daily. Call (502) 358-3874.
Andrew Johnson (17th President): Born Dec. 29, 1808, in the kitchen of an inn where his parents worked in Raleigh, N.C. The two-story rustic kitchen structure features a huge fireplace. Johnson’s father, who was the hosteler for Casso’s Inn, died when Johnson was 3 years old and the child was raised by his mother. In 1975 the home was moved to Mordecai Historic Park, a 1785 plantation at 1 Mimosa St., Raleigh, N.C. (919) 834-4844.
Ulysses S. Grant (18th President): Born April 27, 1822, in a one-room, 16x19-foot home in Point Pleasant, Ohio, overlooking the Ohio River. Now a three-room frame cottage, Grant’s birthplace has been furnished with period items and pieces owned by the family. Of interest are a pair of boots and a leather chest, both made by Grant’s father, who was a tanner. In 1890 the house was taken on a tour of the United States (either on a river boat traveling by waterways or by railroad flat car) so that the public could see it. The house later was returned to its original foundation, about 27 miles southeast of Cincinnati in the Clermont County village of Point Pleasant off Ohio 52. The birthplace is open April 1 through Oct. 31, Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed noon to 1 p.m.), and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. It is on Ohio 232, Point Pleasant, Ohio, about 15 miles from Cincinnati. Call (513) 553-4911.
Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th President): Born March 18, 1837, in the parsonage of the First Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, N.J., where his father was a minister. The house is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Call (201) 226-1810.
Theodore Roosevelt (26th President): Born Oct. 27, 1858, in a Manhattan townhouse. On its original site at 28 East 20th St., the four-story brownstone is a reconstruction of the original house that was built in 1848. It, along with an adjacent brownstone that also was reconstructed, contains five period rooms and two museums. It is filled with period furniture, about 40% of which is original. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (212) 260-1616.
Woodrow Wilson (28th President): Born at about midnight, leaving the date in doubt, Dec. 28 or 29, 1856, in a Presbyterian manse in Staunton, Va. Built in 1846 in Greek Revival style, the house contains furnishings and mementos of the Wilson family. The reception center exhibits items from Wilson’s life as educator, statesman and President. A guided tour of the estate includes the 12-room house with original furnishings, exhibits, the formal Victorian garden and Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow limousine. Wilson’s birthplace is open daily, except Christmas, Thanksgiving and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 24 N. Coalter St., Staunton, Va. Call (703) 885-0897.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd President): Born Jan. 30, 1882, at the family estate on the Hudson River in Hyde Park, N.Y. Bought by his father in 1867, the home, called the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, is filled with original furnishings and family memorabilia. It is open to the public, as is the adjacent Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, on New York 9 in Hyde Park. Both F.D.R. and his wife Eleanor are buried in the Rose Garden. Open April through October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November through March, Thursday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day. Call (914) 229-9115.
Harry Truman (33rd President): Born May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Mo. The 1 1/2-story home built in 1878 was bought by his parents for $685. It is filled with period furnishings and Truman’s baby pictures. A farmer, Truman’s father was employed as a livestock buyer while the family lived in Lamar. Address: 1009 Truman St., Lamar, Mo. 64759, (417) 682-2279. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, Sunday noon to 5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President): Born Oct. 14, 1890, Denison, Tex., in a two-story white frame house on what is now the Eisenhower State Historic Site, 208 E. Day St., Denison, Tex., (214) 465-8908. The house has been restored to its 1890 appearance. Denison is about 50 miles north of Dallas on the Oklahoma-Texas border. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed from noon to 1 p.m. except during July and August.
John F. Kennedy (35th President): Born May 29, 1917, in a wood frame house in Brookline, Mass., a suburb of Boston. The house still stands (not far from the home of 1988 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis) at 83 Beals St., Brookline. It is open daily, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (the last tour is at 4:15 p.m.). Don’t miss the recorded tour narrated by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Call (617) 566-7937.
Lyndon B. Johnson (36th President): Born Aug. 27, 1908, in a small farmhouse on the banks of the Pedernales River in Gillespie County, Tex., about 15 miles west of Johnson City, in the Hill Country of south-central Texas. A reconstruction of the original farmhouse sits on the original site, rebuilt by Johnson in 1964. The Johnsons planned it to serve as a guest house for visitors to the LBJ ranch, but rarely used it as such. Because Lady Bird Johnson still, at times, lives on the ranch, the birth site is accessible only by a bus tour of the LBJ ranch at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. The park, which also houses the Texas White House and the Johnson Family Cemetery, is open daily (except Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (512) 868-7128 or (512) 644-7128.
Richard Nixon (37th President): Born Jan. 9, 1913, in a small frame house in Yorba Linda, Calif. It is under construction as the future site of a library, museum and archives. Furnishings and mementos from the original home have been preserved for use in the museum. Target date for opening the home is July, 1990. Although it is not possible to get on the grounds, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the farm on the corner of Eureka and Yorba Linda boulevards.
Gerald R. Ford (38th President): Born July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Neb. The house Ford was born in was destroyed by fire in 1971. In 1977 the site was bought and developed into a memorial. It houses a fountain and the Betty Ford Rose Garden. The original home was built in 1893 for $10,000, a high price for that period. When Ford was just a few weeks old, his mother separated from his father, Leslie King Sr., who was a well-to-do businessman. They divorced and his mother eventually moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., where she married Gerald R. Ford, who adopted Ford and changed his name from Leslie King Jr. The memorial, at 3200 Woolworth Ave., is open daily, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Ronald Reagan (40th President): Born Feb. 6, 1911, in an apartment above a bakery at 111 S. Main St. in Tampico, Ill. The building, which was later turned into a bank, now houses a museum on the first floor. The second floor is undergoing restoration. The museum is open May through November, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Call (815) 438-2130 or (815) 438-2815.
George Bush (41st President): Born June 12, 1924, in a house at 173 Adams St. in Milton, Mass. The private home is not open to the public.