5 Ohio Presidential Sites
Most people couldn’t name the eight presidents hailing from Ohio—or even recognize their pictures. But this political breeding ground gave us Harrison, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, a second Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Harding. You can learn about some of their quirky histories—and their families'—across Ohio, with Garfield ruling Cleveland, Taft claiming Cincinnati and McKinley starring in Canton. The lessons arise from solemn tombs, wacky paraphernalia, and passionate guides who tell great stories and speculate on crazy coincidences. (Did Harding's election really hinge on his looks because women first voted in 1920?)
Visit little-known stops (such as the Harding Memorial, pictured), and you'll come away appreciating the journeys that led these eight men to the White House.
First Ladies National Historic Site, Canton
Guided tours visit two buildings: a dry education-research center and the restored Victorian Saxton McKinley House. The real fun happens at the latter, where a “first lady” costumed interpreter gives a primer on the language of the fan or flirting. She also dishes on her counterparts, including Jacqueline Bouvier, who met husband JFK while she worked for a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Admission charged. (330) 452-0876; firstladies.org
Harding Home, Marion
Tours of this home reveal zany details you don’t expect from a presidential site: a sideways chair, a haunted clock and a canary (now stuffed) that allegedly predicted Harding’s death. It’s not a mansion, just an average home in a cozy neighborhood. Don’t miss the regal Harding Memorial a mile and a half away. Admission charged; open by appointment during the winter. (800) 600-6894; hardinghome.org
- Garfield home Memorial Library. Photo courtesy of Rob Ledwedge.
James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor
Garfield began the tradition of front-porch campaigning, so his home offers plenty of grassroots-style political punch. Guided tours explore family life; if you want to see the presidential memorabilia, leave time to wander in the visitors center (which once served as his pressroom). A short film puts his presidency in context, making a stop on the front porch more meaningful. Admission charged for guided tours. (440) 255-8722; nps.gov/jaga
McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, Canton
Learn about the life and death of the assassinated leader, as well as the history of Stark County. April through November, also visit the domed McKinley memorial, topped by a stained-glass window. Admission charged. (330) 455-7043; mckinleymuseum.org
- Photo courtesy of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont
History buffs find much to explore on the sprawling Spiegel Grove estate. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, are buried on the wooded grounds, and a five-year renovation has restored the original post-Civil War decor to part of the 31-room mansion. The museum was renovated in 2016 and added new, more interactive exhibit galleries telling the story of Hayes, Lucy and the era when they lived. Admission charged. (419) 332-2081; rbhayes.org