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  • Mikah Meyer

Preserving the Porch Campaign for Future Generations

Unit #37 / 413 - James A. Garfield National Historic Site

While much of the National Park Service encompasses vistas and wild nature, as President Obama said during a 2015 site dedication, "Part of what we’re preserving here is also history. It’s also understanding that places that look ordinary are nothing but extraordinary. The places you live are extraordinary, which means you can be extraordinary."

No quote is perhaps more fitting than for the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. For on this one-time farm in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, we recognize a boy who grew up loathing farm work and eventually used that family land to campaign for the highest office in our country.

Credited as starting the "porch campaign" movement, James A. Garfield's front lawn became the site for speeches that broke the mold of presidents who, at the time, normally remained out of the limelight during election season. In a serendipitous way, the Park Service now manages land which once served as campgrounds for those coming to hear Garfield speak; setting up their tents in his front yard after getting off the train in his farm's backyard.

Though Garfield's Presidential term ended only six months after he took office--due to the assassination by a disgruntled office seeker--his family home remains a very well-preserved memorial to his legacy.

Cared for primarily by his wife, Lucretia, and then passed on to a historical society, Garfield's home is now comprised of 80% family possessions. That authenticity makes it not only the best preserved Presidential home I've experienced four months into this journey, but also the home-based park site with the most original materials.

Aesthetically intriguing to those interested in late 19th century architecture and interior design, the house is closed to visitors with the exception of Ranger-led tours. Fortunately, the 30 - 45 minute experience is offered regularly throughout the day until 4:15pm (open 7 days a week May 1 - October 31, and Fridays - Sundays November through April).

Get a small taste of Garfield's farm through NBC Cleveland's coverage of my visit, and the house's interior via my pictures below. If you'd like to go deeper into the Garfield preservation, visit the NPS page to learn when you can take their special, extended "Behind The Scenes" tours.

Garfield's mother's room. She remained in Ohio after he was shot and held in Washington D.C., told by her doctor she was too old/frail to travel; keeping her from seeing her son before he passed away.

A library created after Garfield's death by his wife Lucretia, so their children could better remember their father.

Apparently Garfield was a fan of the national parks too! (Yosemite painting)

This painting of Garfield's family was used to help recreate one of the rooms.

Despite struggles in the early years of their marriage, which Lucretia named the "dark years," she devoted a lot of energy toward preserving her husband's home and honoring his memory.

Civil War veteran Garfield

A windmill, used to provide power to the farm, and Garfield's stables, now a Visitor Center with exhibits such as the one below.

James A. Garfield Highlight (You Can Do)!

1. Take the Tour

You actually can't get into the Garfield House (the main attraction of this site) without a Ranger-led tour, so plan to arrive between 10:00 AM and 4:15 PM, seven days a week May 1 - October 31, and Fridays - Sundays November through April.

Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations. What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

New York to Vermont to New Hampshire to Maine

-Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

-Women's Rights National Historical Park

-Fort Stanwix National Monument

-Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

-Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

-Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

-Appalachian National Scenic Trail

-Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument *New NPS site added 1 week ago*

-Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

-Acadia National Park

The journey thus far:

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