Every once in a while you stumble across such a fabulous family adventure that you feel compelled to share it with everyone you meet. That is the exact feeling I had after visiting the James A. Garfield National HIstoric Site in Mentor, Ohio. I cannot believe I have lived in Cleveland for over 15 years yet this week was my fist time visiting and touring this gem.
The James A. Garfield National HIstoric Site is lovingly preserved and run by the National Park Service. If you are fortunate enough to have a 4th grade child, be sure to register him or her for the National Park Foundation’s Every Kid in a Park Pass. This amazing program provides FREE access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more. Your 4th grader can sign up for his or her free pass here. The James A. Garfield National Historic Site is one of the many amazing sites you can explore for free with this pass.
If you do not have a 4th grade child in your family, tours are $7 for adults and free for children ages 15 years and younger. Onsite parking is also free for all visitors.
Begin your tour of the James A. Garfield National Historic Site at the visitor center. The visitor center is housed in the beautiful carriage house that Lucretia Garfield had built on the massive property in the 1890s after James had passed.
The visitor center contains numerous artifacts and beautiful exhibits that chronicle the extraordinary life of James A. Garfield. Artifacts range from items used by James and his family during his early, almost penniless, years on a small farm to a bed made especially for James after he was shot so he could be transported comfortably without being jostled too much. You can also view an 18-minute film highlighting some of James A. Garfield’s accomplishments throughout his lifetime. The visitor center is free and open from 10am through 5pm during regular operating hours.
While in the visitor center, be sure to inquire about the FREE Junior Ranger Program. Kids ages 4-12 years of age receive an activity book to complete throughout the tour. The required activities appropriately vary according to the age of your child and make for a much more fun, interactive tour. Upon completion of the activities, children are sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a special badge and pencil!
The James A. Garfield home is so much more than the house where James ran his historic “front porch campaign” but is also the home where James and Lucretia lived with and raised their five children. Our Garfield home tour was expertly led by a park ranger whose love for the Garfield family was contagious! The home contains about 80% original furnishings that belonged to James and the Garfield family. The furnishings and personal items truly gave us glimpses into the personalities of each of the family members. For example, James’s mother lived in the home and kept pictures and the last letter James (the baby of her family) wrote to her before he passed prominently displayed throughout her quarters because she didn’t want a day to pass without seeing her beloved son.
One of the most touching rooms in the home is one that Lucretia had added onto the home after James had died. Lucretia wanted to make sure that James’s legacy to the family and the nation was not just that he had been shot. So she had a library constructed which houses James’s extensive private collection of literature. This library is a predecessor to the presidential libraries of today. Lucretia also had a secret fireproof room built into the library to hold some of the items that were part of special memories for the family. Among these items are Garfield’s funeral wreath which has been preserved in wax and numerous letters, including a letter that Queen Victoria wrote to Lucretia after James had passed.
These are just a few of some of the wonderful details of the Garfield family you will learn during your tour of their gorgeous home. This summer is the perfect time to visit the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. What better way to get your family excited for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and to learn about our nation’s 20th president? I truly hope you take your family to explore this fabulous piece of history.