Trail makes it easy to visit sites
Story by Jane Beathard
Virginia calls itself the “mother of presidents.” But Ohio has fathered nearly as many of our nation’s chief executives.
For anyone who doesn’t remember grade school history, presidents Ulysses Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft and Warren Harding were all born in Ohio.
Since both Ohio and Virginia claim William Henry Harrison (he was born in Virginia but elected from Ohio) the presidential competition between the two states could be considered dead-even at eight each, according to Tamara Brown of TourismOhio.
To raise awareness of the role the Buckeye State played in producing these leaders, the Ohio History Connection and TourismOhio joined efforts earlier this year to publish a Presidential Trail — one of 65 roadmaps aimed at familiarizing both visitors and residents with the way Ohioans created the United States we know.
“We’ve worked with TourismOhio on several initiatives with a goal to preserve and share our state’s history,” said Savannah Johnson of the Ohio History Connection. “We collaborated on a series of road trips for the spring/summer travel season. Other historic sites are featured on the ‘Highway to History’ road trip and the ‘To the Moon and Back’ trip.”
“The 13-stop Presidential Trail invites travelers to find history here in Ohio by highlighting homes, libraries, museums and monuments that tell the life stories of the eight U.S. presidents elected from Ohio,” according to a TourismOhio news release.
“We are especially interested in attracting school groups,” Brown said.
Stops on the Ohio Presidential Trail are:
1. William Henry Harrison’s Tomb, North Bend (near Cincinnati)
2. William Howard Taft National Historic Site, Cincinnati
3. U.S. Grant Birthplace, Point Pleasant
4. U.S. Grant Boyhood Home & Schoolhouse, Georgetown
5. Warren G. Harding Home & Memorial, Marion
6. Rutherford B. Hayes Library & Museums, Fremont
7. Garfield Memorial, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland
8. James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor
9. James A. Garfield Birthplace, Moreland Hills
10. Hiram College (where Garfield met his wife), Hiram
11. William McKinley Library & Museum, Canton
12. National First Ladies’ Library, Canton
13. National McKinley Birthplace Memorial & Home, Niles
Brown said it was difficult to exclude other interesting sites like the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton and the Harding Cabin in Deer Creek State Park in Pickaway County.
Visitors to the museum can tour a special hanger and board retired presidential planes — like the one that carried John F. Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington D.C. following his 1963 assassination.
Legend has it the Harding Cabin is where the 29th president entertained cronies and less-reputable friends away from the public spotlight.
“We tried to pick the most inspirational (places),” Brown noted.
Among her favorites are the Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery in east Cleveland and the Hayes Library and Museums in Fremont.
Garfield was assassinated in 1881 by a disgruntled job seeker. Both he and his wife, Lucretia, are buried in the memorial. It was fashioned by immigrant stonemasons from the nearby Little Italy neighborhood.
“You can walk in and see the history of (the Garfields’) lives,” Brown said.
There are other notables buried in Lake View, including crime fighter Elliott Ness and oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, she added.
“The cemetery is basically an arboretum,” Brown said.
The Hayes Library was the first official presidential library in the country and continues to draw both tourists and scholars.
The restored home, called Spiegel Grove, and museums sit within a 25-acre park. All are protected by a wrought iron fence and gate that once surrounded the White House.
Find the Ohio Presidential Trail map at Trails.Ohio.org. and click on the list view. Scroll down to the “Ps” to find the trail.
Check each site for specific opening days and hours. Some are open only seasonally.