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"These pretzels are making me thirsty." - Jerry, George, Kramer, & Elaine, "Seinfeld"

arthurYou probably only know him as the only President with mutton chops, but those interested in Presidential history would know him as the Vice-President who assumed the office after the untimely death of President James Garfield after he was assassinated. As far as Presidential rankings, he doesn’t exactly wallow at the bottom, but his time in office as the 21st President from 1881-1885 doesn’t appraoch the top tier either. Strongly distrusted when he entered office, he was at least able to overcome the skepticism and performed adequately as he saw the nation through a rather quiet post-Civil War era that was earmarked by civil service reform, strong growth of the Navy, and more favorable treatment of the Indians.

Locations relevant to the life of Chester A. Arthur are few and far between – with his only remaining home now being the home of a Mediterranean grocery store. Nevertheless, here’s where I have been:

Thursday, July 12, 2012 – Birthsite of Chester A. Arthur – Long, long before all the flap ensued about the birthplace of President Obama, political enemies of Chester A. Arthur were doing the same thing. There are those who would swear that Arthur was born almost 50 miles north of Fairfield, Vermont – which would mean that he was born in Dunham, Quebec, a province of Canada!

Further muddying the waters was the fact that Arthur claimed to have been born in 1830 (which is even the date listed on his grave – as seen below), when in fact he was actually born on October 5, 1829.

Obviously Arthur’s claim was that he was born in Vermont. Otherwise legally he never could have become President of the United States. The giant stone marker at the location in Fairfield boldly states that he was born ‘on this spot’, but the State Historical marker indicates that while research has indicated that he was born in Fairfield, his family did not move into the parsonage located at this location until Chester had already been born. So although it is highly unlikely that Chester A. Arthur was born on this patch of land, I really have no choice but to accept that the location I visited – an extremely remote spot in the middle of nowhere – is as close as I can ever come to the actual birthplace.

When my friend Bob and I arrived at the site at around 6:30 in the evening, the house was already closed for the day. This mattered little to me as it is an obviously merely a representation of the parsonage as it might have existed. I could see through the window that the area only acted as a visitor center and was not furnished as it would have been in Arthur’s day.

As with many of the Presidential birthplaces, the exact location (and in this case, country) is subject to debate – but until it is proven otherwise, this site in Fairfield will stand as the birthplace of our 21st President.


New York historical marker; they’re cafeful how they phrase it


The reproduction of the parsonage


Locked out…once again


Glimpse inside the ‘parsonage’. As you can see from the displays, the question of when and where Chester A. Arthur was born must be common ones.


Marker erected that states unequivocally that Arthur has been born here


Proximity of the house and marker


Me and the state marker

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 – Location of Arthur’s Oath of Office – One would never guess by looking at it that something historic happened at the location of 123 Lexington in New York City. Currently it is a Middle Eastern and Indian Food Market known as Kalustyan’s, but on the upper level in a locked vestibule for some apartments upstairs is a small plaque indicating the historical event that took place here. In the front window is a mock newspaper indicating what went on inside.


Display in the front window highlighting the historical significance of this location

On September 20, 1881, it was the home of President Chester A. Arthur and it was where his oath of office was administered after he heard of the death of his predecessor James A. Garfield. Unfortunately, there was no access to the actual spot, so my friend Bob and I settled for photos outside of the location.


In front of Arthur’s former home, the location that he was sworn into office

Within walking distance of this location is Madison Square, where there is a nice statue tribute to Arthur.


Arthur’s statue in Madison Square

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 – Chester A. Arthur statue in Schenectady, New York – Arthur’s family remained in Fairfield after his birth for just a few years, and then his father’s profession instigated a series of moves in Vermont and upstate New York, with the family finally settling in Schenectady.

To commemorate the former President’s time in the city, a statue of Arthur was places on the campus of Union College. Although almost no one roaming the college could direct us to it, my friend Bob and I were finally able to locate it and thus I was able to get a picture with it.


A statue grows in Schenectady

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 – Grave of Chester A. Arthur – Chester A. Arthur passed away on November 18, 1886 – sadly just a year and a half after leaving office. He had declined running for a Senate seat in his post-presidency and instead opted to return to his law practice in New York. Current President Grover Cleveland and President Rutherford B. Hayes attended his funeral in New York City.

He was buried near many of his family members in Albany, New York in the modest Albany Rural Cemetery. In 1889 a sculpture of an angel by Ephraim Keyser was placed on his burial spot.


The grave of Chester A. Arthur


The marker on the stone with the erroneous 1830 date


Chester A. Arthur and me

Continue to the next President

Return to Wednesday 2012 in New York…

Return to Thursday 2012 in Vermont…

One Response to “Chester A. Arthur and Me”

  1. We acquired a grant to take oral histories from the elderly in Waterville, Vermont. It was striking to us that it seemed like like common knowledge to all that Chester A. Arthur was born in Waterville and the historical storyline was compelling. Dad was the minister in Waterville and was building a house in Fairfield whilst mom stayed in Waterville until the house was complete. While waiting mom had Chester…in Waterville- a few towns over.