As our nation’s nineteenth President from 1877-81, Rutherford B. Hayes had the good fortune to serve his single term during a quiet part of American history. He effectively ended reconstruction of the South following the tumultuous Civil War…and the Spanish-American War was still seven years away following his term. This means that although he did a good job in office, today he is relegated to the bin of ‘forgotten Presidents’ In fact, most grade school students will likely only remember Hayes for his seemingly out-of-control chin whiskers.
I, on the other hand, appreciate Rutherford B. Hayes as one of four United States Presidents that were both born and buried in the state of Ohio. Hayes was the third Chief Executive from Ohio to be elected, which ended his term as our state’s Governor. Not that his election wasn’t hotly contested – the electoral vote was so close that he was the only President in history whose election was decided by a congressional commission.
Hayes is also close to my heart as he is the only President to date whose grave I have now visited three times, all of them during three separate road trips that I took with my friend Bob – and each of them chronicled below.
Friday, August 21, 1998 / Saturday, August 2, 2008 / Sunday, June 19, 2016 – Rutherford B. Hayes birthplace – Delaware, Ohio is proud enough that they prominently display their sole claim to fame on the city sign as you enter town – but unfortunately they are not proud enough to have created much of a memorial on the site of Hayes’ birthplace. During both visits, Bob and I thought it rather bizarre that the plaque commemorating the brick house that once stood on the site now stands on the site of a thriving BP gas station.
One of the very few Presidential locations photos in which I posed in 1998
I climbed atop a guardrail on a high-traffic street to get this photo
Overview of the Hayes monument
In front of the gas station
Close-up of the plaque
Back at the plaque
Eighteen years after my first visit to the plaque, I made my third stop her as my girlfriend Carolyn and I made our way home from Cedar Point amusement park. I was pleased to see the plaque looking just the same as it did during my first visit, and sadly the gas station still remained, so no re-creation of the birth home at this time.
The 2016 visit
Thursday, August 27, 1998 / Monday, July 19, 2004 / Sunday, July 27, 2008 – The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center – The Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio is comprised of four major Presidential sites: the Hayes grave, the Hayes home known as Spiegel Grove, the Hayes museum, and the Hayes Library. I have visited the Presidential Center three times, seeing all four of these the first time, the museum and grave the second, and the museum, home, and grave the third.
The Fremont sign located downtown. I’m surprised Hayes gets last billing.
At the Presidential Center entrance
The first of many Presidential sundials
The Spiegel Grove sign
This and other gates were donated from the grounds of the White House
Spiegel Grove – The Hayes home is certainly one of the finest of the Presidential homes open to tours. Named by Hayes’ uncle Sardis Birchard for the reflecting pools of water gathered on the land (‘spiegel’ is German for ‘mirror’), he purchased the land in 1846 built a house on the property for his nephew beginning in 1859. Hayes and his family finally moved into the house in 1873, two years before he left for the Governor’s Mansion in Ohio. This was immediately followed by his term as President and therefore he didn’t return to the house for good until 1881.
Living in the house off and on, members of the Hayes family retained ownership of the house until 1966 when they donated to the Hayes Presidential Center at which time it was opened for public tours.
Photographs were not allowed in the home and unfortunately, during the 2008 visit, the room in which both the President and First Lady passed away was closed for renovation. In fact the whole house was under renovation and it is being restored to its original 19th Century appearance (the family had made many changes after the President’s death).
Bob and me at Spiegel Grove in 1998
In front of the Spiegel Grove home in 2008
The Rutherford B. Hayes Museum Library – The main floor of the building and the basement is a museum filled with original Hayes artifacts and the upper floor is considered by some to be the first Presidential Library in history, which opened to the public in 1916. It contains over 70,000 books, 16,000 from Hayes’ personal collection. I only ran through the library during my first visit to the Presidential Center.
The museum houses clothing, furniture, and belongings of President and Mrs. Hayes. One of my favorite displays is the room of Presidential artifacts featuring signed letters and documents of every President. I’ve always browsed this while wiping the drool off of my chin.
The revolving exhibit during my third visit was entitled “Patterns of the Past” and featured a 19th Century quilt display. I have no recollection of the earlier temporary exhibits.
In front of the Museum and Library
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center or bust!
With the original desk that Hayes used when he practiced law in Cincinnati during the 1850’s
Dollhouse built in 1877 for Hayes’ 10-year old daughter Fannie for her first Christmas in the White House
The grave of Rutherford B. Hayes – Although Hayes was buried in Riverwood Cemetery following his death in 1893, the President and his wife Lucy were moved in 1915 to the grounds of Spiegel Grove. During my prior visits, the grave marker had been fenced off and there was no way to approach the grave, which was surrounded by grass leading to the locked fence. This time, we were fortunate that they had built a sidewalk that leads to the grave and the fences were unlocked. I naturally took it one step further and hopped the bushes around the grave to get a more up-close photo.
Photo I snapped of the ‘pre-sidewalk’ grave in 1998
Grave of Colonel Webb Cook Hayes, son of the President, and his wife Mary Miller Hayes – located behind the President’s monument
Me and Rutherford B.
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