If I were to ask the average person to tell me everything they knew about President Grover Cleveland, the most common answer would probably be that he was the guy who was President – twice! Yes, Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, the first being from 1885-89 (the 22nd President) and then from 1893-97 (the 24th President) – confusing everyone up to and including President Barack Obama as to the actual count of the number of Presidents who have served our country. That’s right…one term wasn’t good enough for this guy.
Cleveland became a private citizen working in a law firm during the four year interim, after he was defeated – despite obtaining the popular vote – by Benjamin Harrison. He then had his revenge when he returned to defeat Harrison in the election of 1892, and getting back into the White House – as his wife Frances had predicted he would do.
Although known for his honesty and integrity, his Presidency is probably best remembered today for his two terms and his marriage to the youngest First Lady to date, Frances Folsom, age 21, in the only Presidential wedding to take place in the White House. According to the Curtiss Candy Company, the candy bar Baby Ruth was named after their daughter Ruth, who died at a young age. The truthfulness of this, however, is in dispute. It is of little dispute though that the Sesame Street character Grover derived his name from Grover Cleveland – although the former President’s actual first name is Stephen.
The most important locations relevant to Grover Cleveland outside of the White House are located in his home state New Jersey, which my friend Bob and I visited during a 2009 road trip.
Thursday, June 18, 2009 – Grover Cleveland Birthplace – The Grover Cleveland birthplace in Caldwell, New Jersey is certainly one of the nicest Presidential Birthplaces I have ever visited. Because the house was built as a parsonage at the nearby First Presbyterian Church where his father was a minister, it was almost perfectly preserved in its original form.
Not only that, but it has become the largest repository of Cleveland items including photos, clothing, furniture, political memorabilia, and even an actual slice of his wedding cake!
We arrived on a rainy morning just before lunchtime and we were guided around the house by a very kind docent, who let us cross the proverbial velvet rope into the very room in which Cleveland was born. A plaque had been placed in there in 1837 commemorating his birth.
Happy to be in Caldwell
On the front porch of the birth home
The room where young Grover was born – on the layman side of the velvet rope
Special privileges to get inside and admire the plaque placed in the room in 1837…
…And the very baby cradle in which baby Grover once lay
The marriage certificate and relics from the Cleveland wedding…
…including a preserved piece of the wedding cake
Taking a load off in the chair used by Grover Cleveland during his second term in office
Mr. Cleveland, meet Mr. Dayton
The Cleveland family Bible from 1829
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 – Grover Cleveland ‘Westland’ Home – This house is not open to public tours, nor does a historic sign even indicate the fact that Cleveland spent his later years in this house. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, Cleveland and his family lived here following his second term from 1897 until his death in 1908. Although he had never attended college, he served as a trustee at Princeton University.
At the Westland house in Princeton
Friday, June 7, 2013 – Grover Cleveland locations in Buffalo – There is no dispute that the city of Buffalo, New York was an important one in the life of Grover Cleveland. As he traveled westward in 1855 from New Jersey to Ohio, he stopped and visited his uncle Lewis W. Allen in Buffalo, who talked him into staying there. There he remained for nearly 27 years, practicing law, acting as the Sheriff of Erie County, and finally a one year stint as Mayor of Buffalo in 1882, before being elected Governor of the state.
Cleveland had several residences in Buffalo during this time, but only one remains standing today… and it has been disputed as to whether he actually lived in this home in Johnson Park in the West Village of Buffalo, sincethere since no documented evidence actually has been located. The year that the house was built has also been disputed ranging anywhere from 1851-1865, the year of its construction being important in figuring out if it were possible for him to live in it. In any case,the general consensus (via lore) is that Cleveland lived here while ‘studying at law school’ (of which no know Buffalo school exists until Cleveland had already become President)… so you can bet I took a picture with it.
The questionable former home of Grover Cleveland
It is also not in dispute that Cleveland’s wife Frances Folsom was born in Buffalo on July 21, 1864. When Frances’ father Oscar was killed in a carriage accident, attorney Grover Cleveland acted as administrator of the estate. This is how they met, but it wasn’t until he became President and they began corresponding that their romance blossomed.
The birth home of First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland
With the amount of time that Cleveland spent in Buffalo, it was little surprise to find a statue of him – along with Millard Fillmore – in front of Buffalo City Hall near Niagara Square.
Statue of Cleveland in front of Buffalo City Hall, on the opposite side of Niagara Square
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 / Monday, April 28. 2014 – Grover Cleveland grave – Grover Cleveland is buried with his wife and daughter Ruth in a rather unassuming plot in Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey. Bob and I incorrectly assumed that he was buried in the President’s Plot – but this turned out to be the burial location of former presidents of Princeton University. Bob was also upset that he forgot to bring along a Baby Ruth candy bar to present to Ruth’s grave.
Outside Princeton Cemetery, final resting place of the Cleveland family (and Aaron Burr!)
Overview of the Cleveland plots
Headstone of First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland
Ruth Cleveland, daughter of the President, who died at the tender age of 12
Me and Grover G.
Nearly five years after my first visit (gosh, how time flies), I stopped by the Princeton Cemetery again to share the grave with my girlfriend Carolyn.
Getting a photo with First Lady Frances this time too
Continue to the next (23rd) President…
Continue to the next (25th) President…
Return to Wednesday 2009 in New Jersey…
Returnt to Thursday 2009 in New Jersey…