"" Writer's Wanderings: Lawnfield, the James A Garfield House

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Lawnfield, the James A Garfield House

 Those of you who like to travel can understand what a difficult time this has been with the world shut down. We have tried to do a few things that are nearby and did manage a trip to Mackinac Island in

Michigan last year. And of course, we spent the winter in Key Largo although we didn't do a whole lot with our grandkids down there like usual. There wasn't a lot open to us and we wouldn't risk their health either. We still enjoyed our visit with them.

So when the travel bug bit Bob back home, we looked for some place close by to venture out for a day. One of the groups I belong to on FaceBook suggested a day trip to visit the James A. Garfield home in Mentor, Ohio.

It was a beautiful Northeast Ohio day with sunshine, warm temps and low humidity. Instead of taking the freeway, we did what we call the Rob Way. Our son likes to take the back roads when he has the time and we had all day. Our mini-roadtrip wound through several lovely communities before we arrived at the home of the 20th president of the United States.

The home is called Lawnfield, named by the reporters who camped out on the lawn during his 1880 campaign but I'm getting ahead of myself. Garfield bought the home and the farm in 1876 to put his boys to work and teach them farming. The property was in bad shape but by 1880, Garfield had cleaned it up and expanded the farmhouse into a 20 room, two and a half story house. 

Garfield ran what was called a "front porch campaign." People literally camped out on the lawn and listened to his campaign speeches delivered from the front porch. He did not serve long as president. He was assassinated in 1881.

Lucretia Garfield, his wife, stayed on at Lawnfield and expanded it yet again to include her husband's books and papers thus making it the first presidential library. Her decorating talents are displayed throughout the house. Because of the house passing on to the descendants, the furnishings have been well preserved and original.

Wall coverings have been recreated and look like the original. 

Our tour guide was a volunteer who really knew her stuff. Not only did she give us a history lesson, she did it with colorful stories and background and humor. I, for one, do not get terribly excited about listening to dry historical facts. She made the Garfield story interesting. Oh, and I found out something along the way I never knew. In the past when the deceased were viewed in their own home, the room was called a parlor but when funeral homes became more prevalent, the parlor became known as the living room.

Lucretia Garfield became quite a fascinating character as our tour of the home went from room to room.

I promised myself to find a biography to read about her. 

Another interesting fact about the home is that it sat near a railway. It was a day's (or night's) train ride between the home and DC. Very convenient. They had to establish another stop near his house because too many people would jump off the train there to get to his front porch. 

If you are ever in the area, stop in and see the house. The acreage is reduced but many of the outbuildings are still there including a windmill that pumped water into the house. If you have a NP pass, the tour of the house is free. Otherwise it is $10 and well worth it. The grounds can be toured for free and you can scan the QR code on the signs to get a narration on your phone. 

We finished our adventure with dinner at the Brennan Fishhouse on the Grand River about fifteen minutes away and stopped for a look at the Mentor Headlands. A great day trip. Looking forward to another.

By the way, the picture on the left is of Garfield's mother. Lovely lady, right? She mourned her son until the day she died. Her room was covered in pictures of him so that any way she turned, he was always in her sight. What a mother. What a  mother-in-law.

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