Presidential sights in Nashville, Tenn.

When people think about visiting presidential sights, it’s easy to get caught up in visiting Washington, D.C.  However, there are a couple of presidential places in Music City people can visit.

The most famous presidential resident of Nashville is Andrew Jackson, who served as the seventh president from 1829 to 1837.  He moved to Nashville in 1788 following his appointment as a prosecutor in the Western District of North Carolina (historical note: Tennessee did not become a state until 1796, and was a part of North Carolina up until that time).  Jackson eventually married Rachel Donelson in 1794, and purchased the plantation that would become known as The Hermitage in 1804.

Main entrance to The Hermitage.

The Hermitage includes the mansion, gardens, numerous outbuildings, and Jackson’s tomb in a small family cemetery (see more here).  Admission pricing varies depending on the type of experience you want.  General admission provides access to the mansion, the grounds, the exhibit gallery, and the souvenir store.  You can upgrade to the president’s tour or the VIP tour for an additional price.  You are not able to tour the mansion on your own.  People wishing to visit the mansion are required to participate in a tour, which is led by a costumed guide.

The other president associated with Nashville was a protégé of Jackson, and was also born elsewhere before his family moved to Middle Tennessee in 1803.  Following his graduation from college James K. Polk moved to Nashville and began his career as a lawyer in 1818.  Polk eventually served as the eleventh president from 1845 to 1849.

Although Polk served in the Tennessee government in a variety of roles before becoming involved in national politics, he primarily resided south of Nashville in Columbia.  Following his departure from the White House, Polk and his wife Sarah toured the South en route to their recently purchased home, Polk Place.  However, Polk reportedly died from cholera a few months after moving to Nashville and was initially buried in Nashville City Cemetery before being interred at Polk Place per the instructions of his will.  Sarah was buried besides him in 1891, but both their bodies were moved to their current location at the Tennessee State Capitol in 1893.  The Polk Tomb is located on the northeast side of the capitol grounds (see more here).

The grave of James and Sarah Polk is on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol.

There is no fee to visit the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol.  Tours of the building are also free, and run on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday.  Visitors can also take a self-guided tour of the building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week.  You can also take a virtual tour of the building through the Tennessee State Museum’s website.

The state capitol is also home to a statue of Andrew Jackson, which is located in the east plaza of the grounds.  The statue is a replica of the Clark Mills sculpture that was erected in front of the White House in 1853.  There are four versions of the statue with the most famous statue residing in front of the Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

The Clark Mills designed statue of Andrew Jackson sits on the east side of Capitol Hill.

Many people may be unaware of the connection between Jackson and Polk, but it is fitting that the connection between these two presidents is displayed virtually side-by-side in downtown Nashville.  If you want to see presidential sites closer to you, check out my Presidential Pathways page.

John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Mass.

Prior to his death, John F. Kennedy explored potential sites for his presidential library in Boston around the campus of his alma mater, Harvard University.  He had wanted a library to be built near an academic institution to increase scholarly use of the facility.  However, following his death resident of Cambridge objected to the construction of the library because of the perceived negative impact on the community.

Eventually, a location on Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood was chosen.  Construction of the facility began in August 1977 and was completed two years later.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1979.  In 1993, a new museum opened as part of the facility that overlooks Boston, Dorchester Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean.

A special exhibit titled “Young Jack” was on display during my visit in April 2017.

The first permanent exhibit is “1960 Presidential Election.”

A special installation titled “Freedom 7 Space Capsule” is part of the permanent “Lift Off! The U.S. Space Program” exhibit.

U.S. Navy Commander Alan B. Shepherd Jr. piloted Freedom 7 during the first American manned flight in space.

The “White House Corridor” exhibit features a variety of gifts from heads of state.

Pope Paul VI gave Kennedy a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Robert Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General is incorporated into the museum as the “Robert Kennedy’s Attorney General Office” exhibit.

“The Oval Office” exhibit replicates the office during his presidency.  The exhibit features film footage from 1963 that relates to the civil rights movement.

The museum also features an exhibit focused on the legacy of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Some of Kennedy’s most famous words are preserved on a note card from a speech in 1963.

“State Visit to Europe” exhibit preserves Kennedy’s trip to Europe during the summer of 1963. A note card from Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin in front of the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1963.
Rotunda following the hallway retelling President Kennedy’s assassination.
A portion of the Berlin Wall commemorating Kennedy’s 1963 address in West Berlin.

The tour of the John F. Kennedy Library concludes with visitors entering the Profile in Courage Plaza.

William Howard Taft Burial Place in Arlington, Va.

Following his defeat for re-election in 1912, William Howard Taft and sought the opportunity to practice law.  He ended up becoming the Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School.  Taft held the academic position until 1921 when he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court, which made him the first person to serve as both president and chief justice.  He served as chief justice until 1930 when he retired because of his poor health.  On March 8, 1930, Taft died from cardiovascular disease.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, thus becoming a first president buried at the cemetery.

Noted sculptor James Earle Fraser designed the 50-foot granite monument at the graves of William Howard and Helen Herron Taft.
William Howard and Helen Herron Taft were the first president and first lady buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

George Washington Burial Place in Mount Vernon, Va.

The estate that is George Washington’s final resting place sits along the Potomac River near Alexandria, Va.  However, Washington did not purchase the property, but inherited it in 1754 and did not become the sole owner until 1761.  Mount Vernon is closely linked to Washington because it served as his country home for the majority of his life.  Following his death, the property fell into disrepair, but was saved from demolition when The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association purchased the property in 1858 and eventually restored the mansion to its previous grandeur.  In 1960, the Palladian-style mansion became a National Historic Landmark.

Immediately following his death, Washington was interred on the property in a family tomb that be built after inheriting the property.  Following debate about moving his body to the capital city that bears his name, he was re-interred in a new tomb built on the property in 1837.

Visitors can participate in the hourly wreath laying ceremony at his tomb.  The event usually involved three to four individuals, so if you want to participate you should arrive about ten minutes before the hour to be able to partake in the wreath laying ceremony.

The Old Vault where George and Martha Washington and some family members were entombed.
Details of the tomb Washington wanted built were specified in his will.
The Washington family tomb with the American flag and Washington’s flag as General of the Armies.
Marker above the Washington family tomb.
Sarcophagi of Martha (left) and George Washington (right) with a wreath laid during an hourly ceremony.

Martin Van Buren Burial Place in Kinderhook, N.Y.

Following his failure to be re-nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 1844, Martin Van Buren retired to his home Lindenwald (now the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site).  He stayed active in national politics and sought the presidency as the Free Soil Party’s candidate in 1848.  By 1861, he was bedridden and suffering from pneumonia.  On July 24, 1862, Van Buren died from bronchial asthma and heart failure at Lindenwald.  He was buried next to his wife Hannah in the Kinderhook Reformed Dutch Church Cemetery.

Two markers direct visitors to Van Buren’s grave.
An obelisk marks the graves of Martin and Hannah Van Buren and their son Martin Jr.
Hannah Van Buren died from tuberculosis in 1819, and never saw her husband become president.

Ulysses S. Grant Burial Place in New York, N.Y.

Several years after leaving the presidency and suffering from throat cancer, Ulysses S. Grant worked tirelessly on his memoirs at a friend’s cottage on Mount McGregor in Saratoga County, N.Y.  Shortly after completing his memoirs, Grant died on July 23, 1885.  Preceding his death Grant has not declared where he wished to be buried, except that he wanted to be buried next to his wife Julia.  New York Mayor William Russell Grace offered to provide space in the city for the Grant memorial, which did not come to fruition until 1897.  Initially, Grant was buried in a temporary vault before his remains were transferred to the completed memorial on April 17, 1897.  The memorial was dedicated on April 27, 1897, on the 75th anniversary of Grant’s birth.  In 1958, the tomb came under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which currently operates the site as General Grant National Memorial.

The General Grant National Memorial is located in Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.
John H. Duncan designed the mausoleum that houses the tombs of Ulysses and Julia Grant.
Ulysses and Julia Grant are buried in identical red granite sarcophagi.
A ginkgo tree stands on the site of the temporary tomb that held Grant’s remains while the mausoleum was constructed.
A marker on the site of Grant’s temporary tomb commemorates the friendship between Grant and Li Hung Chang, the Chinese viceroy he met while travelling the world after leaving the presidency.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Burial Place in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Suffering from poor health following the historic Yalta Conference, Franklin D. Roosevelt spent little time in Washington, D.C., and instead retreated to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga.  Roosevelt complained of a severe headache and slumped forward in his chair on April 12, 1945.  He died later that afternoon.  After a funeral procession in Washington, D.C., Roosevelt was buried in the rose garden of his Springwood estate.  Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor was buried beside him after her death in 1962.

Graves of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grave is marked with an American flag.

William Henry Harrison Burial Place in North Bend, Ohio

It is commonly believed that due to not wearing a heavy coat during his inauguration despite poor weather that William Henry Harrison contracted pneumonia and died nearly a month after he took office.  A contemporary analysis of the doctor’s notes and records about the White House water supply lead to the conclusion that Harrison died from septic shock due to enteric fever.  Regardless of the cause of death, Harrison died just after midnight on April 4, 1841.

Following a brief internment at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Harrison was buried on his estate in North Bend, Ohio.  The family chose a spot at the crest of Mount Nebo, which became William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial.  The site contains his grave, his wife Anna, and several other members of the Harrison family.

View of William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial from the road.
Stairs to the tomb entrance.
The Harrison family crypt.
Graves of William Henry and Anna Harrison, and their son John Scott.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Hodgenville, Ky.

In the fall of 1808, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved to a farm in LaRue County in Western Kentucky.  On Feb. 12, 1809, at the Sinking Spring Farm Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin.  The original cabin was likely dismantled prior to 1865 and used in the construction of a nearby house, which was later dismantled and used to re-create the Lincoln cabin.  The Lincoln Farm Association believed it purchased the original logs from the cabin and attempted to reconstruct the building, but soon learned they did not have the authentic logs.  Eventually, the organization built a replica cabin on the site that resides inside the Memorial Building constructed near the spring.

The Lincoln Farm Association completed the construction of the Memorial Building in 1911, and donated the site to the U.S. government in 1916.  The U.S. Department of War oversaw the site and created Abraham Lincoln National Park, which it administered until 1933 when it was transferred to the National Park Service.  In 1998, the site became responsible for the Knob Creek Farm, where Lincoln lived from two to seven years old.  In 2009, the site took on its current moniker as Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

The Lincoln cabin no longer stands, but a Memorial Building contains a replica cabin.
There are 56 steps to the Memorial Building, which represent the 56 years of Lincoln’s life, and 16 rosettes, which symbolize Lincoln being the 16th president.
The replica cabin inside the Memorial Building is smaller than the original cabin where Lincoln was born.

William Henry Harrison Birthplace in Charles City County, Va.

On the banks of the James River, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred on Dec. 4, 1619.  The 8,000-acre site later became known as Berkeley Plantation and eventually the home of the Harrison family.  In 1726, Benjamin Harrison IV built a Georgia-style three-story brick mansion overlooking the river.  On Feb. 9, 1773, William Henry Harrison, the youngest child of Benjamin V and Elizabeth Bassett Harrison, was born at the house.

In the early 1900s, Malcolm and Grace Jamieson bought the house from his father John and restored the home.  They ultimately opened the house to the public.  In 1971, the home became a National Historic Landmark.

Historic marker outside of Berkeley Plantation mansion.
Main entrance to the mansion.