Corbitt's National Parks
     James A. Garfield
               National Historic Site


                


1980: National Historic Site

Size: 8 acres

2008 visitors: 27,289

Stamp: ?


Rating (1-5): Unrated

About the Site

This home, located in northeast Ohio in Mentor, was practically the site of Garfield's 1880 Presidential campaign. He purchased the dilapidated 9-room farmhouse in 1876 for his large family, and in 1880 he enveloped it with 11 more rooms, and added the large porch that would become famous during the election. Because Garfield's Presidency was cut short by an assassin's bullet, the Park is mostly devoted to his life before he was elected.

James A. Garfield was born in 1831, the last President to be born in a log cabin. He grew up in western Ohio, where his parents worked to settle the region. At 16 he was working the mules on the Ohio Canals, but a brush with malaria sent him home within 6 weeks. He enrolled in the Geauga Seminary in Chester, Ohio, when he was 18, and soon was ordained a minister. He spent the next ten years at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, now Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio as a preacher, educator, and student.

Garfield's public speaking prowess, along with the untimely death of the Republican Party's leading candidate, earned him the Party nomination and then a spot in the Ohio State Senate on an antislavery platform in 1859. He studied for and passed the bar before the Civil War broke out in 1861. Garfield quickly joined the Union side, seeing this as a chance to end slavery, and saw action in the Battle of Shiloh, and the Battle of Chickamauga. He eventually earned national acclaim and the rank of Major General.

His friends ran a campaign for Congress and Garfield was elected during the War, eventually serving nine terms as Representative. He became well-known for his fiscal conservatism, for his work to curb the worst of the Civil Service abuses, and worked to create a Department of Education. His ascension to the Presidency came fairly easy to him as well. He was elected to the Senate in January, 1880, and he attended the Republican National Convention to nominate John Sherman that summer. After 33 ballots, however, the favorites were still deadlocked, none able to obtain a majority. It was then the momentum shifted, and on the 36th ballot, Garfield was nominated by a landslide. He later won the Presidency with a narrow margin of the popular vote.

It was during his run for the Presidency that his house became known as Lawnfield. He conducted his campaign from the front porch of the former farmhouse, and national reporters literally camped out on the expansive lawn that surrounded it. Garfield had little time to put his mark on the White House, however. On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot President Garfield twice in the chest with a .44 caliber handgun. Guiteau was a mentally unbalanced drifter who had hoped for a political appointment as a foreign diplomat, and apparently thought his chances would improve with Vice-President Chester Arthur in charge. Garfield lingered on for a few painful months, but he finally succumbed on September 19, a victim of the wounds and of his doctors' constant probing attempts to find the bullets.

What You're Going to See

Some things visitors can do is take the 35-minute tour of James Garfield's restored house, touring the visitors center exhibits, and watching an 18-minute video of President James A. Garfield's life. Kids can participate in a program called the Garfield and Arthur Club, which encourages children to explore the site and offers occasional special programs.

Garfield's wife Lucretia saved more than 1,200 of his letters, and after his death she devoted part of the house to his library. This set the precedent for succeeding Presidents to have libraries dedicated in their honor.

Personal Observations

Ohio seems nice enough. I should go someday.

Getting There

From Cleveland, take I-90 east for 22 miles. Exit at the Rte. 306 offramp, and take Route 306 north for two miles. Turn right on US 20/Mentor Ave. and follow that for two miles. The Site is on the left.

Nearby Attractions

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is 30 miles to the southwest. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial is about 60 miles to the west.