Lawnfield (Mentor, OH), Pt. 1
Last Thursday, I drove to Erie, PA, to pick up my brother Larry from a business meeting so he could visit with me and the family for a few days. On the way there, I listened to the audiobook of The Destiny of the Republic, a wonderful book (I'm almost done) about President James A. Garfield. As I drove, I learned that Garfield, the twentieth U.S. president, was from Mentor, Ohio, which I would pass on my way to Erie. So after picking up my brother, I asked him if it'd be okay to stop for a short tour on our return trip. He agreed with alacrity (I think that's what it was). So we did.
We started with a short walk through the displays and a short video in the visitor center. Then we proceeded, with our guide, to the home, dubbed "Lawnfield" by reporters during the 1880 presidential campaign (above, viewed from the rear).
The home, on a site Garfield acquired in 1876, was a neglected nine-room, one-and-a-half story farmhouse about twenty miles from his boyhood home when the Ohio congressman bought it. By Spring 1880 (after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate), he had improved the landscape and transformed it into an impressive twenty-room, two-and-a-half story structure. Though Garfield had not sought the Republican nomination (in fact, he had nominated someone else at that year's convention), he broke from the tradition of earlier candidates who stayed in the background of the election process and conducted what came to be called a "front porch" campaign, speaking to crowds of people who traveled to Mentor (the train tracks still run near the house) to hear him speak.
Larry tried to get in every picture I took. Since I wanted a photo of the home's front entryway, I had to oblige him to get this shot (below).
Our charming guide (seen in the photo above) informed us that most of the furnishings and decor of the house are original, having been used by the Garfields...such as this distinctive hall piece (below).
The sprawling first floor contains this bedroom (below),
and its distinctive fireplace,
as well as the central sitting room (below).
One often-remarked upon feature of the home was the proliferation of books throughout, which is evident in this bookcase:
Garfield's mother Eliza, the first mother of a President to attend her son's inauguration (and one of only three to outlive her son), slept in this room on the first floor, if I remember right:
And the dining room was one of the rooms in the home that was substantially renovated after the president's assassination, giving it an appearance much more worthy of a president's home, in the view of Garfield's widow, his beloved Lucretia (or "Crete," as he called her).
Garfield's presidency, auspiciously begun in March 1881, ended abruptly and tragically when he died on September 19, having been shot at close range by a frustrated and delusional office-seeker on July 2. He was forty-nine years old at the time.