In American history, former presidents of the United States may have had mixed records of success and popularity, but everyone can agree they were men to be respected. In our modern world of fast-paced social media, taking a trip to historical presidential homesteads can be an informative and relaxing way to reconnect with the values and history that make up our unique brand of American patriotism.
Add one of the following presidential homesteads to your next vacation, weekend getaway, or Presidents’ Day field trip, to appreciate the private life of a man who shaped our country.
Although not often thought of as a presidential homestead, it has been the official residence of every United States president, excepting George Washington. While many presidents preferred their own homesteads to the White House, it is integral to the tenure of each president.
The tour is self-guided, so it is a good idea to do a little reading beforehand to be able to more fully appreciate this storied building. Also, you must request a tour through your Congressperson, so make sure you plan with ample time in advance. While you are in Washington, D.C., visit the National Museum of American History to see presidential artifacts and even the 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the war of 1812 and inspired the writing of our National Anthem.
Nestled in the countryside of Northern Virginia, George Washington’s iconic estate is a must-visit site for every American. The rolling hills and the tranquil bank of the Potomac River are a lovely setting, and it is easy to see why Washington retreated here after refusing a third term as president.
It retains most of its original furnishings and wall coverings and is often considered one of the most educational historical estate tours, giving visitors information not only on Washington himself but also on daily life during the beginning of our nation.
If you visit with a large group, there are many special offerings, including participation in the flag raising ceremony in the morning when the property opens. If you’re visiting by yourself, you can still participate by purchasing in their gift shop a flag that has flown on the grounds.
In Quincy, Massachusetts, there is not just one but three presidential homesteads from our second and sixth presidents – John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. The home where the first John Adams was born and the home he purchased when he married his wife, Abigail, are located on the same property. John Quincy Adams was born in this second house just as his father began his career in politics, so it was also his presidential homestead.
Just down the road is the Adams’s retirement estate, Peacefield. In addition to being home to two presidents, Peacefield is also the location of Stone Library, a collection of over 12,000 books handed down through generations of the Adams family. It is surrounded by beautifully manicured rose gardens that were enjoyed by all generations of Adams men. These homes are operated by the National Park Service and offer visitors a wealth of history and beauty.
Designed by President Thomas Jefferson himself, Monticello has been featured on two pieces of United States currency – the nickel and the $2 bill – as well as U.S. postage. Jefferson preferred to stay at his estate in Charlottesville, over the White House, and was constantly adding to his home, which is now seen in its full splendor with 11,000 square feet of living space.
Jefferson’s plantation grew tobacco and other mixed crops, thanks to the labor of slaves, and the tours do not shy away from this controversial aspect of the president’s and the estate’s history. The slave cabins, called Mulberry Row, are open to tour, and there are multiple informative presentations on the impact of slavery.
Arguably one of the most interesting presidential personalities, Andrew Jackson built his enormous mansion in Nashville, Tennessee. While the estate itself is very similar to many Southern cotton plantation estates, the lore of Andrew Jackson that is presented to visitors is well worth the price of admission. The original house was brick with Federal-style architecture, but, after a fire destroyed most of the home, the architects completely redesigned it to be the most stylish home in Nashville in 1837.
The property houses dozens of outbuildings, including the original log cabin that stood on the property before Jackson purchased it. Jackson’s tomb is also on the grounds, with a large monument fitting his legendary personality.
A trip to the log cabin that was Lincoln’s birthplace in Knob Creek, Kentucky can be rather disappointing, but his preserved home operated by the National Park Service in Springfield, Illinois, is anything but. The sixteenth president lived in a modest home, which was the only one he ever owned. The house has many original furnishings and artifacts, but the best part of this homestead is the surrounding area.
The four blocks around the house have also been preserved and restored to their historical condition. You can visit Lincoln’s law office and the Old State Capitol where Lincoln’s political career began. Lincoln’s tomb is also in this preserved historic district.
Recently re-opened after a long renovation, Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island is a true American gem. While Roosevelt was in office, Sagamore was known as the “Summer White House,” as he spent so much time at his Oyster Bay retreat.
Roosevelt is well known as an accomplished hunter, and many of his trophies and firearms are on display. The word Sagamore means “chieftain” in the Native American Algonquin language, which is the perfect description for Roosevelt himself. The home is surrounded by wonderful nature trails and beautiful beaches, all of which are managed by the National Park Service – the perfect tribute to the man who founded it.
Turn a family vacation or weekend getaway into an unforgettable historical experience by visiting one or more presidential homesteads in your area. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the history of the United States and an appreciation for the lives of the men who are chosen to guide and protect it. Commemorate your visit with a historical flag that represents the president’s time period or an official flag of the president of the United States.