Salute to the Tennessean Presidents
James Polk & Andrew Johnson)
Excerpts from Kristy:
Thus begins the chronicle of our quest to see at least one
home of every president of the United States. I began touring
president's homes when I was 8 and haven't stopped since.
I can't really tell you what the fascination is other than
I'm always surprised by how much I learn about U.S. History,
how much the President is revered in his hometown (streets,
banks, stores, everything named after said president) and
the wacky ways that the museum/park have come into owning
their piece of history.
The funny thing about touring a Presidents' home is how revered
that President is in said area. Most areas name everything
and anything in the area after the President out of pride,
and I suppose a little bit of the American ideal, which capitalizes
on a good thing. Come visit a piece of history, a bona fide
experience in Tennessee at three different ex-presidents'
homes couldn't have been more different. Our first stop was
James Knox Polk's house. He was the 11th president, who you
may know from the 'They Might Be Giants' song. The estate
made a fairly good attempt to basically cobble together every
piece of memorabilia that he owned and give it a home in the
only structure left that he ever lived in (besides the White
House). We found Polk to be much like Coolidge, a good, hard
working president, who didn't accomplish anything extraordinary
(well, he did expand the U.S. adding, Texas and California),
but keeping the country alive. We were 2 of 3 people on the
tour and when we ate our lunch in the backyard garden, nary
a soul disturbed us.
Traveling to "The Hermitage" (You know you're in
trouble when the owner actually named the house), home to
Andrew Jackson, we were confronted by rows upon rows of parking
spaces. It was at this point that we began to realize that
we had run into a bit of a Tennessee legend. General Jackson,
as he preferred to be called (even during and after his presidency)
was a leader to the tips of his toes. Either people hated
him or they loved him. As with most legends, the state of
Tennessee revered him as one of their most heralded attorneys,
war heroes and politicians.
So it should come as no surprise that tours of the estate
were both pricey and designed to shuttle as many people through
the house as fast as possible. The grounds and home are kept
in exquisite condition and there's a veritable army of guides,
gardeners and assistants.
we visited the home of the most curious of the three Tennessee
presidents, Andrew Johnson. He was the only president besides
Bill Clinton to have impeachment proceedings brought against
him. Not knowing much about his impeachment trial, I was curious
to see if the town even acknowledged his existence or merely
found him an embarrassment. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Greenville revered Andrew Johnson. They have a bank and signs
everywhere pointing to his home, museum and tailor shop. This
is their main and perhaps only attraction in town.
The home is now owned by the National Park Service and delightfully,
everything is free, including the guided tour and movie. Unlike
Jackson's home, but much like Polk's home, it's merely a house.
It's been added to and of course there are no bathrooms and
the streets have widened, but it exists much as it did over
150 years ago when he lived there. The most interesting part
of the entire tour is the section on the impeachment trial.
Apparently, Hillary Clinton did not coin the phrase 'right
wing conspiracy', she merely borrowed it from Andrew Johnson
supporters. Another wronged person, as say the signs, that
the Republicans tried to oust.
Andrew Jackson: http://www.thehermitage.com
James K. Polk: http://www.jameskpolk.com
Andrew Johnson: http://www.nps.gov/anjo