Friday, February 8, 2008

US 20 Mentor, Ohio: Home of a President

Lawnfield - The Front Porch

I thought I’d start my journey on US Route 20 at a place very near to my own home. It is fitting that the longest road in the United States (numbered 20) also be the location of the home of 20th President of The United States, James A. Garfield.

When Garfield was a Congressman, he purchased what was known as the Dickey Farm, which included a nine-room home that sat on 16o acres. Since the house was not large enough for his family, Garfield had additions built on to the original structure, bringing the size of the house to 20 rooms.

In 1880, Garfield became a candidate for the presidency. He used the front porch of his Mentor home for speeches. The name of the house – Lawnfield – was what all the visiting reporters named it because of the wide grassy lawn around the home. After Garfield’s assassination in 1881, his widow Lucretia added on the first presidential library and vault in the county, starting the trend of presidential libraries for subsequent presidents. The family stayed in the home until 1936, at which time the family gave the house and all its contents to the Western Reserve Historical Society. The house operated as a museum, and was designated as a National Historic Site in December 28, 1980. It is also part of the National Park System.

The home was given a $12.5 million restoration in the 1990s, at which time the home was restored to its original state colors of gray and scarlet. The interior of the home is filled with antique Victorian furniture, 80% of which belonged to the Garfield family. Wallpapers were also reproduced where photographs or samples were available.

One interesting structure on the grounds is a large windmill, constructed to replace an earlier windmill that was needed to pump and store water from a well. Lucretia was very involved in this project. The windmill had been taken down in 1936 due to wind damage. According to the Western Reserve Historical Society, “The structure was rebuilt after a generous and anonymous gift was donated for its reconstruction in 1998 and is standing once again in all its glory today.”

Lawnfield is located at 8095 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio. The house interior is closed from November to April with the exception of limited hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays, during the winter months, there appears to be access to walk the grounds if the front gate is open. The house is open May 1 to October 31, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

1 comment:

Pushing 65 said...

What a fascinating subject for a blog! I live in Newport, OR, where we cuss and discuss curvy US 20 unendingly. Also, I have in-laws in Madison, not far from Mentor, but as many times as I've visited there don't think I ever realized US 20 ran through that area, too.