Lawnfield is the former home of President James A. Garfield, but is also interesting from a design and architectural standpoint.
The home currently sits on about 20 acres in the suburb of Mentor, only a mile or so from a large shopping area. Although residential developments have grown around it, the site still has the historic feel from its farm days.
Throughout our visit, I couldn't get over the sense of what might have been. A little history: Garfield came from poverty, but his mother spent her life savings to get him into school and he went on to attend seminary, graduate from what is now Hiram College, become the president of that college, serve honorably in the Civil War (rising to the rank of Major General and serving at Chickamauga, among other battles), and running for Congress at the request of Abraham Lincoln. He became the Republican nominee not by wanting the job but because of a deadlock between other candidates and basically getting the job by acclaim. Once nominated, Garfield threw himself into the campaign and changed the way in which candidates ran for president. After running a close campaign against Winfield Scott Hancock (himself a war hero at Gettysburg), he was elected president. His presidency was cut short after he was shot in the back by a deranged man only weeks into his term. After that, Garfield became the victim of 1880s medicine and died months later at the age of 49. One can only wonder what might have been if this good man had actually been able to serve his term.
They have a tourist center in the original carriage house. Admission is something like $5 (free for under 16s) and they have displays about Garfield's career, along with a 15-20 minutes video. The tours of the house itself are by volunteers, in our case a Kent State University political science professor who also loved history. Our group had only five people, and others seemed to have about 10 which is about right given the house's size.
Both the original home and the addition by Garfield's widow are well worth the visit. You enter on the porch where Garfield engaged in his porch front campaign. Inside is decorated much as it was in Garfield's day, essentially in the Victorian style. There is a wood carving motif on many of the doorways.
Our favorite room in the house was the large library, which was built after Garfield's death but has many historical artifacts relating to his career. The library includes a large vault built to house his papers. They allow you to walk into the vault and also to take pictures throughout the home.
They have events staged at the home throughout the summer. The weekend we visited they had a band playing John Philip Sousa patriotic music. The weekend before was civil war enactors. Apparently once a month they have "behind the scenes" tours where you can visit rarely seen parts of the home. I'd check the website before a visit.
Lawnfield is worth a visit not only for the home, but also to experience a time not that long ago when life and the presidential campaigns felt very different from those of today.
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