This past Monday we celebrated President’s Day, a date which was first established in 1885 to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. While the holiday was altered slightly from “Washington’s Birthday” to the current “President’s Day” in the early 1970’s, the day now represents a way to celebrate all of our nation’s Presidents (and of course provides a great excuse to squeeze one more three-day weekend into our work calendars). So in lieu of cake and party hats for George’s 281st birthday tomorrow, we’re celebrating with a list of richly historic Presidential homes found throughout Washington, DC, New York and Virginia.
Route 3 East at Ferry Road
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401
Located in the historic city of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ferry Farm was the plot on which Washington’s childhood home stood. His family moved to Stafford County home when George was only six years old, initially naming the place "Home Farm." Because it is located near a portion of the Rappahannock River where residents crossed into Fredericksburg, the name of the home was later changed to Ferry Farm. Visitors can learn about the region, the time period in which the Washingtons lived, as well as view Civil War artifacts. Because the original structure burned down in the mid 1700’s, it was not until 2008 that archaeologists were able to pinpoint the exact location on the farm where Washington’s home stood. Washington's boyhood home is said to be the place where Washington threw stones across the Rappahannock River and cut down the infamous cherry tree. Because of the archaeological efforts, guests can now view the wide range of artifacts, likely belonging to the family, unearthed from the site.
Ferry Farm is closed in January and February (except the 16th and 18th of February); however guests can visit the home March through October, 10 am to 5 pm and November through December, 10 am to 4 pm. Ripe with history, Ferry Farm is just one of the historic sites in the city of Fredericksburg. Visitors may also enjoy walking Civil War battlegrounds, visiting Betty Washington's nearby home or even visiting the Grave of Stonewall Jackson’s Arm. Tickets to Ferry Farm are $8 for adults, $4 students and free for children under the age of six.
Photo Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Hist
4097 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, New York 12538
Springwood, the lifelong home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is located in Hyde Park, New York inside the state’s Hudson River Valley. Guests can take self-guided tours of the house as well as tour the onsite Presidential Library and Museum. Springwood is surrounded by walkable gardens and trails, sprawled across 300 acres of land. The museum also includes FDR’s Top Cottage. The home can be found on the eastern end of the Roosevelt estate, which the country’s only four-term president built in order to escape “the mob” of politics. The retreat was built to accommodate Roosevelt’s physical shortcomings and allowed him independence despite his reliance on a wheelchair. Guided tours ($14 and valid for two days) take about two hours, beginning at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center.
The historic estate also includes the only national site with a dedication to a First Lady. The Val-Kill cottage was the personal retreat of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and is surrounded by beautiful rose gardens. Mrs. Roosevelt was quoted saying, “The greatest thing I have learned is how good it is to come home again;” she often hosted friends and visitors at Val-Kill when at home. Guests may also like to take advantage of the nearby Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the country’s most extravagant country palaces. The Roosevelt home is open year-round, seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm with the exception of major holidays. Top Cottage is only open May 1st through October 31st.
After retiring from the White House in 1921, President Woodrow Wilson and his wife moved into this stately home, designed by architect Waddy Butler Wood and located in Northwest Washington, DC. While the house is not fully accessible, guests can explore the majority of the home. The tour opens into the house's marble entryway which leads to the grand staircase. Wilson’s book-filled study and solarium overlooking the home’s garden are open to the public, as is the drawing room containing the 100-year-old Steinway piano the former President had in the White House. Other features include a variety of furniture and artwork, among them an Italian mosaic dating back to a trip taken in 1919 and a wall-sized French tapestry given to Wilson after WWI.
Interestingly, Wilson was the only president to remain permanently in the District of Columbia after his term in office. On the 4th of March, the museum will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wilson’s inauguration with a dinner hosted by former Virginia U.S. representative, Tom Periello. While the centennial celebration is a ticked event with limited seating, the home is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am until 4 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for students and free to children under the age of 12.
Armed Forces Retirement Home Campus
3700 North Capitol Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400
Serving as the family residence of the Lincoln family for a quarter of Lincoln’s presidency, this cottage was the site where the Emancipation Proclamation was developed. The home was originally built in 1842 for banker George W. Riggs, but President Lincoln moved into the space in 1862, residing there during the peak of the Civil War. Built on a hill overlooking the city of Washington, DC, the home underwent a $15 million renovation by the National Trust for Historic Preservation before opening to the public for the first time in 2008. For those relying on the metro for transportation, it may be difficult to get to the home without a car; however the trip is well worth it and highly recommended by visitors. Guided tours are very interactive and allow for a unique vantage point into the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
Located nearby is the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center which supplements the cottage with related exhibits and presentations. The cottage is open Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 am until 4:30 pm and on Sunday from 10:30 am until 4:30 pm. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 12; there are special discounts for members and active duty military.
Virginia Route 53
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Situated in the scenic, rolling horse country of Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello embodies a lifetime of passion. Thomas Jefferson began building the home when he was only 26-years-old after his father presented the land to him as a gift. Considered a masterpiece, Monticello was continually redesigned and rebuilt throughout Jefferson’s lifetime. Guests can walk through a day-in-the-life of the former president, peeking inside a majority of the forty-three rooms Monticello is comprised of. From his extensive library and beloved writing desk to the beautiful gardens and slave quarters, visitors will learn about the many projects, inventions, and idiosyncrasies of the brilliant man who served as our third president.
Aside from the home itself, the grounds also contain an ornamental forest, extensive gardens and the site of Jefferson’s grave. Guests can view a replication of the Obelisk that Jefferson especially designed to be placed over his tomb where he lies among other family members. The museum offers three guided tours: the tour of Monticello, a guided slavery tour, or a guided gardens and grounds tour. The art and visitor center includes a beautifully designed museum shop, café and the Mountaintop Activity Center. Monticello is open daily, year-round; tickets cost $18-$24 for adults (depending on the season) and $8 for children over six.
11407 Constitution Highway
Montpelier Station, Virginia 22957
Set on 2,650 acres of horse pastures, forests and mountains in Orange, Virginia former President James Madison and his wife Dolley retired to Montpelier in 1817. The couple famously entertained countless numbers of guests and enjoyed a quiet life on the plantation. Both Madison and Dolley rarely spent time apart and worked on editing important political papers while residing at Montpelier before Madison died. It was at Montpelier that Madison drew-up the beginning ideas of the Constitution, later known as the Virginia Plan. During a guided tour, visitors can see where the couple hosted dinners as well. The home's Presidential Library and extensive collection of art are also favorites among visitors. The second floor of the home is self-guided, containing an exhibit from the War of 1812, as is the cellar, which houses Dolley’s kitchen. Guests can also take part in a 17th century cooking and craft demonstration on the grounds of the home.
Outside, the Annie DuPont garden and temple, constructed by Madison, are popular attractions during the warmer months. The onsite Grills Gallery feature rare and unique objects that can also be viewed. The home is open from January 16 until March 31st between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm. Tickets for adults are $18 and children between the ages of 6 and 14 are free.