Two President’s Homes … for the Price of One

My very-accomodating hosts also made sure I got to the President George W. Bush childhood home. Of course, that meant the house was also the home of the elder Bush. The house could not have been more opposite from the beautiful Kennebunkport house that sits above the rocky point that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

In contrast, the Midland house was a small, ranch-style home on a residential street neatly tucked next to other similar homes. The Bush family lived here from 1951 – 1955. And for some strange reason, I did not get a good picture of the outside of the home – so will see if I can “borrow” one. (So in in the interest of fair picture taking – I DID NOT take this picture.)

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Of course this house isn’t THAT old, at least compared to somewhere like Mount Vernon, but the tour guide seemed to want to make it historically old. She would hold up an object and say, “Do you know what this is?” like it was something out of the dark ages – when actually it would be something even the kids have in their houses. Besides the presidential significance, the house is thought to be one of the first houses from the fifties set aside for historical purposes.

I so appreciate Kevin and Jenifer for giving me a Bush tour of Midland.

Zachary Taylor

I’ve been through Louisville a lot on the way to other places. In fact, I was through Louisville just a few weeks ago – and I knew there was a president’s house there, one of the few I haven’t seen. The difference about Zachary Taylor’s house, however, is you can’t actually go inside because people live there and I guess they don’t (understandably) want tourists wandering through their kitchen or bedroom.

But it was there and since Roger and I were both in Louisville – we decided we would drive by so we could say we saw it – so that’s what we did.

Beautiful house  – but didn’t find too much more about it than you can find out by looking at this picture.

Still – another president’s house crossed off the list.DSC02960

PRESIDENT #32 – FDR

Besides his home in Hyde Park, Roosevelt had a place where he liked to go for relaxation – The Little White House in Warm Springs Georgia.

In 1921, FDR became ill with polio. One of the remedies for the pain he experienced was dipping in the pools in Warm Springs  – an area where many people (especially those with yellow fever) came for the healing waters. He particularly enjoyed a resort whose natural spring was a consistent 88 degrees. However, the resort itself was a mess.

FDR solved that by buying the resort and the surrounding 1700 acre farm.

A few years later, Roosevelt became president and built a small (six room) house on the property and called it The Little White House. Not only could he go there to relax, but also to take a warm dip into the spring.  Later he added servants’ quarters and a guesthouse.

Roosevelt made the trip to The Little White House 16 times while president – each time staying two or three weeks.

The house is inviting – jutting out into the woods with a deck that makes you feel as if you’re in a treehouse.

Roosevelt died while vacationing at his Georgia home.

FDR was having his portrait painted at the time of his death - it is hanging on the wall unfinished.

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Here’s what I wrote the day we were there.

We headed south to Georgia, went about halfway down the state and then veered off to Warm Springs to see where Franklin Roosevelt went for the healing waters of the natural springs to ease the pain from his polio. The sun was actually out (lots of rain) as we walked through the small museum and saw the place where the pools were located.

Afterwards we were asking the lady behind the desk about directions to the house As she was talking, she pulled out a picture of a little girl. She explained to us that there was a rather well-known picture of Franklin Roosevelt sitting with several children who had polio. The picture was taken at a Thanksgiving dinner and one little girl is receiving a drum stick from the President.  The lady we were talking to was the grown-up little girl, the only person still alive from the FDR picture. We chatted about my interest in Presidents and First Ladies and she said she was doing a Roosevelt Scrapbook for the Roosevelt Library and if I wanted to send her my picture, she would put it in the book. So I will, but who knows?

So we headed for the house.  So much for the sun. By the time we reached the house, it was raining again.

Lots of classes of kids wandering around. We walked through a small museum. (State flags lined the walk up to the museum.)

Then we went to the house itself. The house was cozy, small, but pretty. We both liked it a lot. Lots of model ships(one of Franklin’s loves) were displayed on the mantles . The desk off the back of the house looked over the woods – a sentry stood in the woods when FDR was there.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

1. Warren had a cane collection – he displayed it in the foyer next to where he and Florence were married.

2. He was the only president elected on his birthday.

3. The Hardings had the lst indoor plumbing in town.

4. Florence’s parents raised her son (from her first marriage) with the stipulation that she would have no say in how he was raised.

5. The Hardings had no children of their own.

6. As an adult, the son moved to Colorado and tried running a newspaper and then went on to farming. He died young from the effects of alcoholism.

7. A grandson (or great grandson) still lives in town, but refuses of to visit the house.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

As a young man Warren Harding and two friends bought the Marion Star (Ohio) for $300 and went into the newspaper business. He was a good- looking man. In fact, someone told him that he’d make a dandy-looking president.

But Warren was happy with his life. During the day he’d run the newspaper and at night, he’d play poker.

Florence DeWolfe, a divorcee, met Warren and actively pursued him until he agreed to marry her. For many years she worked with him on the paper and many credit her with making the paper an eventual success. Most people considered Florence the real boss and Warren simply the one out front.

But wait a minute, let’s look at Florence for a couple paragraphs.

When Florence was 19, she became pregnant and supposedly eloped with the neighbor boy – however, no official marriage license has ever been found so there’s a question whether they were really married. After splitting with the neighbor, she gave piano lessons to raise her son – until she met Warren and convinced him to marry her.

Although, Warren was already a Mason, an Elk, a Rotarian and a member of the Chamber of Commerce and people liked him, Florence wanted him to be even more important. She went to work. She decided Warren should publish his paper daily instead of weekly. She forced him to become a public speaker and soon he was speaking around the area. Even though he thought he was a good speaker, he really wasn’t and often tripped over or mispronounced words. He liked alliteration and in one speech made the statement: “Progression is not proclamation nor palaver. It is not pretense nor play on prejudice. It is not personal pronouns nor perennial pronouncement. It is not the perturbutation of a people passion-wrought nor a promise proposed.”

The author H.L. Mencken said in response to Harding’s speeches that his style was “rumble and bumble, flap and doodle, balder and dash.”  Someone else said, “His speeches leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.”  Still, he was tall and he was handsome and people liked to be around him. He entered politics and soon was elected into the state senate, then as LT. governor of Ohio and from there to the U.S. Senate.

Members of the National Republican party noticed him and decide that he could be chairman of the National Convention with the sole purpose of keeping Teddy Roosevelt from being nominated. It didn’t work.

Four years later his friends sitting in a “smoke-filled” room decided that Harding should be president himself and manipulated him into being nominated. He won on the tenth ballot. When asked if there was anything embarrassing in his past, he said “no,” but later, after he was nominated, it was discovered that he had been having  an affair with a wife of one of his best friends, Carrie Phillips. The two families had often traveled together and socialized.  (Carrie is a whole other story.)  When the affair was discovered, Florence was understandably irate, but this wasn’t the first time she had discovered her husband cheating.

Meanwhile, Florence took over the campaign. Having worked on her husband’s newspaper, she understood how reporters work and she got him lots of publicity. Also, because of Hardings looks – he got the ladies’ vote. In fact, this election was the first time ladies COULD vote. His theme was to get America back to the time where people gathered on front porches and talked with neighbors and he had an addition built onto his own porch in Marion where he gave many campaign speeches. Over 600,000 people came to hear him speak from his porch – including Mary Pickford, the first of celebrity endorsements. The campaign was also the first with radio coverage.

Harding’s presidency is mostly known for it’s scandals. Problem was, all those poker-playing friends from Ohio came along with him to Washington D.C.. Though  prohibition was in effect, Harding spent his nights having poker parties upstairs in the White House. The alcohol flowed.  Even he admitted that being a president took more than good looks. Although he started with some goals in mind, things quickly began falling apart. Not only were their political scandals but another mistress showed up – Nan Britton. According to a book Nan wrote, she and Harding had a child. In the course of his presidency his black hair turned white. The world was too much with him.

In 1923, he and Florence headed west on a speaking tour and while in San Francisco, he died.

Some say it was a stroke.

Some say it was a heart attack.

Some say his enemies had poisoned him.

Some say that Florence had had too much of his unfaithfulness, and she poisoned him. She did refuse to allow an autopsy and immediately burned all his papers.

So I guess we’ll never know.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

Oh, wow, now this is a president with a story – but not necessarily a good one.

Most people who list presidents in order of effectiveness, put him at the bottom.

Maybe because his presidency was filled with scandals like Tea Pot Dome.

Or maybe because he did things like lose the White House china in a poker game.

Maybe a little bit of both.

The difference between Harding and a president you might think is even worse – Harding didn’t really do anything. According to our tour guide, the highlight of his presidency was dedicating a statue of Simon Bolivar in Central Park.

I’ll tell you more about him in the next couple days.