On a late winter morning, Erica and I ventured out to take a tour of one of Indy’s most historical homes: the home of President Benjamin Harrison in the north downtown area.
The life and Presidency of our 23rdPresident is truly fascinating. As someone who is a bit geeky when it comes to Presidential history, I loved having the opportunity to tour Harrison’s home and hear the stories about his life, family, and service to our country.
The home is a truly beautiful site. The expansive front porch of the home was the very place where Harrison gave speeches to various delegates visiting Indianapolis during Harrison’s campaign for the Presidency. I know it’s nerdy, but I thought it was remarkably cool to stand in the very spot where a 5’6” man gave speeches that must have been so compelling that they elevated him to the position of Commander in Chief.
As we stepped inside, we were greeted by the warm and friendly staff that oversee the home. It was nice that Erica and I were the only ones on the tour for quite a while, as I think we were given an excellent tour that included some truly candid facts about Harrison and his home.
The home is beautiful and quite large, as Harrison made an excellent living as a lawyer and legislator in Indianapolis.
One of my favorite rooms was Harrison’s private study, which contained a massive bookshelf with all kinds of reading material. Also in the study were the many gifts presented to the President while he was in office, including a chair made out of the horns of longhorn cattle, and a walking cane with hand-carved portraits of all the Presidents up to Harrison’s administration. The room was dark and had the feel of a hybrid of a well-used, serious study room and a room where a man could be himself. It was truly President Harrison’s man-cave.
I also enjoyed seeing the formal dining room, set with the formal dining ware that the Harrison’s used for entertainment. We learned that Harrison’s 2nd wife, Mary Scott Lord Dimmick, was quite the accomplished artist who painted intricate works of art on many of the pieces of china in the home. We also caught a glimpse of the Harrison Presidential china.
As we went upstairs, we were told that the fixture at the bottom of the banister was from an old firefighting hose and had been remade into a lighting fixture that was a gift from a local firefighters battalion. It was a very unique lighting fixture that was one of Harrison’s favorite items in the home.
We toured the upstairs rooms, learning about life in the late 19th century and of Harrison’s devotion to his family and children. I was fascinated by the fact that Harrison was the grandson of our 9thPresident, William Henry Harrison, but he never seemed to feel that this entitled him to hold a greater office. He truly worked hard and earned the lifestyle he and his family lived. Similar to President Truman, Harrison worked tirelessly at the White House, but wanted desperately to return back to the home he loved when his term was over.
Our final stops in the home were the upstairs ballroom that has been transformed into an educational room designed for school field trips and contains many artifacts from the Harrison family history. We ended our tour of the home in the kitchen, which may not have been in the exact historical condition of the original home, but contained many of the items commonly found in similar kitchens of the time.
The tour was wonderful and we were so glad to get the opportunity to learn a little more about the personal life and history of one of Indiana’s greatest historical figures. If you get the chance, I highly recommend stopping in the home and taking the tour.