In the continuing series, we are going to look at the home of the President and First Lady, James and Sarah Polk. If case you don’t know, James K. Polk was the 11th president of the United States. He served one term as President from 1845-1849, and then passed away, likely from cholera, a few short months later.
The Polks spent a short period of time together at their newly finished home, Polk Place. Sarah lived there after James’ death, through the Civil War, however this house was demolished in 1900. Polk Place is now only a memory, or in pictures.
Polk Place, Circa 1880’s
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The only home that actually belonged to Polk that is still standing is the Ancestral Home, built by James’ father around 1816. This home is built in the Federal style and is located in Columbia, Tennessee. Polk did not live in this home as a child, but did live there following his graduation from college and before he married Sarah – Sarah never lived in this house.
The James K. Polk Ancestral Home
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
This house is now a part of the National Historic Landmarks and is run by the Tennessee Historical Commission. You can visit the home to tour it pretty much throughout the year. They display an array of Polk historic items and occasionally host period demonstrations, such as cooking in their rebuilt kitchens. A 30 minute guided tour is provided of the main house and you can then explore the rest of the property at your own pace which includes the kitchen outbuilding and garden. The garden is a formal boxwood garden, and make sure while you are there that you don’t miss the one piece of Polk Place that is there. Preserved from Polk Place is a cast iron fountain and it has been relocated to the Ancestral Home.
Fountain from Polk Place
Photo Credit: POTUS Historical Sites Blog
The house next door is also included and is known as the Sisters’ House because two of the President’s sisters lived there at various times. This also houses the visitor center, orientation film, and the shop. There is also Presidential Hall which houses special presidency exhibits. You can read more about the Ancestral Home if you are interested. You can find out more about the exhibits and special lectures held here by following their Facebook page.
There is a video tour available courtesy of C-SPAN with the director of the Polk Home, John Holtzapple, as your tour guide. I would assume this is close to the 30-minute guided tour you would get when visiting.
You can find out more about the admission fees and parking and more description of the exhibits at the Polk Home and Museum website. If you happen to be from the area, they host a Polk Academy History Summer Camp for 4th-6th graders which allow them to experience life on the frontier – which sounds pretty cool.
Have any of you visited the Polk Ancestral Home before? If I ever visit Tennessee I plan on stopping there.
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