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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Virtual Tour of the James K. Polk Ancestral Home

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
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.

Ancestral Home

The James K. Polk Ancestral Home
Photo Credit:

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.


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Can you believe I've lived in Tennessee for 22 years and have never been there? In my defense, I have been to Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage (I love it!) a few times and I've been to Traveler's Rest a couple of times. But I really need to get to more of these old homes. We have a wealth of them in Tennessee. A little tidbit for you...when I still owned my house, there was a house on my street that was built in the late 1800s. The style of the house was much like that of the Polk ancestral home, except the door was in the middle and the house was (is) in a state of disrepair. It is an historical landmark, but they can't really make it a museum due to its being in a neighborhood so parking would be an issue. I wish I was rich because I would buy it and renovate it. It's so gorgeous, even in the state it's in. If they ever tear it down, I'm going to be VERY mad!

    Thanks for sharing this. It serves as a reminder that I need to take the boys to visit these historical landmarks that are almost in my backyard. ;O)

    1. Very cool! It is amazing how people (myself included) either don't know the history that they have so close by or never make it to visiting them. I live withing an hour of the Adams Family Homestead - and I have been trying to get there for 2 years but keep missing it (probably closed right now due to the Govt Shutdown). I would love to visit the Hermitage. We are hoping to maybe take a vacation to Nashville in 2015 for Country Music Fest and at the same time visit some other sites while there - both the Polk Museum and Hermitage will be on my list!

  2. Me again! I was mistaken. It was built pre-1800s, in 1790! Here's a blurb on it (the guy died while we were still living in the neighborhood):

    McCampbell House, 305 Kent Road, Donelson. A two-story, brick Federal-style home built around 1790 by the Hall brothers, this home is
    one of the few remaining pre-1800 residences in Davidson County.
    The McCampbell family acquired the estate in the 1840s. Since the mid-20th century, most of the grounds have subdivided and developed. The
    owner recently passed away and willed the vacant house to the State of Tennessee for potential use by the State Museum.

    I'm trying to find you a link with a good picture of it.

    Here you go! This is a video (YouTube) of Peggy Snow painting it. I actually drove by a couple of times and saw her painting!


    There are some great images of the house in this video. Wow!

    I may have to do an article about the house on my history blog.


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