One of our nation’s most obscure leaders lived in this home from 1876-1881 with his wife and six active children. Elected 20th President of the U.S. in 1880, he would be fatally shot just a few months after taking office. The elementary school I attended was named after this man: James A. Garfield.

james a. garfield houseGeneral Info: James A. Garfield National Historic Site includes the farm and house he and his wife bought in 1876 in the town of Mentor, Ohio. Garfield was an avid farmer who enjoyed being out in the fields working on agricultural experiments. Reporters gave the estate its current name, Lawnfield, back in 1880 when the President was elected. Fun Fact: Garfield was the last President to be born in a log cabin.

Hours and Fees: From May 1 to October 31, the Garfield site is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. (see schedule for observed holidays and seasonal information).Youth age 15 and under get in for free, while all others must pay a $5 entrance fee per person (cash or personal check only). Onsite parking is free, but I recommend calling the visitor center at (440) 255-8722 for details about parking lot dimensions.

Activities: Of course the main attraction is taking a tour of the home and grounds, which are regularly scheduled throughout the day. Park rangers also offer “behind the scenes” tours the first Saturday of each month, which show you the basement, servants’ quarters, the third floor of the home and the windmill and barn (areas not included on regular tours). Special children’s tours take place every Saturday at noon. These tours are free with the price of admission and last about 35 minutes. Learn more about guided tours of the estate.

garfield-portrait1Exhibits in the Visitor Center (house in the 1893 carriage house) depict Garfield’s early life, education, military career and later political rise. These exhibits also chronicle his noteworthy nomination process (the longest in Republican Party history), the election and his dramatic assassination just six months after his inauguration.

Venture outdoors to wander the paths along the estate, or bring a blanket and lunch to picnic on the lawns.

After you’ve explored the Garfield estate, drive on down to Brecksville (about 37 miles away) to get your nature fix at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This large park offers bicycling, canoeing, fishing, golfing, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing and many more outdoor activities for the whole family. If you’ll be staying the area for a few days, check out this list of nearby attractions to add to your agenda.

Accessibility: Most of the park facilities are wheelchair accessible, including the visitor center and restrooms. Guests on tours can also access the first floor and second floor library of the house. TV monitors provide views of the section of the house located a half-story up from the library, which is not wheelchair accessible.

Garfield was the only President to come direct from the House of Representatives, and the only ordained minister to be President
Pets: No pets are allowed inside park buildings. However, you are welcome to bring your pets onto the grounds as long as they are kept on a 6-foot leash and you pick up after them.

Weather: Summers are typically hot and humid. Moderate precipitation can occur in spring and summer, with more severe storms blowing through in winter. The site is open year-round, but don’t worry about heavy snow stopping you in the colder months: all current exhibits are indoors! Plus, the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers several winter sports activities for your enjoyment. I know what you’re thinking; it’s obvious I’m from California because snow is such a novelty for me!

Camping Info: There are no campgrounds at Garfield NHS, but you can stay at Punderson State Park just 17 miles to the southeast in the town of Newbury. The Punderson campgrounds include 177 electric sites, 5 with full hookups and 12 non-electric sites. Restrooms with showers and flush toilets are available, as is a dump station. Leashed pets are allowed in designated areas, and games and recreation equipment are available from the campground office for your entertainment. Full-service sites cost $34 per night, electric-only cost $25 and non-electric cost $21. Maximum occupancy of each site is six people. Group rates are available for larger parties. You also get $1 off your nightly rate between Sundays and Thursdays, or $2 off during the winter season.

If you’re from northeastern Ohio or have visited Garfield National Historic Site in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip. There’s plenty to see in the area, so tell us about your favorite spot!

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