Wednesday, April 20, 2016

William Howard Taft National Historic Site

We continue to celebrate National Park Week here on Femme au Foyer with a visit to a lesser-known site managed by the National Park Service. Everyone is familiar with the big National Parks such as the Grand Canyon, Arches, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah, but did you know that under the purview of the Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior are dozens of National River and Recreation Areas (such as Big South Fork), Military Parks (recent examples on this blog are Chickamauga and Chattanooga or Kings Mountain), Monuments (Fort Sumter and Moultrie fit the bill), Preserves (Big Cypress) and Historic Sites? Although we’ve got a couple of Historic Sites closer to home (Carl Sandburg and Ninety Six), we were in route from our Easter celebration in Ohio – which meant William Howard Taft National Historic Site was on our way to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

William Howard Taft is the only person to hold the offices of President and Chief Justice of the United States, and the two-story Greek Revival house where he grew up in Cincinnati highlights the path that led him from his birth in 1857 to the two highest offices in the Nation. A small parking lot off Auburn Avenue allows access to the Taft Education Center, full of interactive exhibits in addition to an orientation film, gift shop and knowledgeable staff. Our arrival coincided with the beginning of a tour of the childhood home of President Taft, and so we hurried over to the house leaving the Education Center for later.

The family home was sold in 1899, 10 years before Taft would become the 27th president of the United States. With each successive owner it underwent modifications, and after being divided into apartments and eventually approaching demolition, a movement began to save the house. In 1969 it was designated a National Historic Site, and today several rooms appear as they were when President Taft was growing up there, while the remaining house a series of exhibits on the life and career of Taft.

I could write a rather lengthy essay on Taft’s life and career, but I won’t, even though there were plenty of interesting tidbits and fun trivia to get the kids interested in touring the site. It helped that they had picked up Junior Ranger Books – it never ceases to amaze me how the activity booklets manage to involve the kids while encouraging learning and exploration. We spent some time listening to the guide, and then split off when Vilis started to fuss, touring the rest of the building at our speed.

Our visit wrapped up with a second stop in the Education Center. After exploring the space and getting our National Park passports stamped we headed south across the Ohio River into Kentucky, towards a much different National Park – one underground

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