I got up early to try to get the trifecta again...three Presidential gravesites in one day. This should be pretty easy, they are all within an hour's drive of Albany where I stayed last night. Free breakfast and on my way.
First up, Chester A. Arthur. Arthur was the 21st President of the US. He was a lawyer in NY City where met his wife, Ellen Herndon. They were married just as the Civil War started and Arthur joined, of course. He was in the quartermaster corps, so didn't see any real action. After the war he became big whig in the Republican Party. He reluctantly agreed to be the VP for James A. Garfield in 1880. Unfortunately, his beloved Ellen had passed away before he became VP and he was thoroughly devastated by her loss, sustaining deep depression for the rest of his life
. He became President when (What happened to Garfield? Do you remember?) Right! Assassinated by Charles Guiteau in 1881. First thing Arthur did was get rid of 20 or so wagons of old White House furniture. That made Congress mad, causing them to name the White House a National Historic Site so nothing else could be destroyed. His Presidency was as uneventful as his gravesite is nondescript. The only distinguishing characteristic is a large bronze angel overlooking his sarcophagus. Not too easy to find in Albany Rural Cemetery either. A sad place, and I sort of sensed the sadness he must have felt when he lost his precious wife. Haven't felt that way at any other gravesite. Interesting.
Then it was down the road just 19 miles to the grave of Martin Van Buren. What an interesting fellow. Check his picture out sometime. He had red hair, but in his older pictures he's got wild gray hair...almost reminds me of a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Carrot Top! Anyway, his grave was pretty tough to find as well. I actually made it to the MVB National Historic Site (where he lived when he retired). I saw a brief film on the man and his life. But the grave was several miles away from the Nat. Historic Site in a small town where he was born and raised called Kinderhook.
MVB was the 8th President
. And he was the first American born President. He had politics in his blood. His father was a tavern owner where lots of political events occurred. Alexander Hamilton was a frequent guest. He became a lawyer, moved to NYC and met his wife Hannah, who was actually a distant cousin of VanBurens. Interesting! MVB was a successful politician, State Senator, US Senator, Governor of NY, Sec. of State under Andrew Jackson. His Presidency was a disaster due to bad economic times in the US and he was not re-elected. He retired to an estate called "Lindenwald." I would have gone through it today, but there were 40 4th graders in the place and I live with one; can't imagine trying to negotiate 40 of them! Interesting side notes: Due to MVBs fiery red hair he was sometimes called "The Red Fox of Kinderhook." Some folks called him Old Kinderhook which led to the formation of O.K. Clubs for his re-election, which is where we get the term Okay, or just OK!
Then I was off again to one of the most beloved Presidents in history. The only one who won re-election four times. Of course you can't do it now because of the 22nd Amendment, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt did! It took me a little over an hour to drive the 59 miles from Kinderhook to Hyde Park...right down the Hudson River, but also worlds apart.
FDR was born in Hyde Park on his father's "gentleman farmer" estate
. The Roosevelt's had money. Maybe not as much as their neighbors, the Vanderbilts, but make no mistake they had money and a pedigree that took the family (at least the Delano side) back to one of the earliest families to come to the New World. He grew up strong and healthy, studying law at Harvard and becoming a lawyer. He was already immersed in politics (Secretary of the Navy in WWI) when at the age of 39 he contracted polio. He was not deterred and went on to win Presidential elections in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. He was truly loved by the American people. He steered us through two of our most difficult times...the Great Depression and WWII. His most famous speech started with the words, "December 7, a date that will live in infamy..." after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And he started "Fireside Chats" with citizens tuning in on their radios...that's why the President still gives a "weekly address" via radio. Unfortunately, Victory in Europe came three weeks after his death in 1945. He's buried on the grounds, not 100 yards from where he was born.
I took the tour (50 people...this place gets a lot of visitors) given by a great older lady (yea, she was probably younger than me...whatever!) She was a great speaker, guide and storyteller, but never mentioned the 5 mistresses FDR reportedly had. After the tour, I went to the museum and they did actually pose the question (but never answered it) whether these five women were just close friends or actually mistresses. Most historians have no doubt.
The grounds are great. I'd go back. Very well done. Best I've seen since Rutherford B. Hayes in Freemont, Ohio.
Then, let the driving begin
. Hit the road for four hours (minus a stop for a sub at Nardelli's Grinder Shop)...do you call it a sub or a grinder???? The last half hour into Boston was horrific! How in the world do these people deal with this traffic daily? I have no idea. Made it to the hotel just in time to freshen up and hit the road again for a 40 minute 21 mile drive (you heard me!) to a great Italian restaurant near Foxboro, where the NE Patriots play...drove right by the Gillette Stadium. Had dinner with dear friends, Dan and Kathy Cotter. Dan was a 1979 Preview Guide of mine at ISU. That 1979 group still gets together today! They were the closest group I have ever worked with as Preview Guides.
Back to the hotel, blogging and getting ready for a "Quad" tomorrow....John and John Quincy Adams (that's easy, they are buried side by side), Concord, NH for Franklin Pierce and on to Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth, VT. Gonna be a busy day.
Take care my friends and family!
For those of you who cared, it was Mexican and it was so-so last night. But that was yesterday, let's talk today.