The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
Rooster took me to the Benjamin Harrison Historical Home for my birthday this year. It ended up being a most wonderful adventure. #Benjamin Harrison #Indianapolis #Indiana #Chevy #Spark @William Henry Harrison
Rooster was trying to do a good deed. My husband knows I’m a history buff. I love to wander through old houses, especially if they belong to one of our dead presidents. After we toured the Mary Todd Lincoln House, he was dumbfounded to discover he enjoys the experience almost as much as I do.
When he came across an event at the Benjamin Harrison house where the tour guides would be in historical dress, he couldn’t resist planning the surprise adventure. Benjamin Harrison is Indiana’s only elected President. (Our state has had several vice-presidents, but it’s best we don’t discuss them at this point in time.) Rooster went online and bought our tickets, not realizing the event took place on a Monday instead of Saturday.
Tickets bought for the wrong day to The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
We all know Rooster is a frugal man. (My husband claims cheap has a negative connotation and has encouraged me to use the word frugal from this point forward. He reads my blogs before I post, so he can make suggestions. I feel it’s only fair since most of my adventures involve him. I will be sticking to frugal when I mean cheap from this point forward. You will know what I mean.) He went back online to see if he could get a refund as soon as he discovered his mistake.
The fee was nonrefundable. It wouldn’t be difficult for Rooster to attend the event. His day off is Monday, but I had to work. Luckily, I have a great boss who gave me the afternoon off so I could make the trip to the Benjamin Harrison Historical Home.
I managed to get the day off to go to The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
We left for Indianapolis with plenty of time to spare.. We would have arrived early if the GPS on Rooster’s phone hadn’t suffered a bout of confusion. It told us to turn right onto Talbot Street, which was nothing more than an alley. The female voice said our location was on the left. Rooster pulled into the parking lot, and we climbed out of the car.
After a short stroll to the front of the old house, we discovered we were at a law office of an attorney who practices law in the Indianapolis area. Fearing we would be arrested for trespassing, we hurried back to our Chevy Spark. The GPS kept sending us around the block in a mysterious loop without a clue to where we might reach our desired location. We tried two more spots until we realized the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site was sitting two blocks further up the street. We arrived at 1230 North Delaware Street seconds before the tour started.
Charles the butler at The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
Rooster and I were instructed to walk to the front of the Italianate architectural style home and ring the bell at the front door. We followed directions, climbing onto the large wrap around porch to get out of the pouring rain. A man wearing period dress answered the door. He told our tour group his name was Charles, Harrison’s butler. Mrs. Harrison was out for the day, attending a DAR meeting. The President was in. He would meet us in the library.
Charles stayed in character during the entire time he served as our tour guide through the front of the house. He told us about how Harrison was a prominent Indianapolis attorney before he became president. He had the house built in 1874 before his run for the White House.
The makebelieve butler told us interesting trivia about the once-famous family who lived within the four walls of the house. The back parlor was where the Harrisons hung out and listened to music. Charles requested all the children in the tour stand in the famous spot between the two parlors where Benjamin Harrison accepted his party’s nomination in the presidential election of 1889.
Touring The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
Charles escorted us to the library, where we encountered a second person playing the role of Benjamin Harrison. This reenactor explained the unique history the Harrison family had with the Presidency. Benjamin Harrison V was the great-great-grandfather of Benjamin Harrison. He served on the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. According to our guide, his great-great-grandfather was the first person to read the historical document in public.
The most exciting story told in the library was about Benjamin’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison. He functioned as territorial governor in Vincennes, Indiana, until he resigned his commission to serve in the War of 1812.
He didn’t return to Indiana once the war was over but went to the family farm in Ohio. “Old Tippecanoe” won the presidential election of 1840 to become the 9th President of the United States. He gave the longest inaugural address in this country’s history. It was an outside affair, which took place on a cold and blustery day in January.
William Henry didn’t wear a coat, hat, or gloves, so he would appear more presidential. He became sick shortly after he made his long speech and died thirty-one days after he took office.
Indiana’s only President
Benjamin Harrison didn’t follow his grandfather’s example for long speech-making, but he did become this nation’s 23rd president. His grandfather’s political affiliation was with the Whig party. Abraham Lincoln was Benjamin Harrison’s political mentor, so Harrison changed parties to run as a Republican in his race for the White House. He lost his second bid for the Presidency due to unpopular financial legislation passed during his first term. A sad side note: Benjamin’s first wife, Caroline, died in the White House during his second presidential campaign.
When Harrison completed his talk about his family’s history with the Presidency, he escorted the tour into the kitchen, where we met Dolly and Tillie. Dolly explained how she was with the family before they went to the White House. President Harrison was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He didn’t care for the spicy food they served in Washington, so he sent for her.
Dolly talks about The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
She showed us all the modern conveniences her kitchen was equipped within the late 1800s. There was also a comical give and take between her and Tillie over a secret cherry pie Dolly wasn’t supposed to bake for the President. There seemed to be a great deal of tension between the two women.
When Dolly was through with us in the kitchen, Tillie took the tour into the opulent dining room where the Harrison’s entertained important dignitaries. It was the last room on the tour downstairs. We were taken to the bedrooms on the second floor to finish the tour. We saw the nursery, the Harrison children’s rooms, and the bedroom where Harrison passed away.
Crazy quilts adorn the beds at The Benjamin Harrison Historical Home
He did marry for a second time. There was a daughter born to him in his old age. Her name was Elizabeth. She followed in her father’s footsteps and became an attorney, which was a significant accomplishment for a woman at that time. The colorful, crazy quilts draped across the beds caught my eye. I know the kind of work that goes with piecing one of these artistic quilts together. It was an inspiration for me to pick up a needle and get to work on one of my own.
Mina Blue Meatballs on Mass. Ave
My head was overloaded with Harrison’s history when we made our way to the car. My stomach was also growling. Rooster suggested we try a restaurant we’d never been to before. We charted a course for Mina Blue Meatballs on Mass. Ave. near downtown Indianapolis. The restaurant is located on the block in the city with my favorite sign. It reads, “Indy Reads books: Do good read more.” I love the message it sends to everyone who happens to stroll past the busy intersection. Rooster and I weren’t sure what we wanted to order.
We found the menu a little confusing. We both requested the four meatballs with sauce. They tasted amazing. We will definitely make a return trip to 870 Massachusetts Avenue to sample some of the other food items this restaurant has to offer.
Our excursion to the Benjamin Harrison Historical Home was a nice way to play hooky on a cold Monday afternoon. I knew some of the basics concerning the Harrison family and the Presidency, but I also learned many interesting details I had never come across before. Rooster made a mistake on the date, but he selected an excellent adventure for us to take on a rainy afternoon.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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