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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Presidents Day (The William Howard Taft Home)

William Howard Taft Home – Cincinnati, OH

Born in 1857 to the prestigious Taft family of Cincinnati, William Howard Taft is another buckeye to ascend to the presidency. The home where he was born now sits in the Mount Auburn Historic District of Cincinnati, at 2038 Auburn Ave. His family had relocated to Cincinnati 18 years previously for his father, Alphonso Taft to open a law firm. Taft would go on to follow in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Yale before returning to Cincinnati to attend law school and work at The Cincinnati Commercial, a then popular local paper. After passing the bar and marrying his childhood sweetheart Helen Herron, he was appointed as judge of the Supreme Court of Cincinnati. Mere years later and he became the youngest ever Solicitor General of the United States, appointed by President at the time Benjamin Harrison (another Ohio President we’ll get to eventually.) From there, sky was the limit; Taft became the Governor-General to the Philippines, Secretary of War, Civil Governor of Cuba, and even Secretary of State, acting as President when Theodore Roosevelt was away. Roosevelt, a close Republican ally had begun to groom Taft as his successor, and in 1908 he won the 27th Presidential election in a sweeping victory against William Jennings Bryan.

Unfortunately, Taft would not be looked upon as a particularly popular president at the time due to his disregard for the press and his dislike of the flashy politics that made Roosevelt so popular. This would later lead to a split with Roosevelt, who attempted his own reelection the following election that would see both Taft and Roosevelt defeated solidly by Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson. With the Presidency out of the way, Taft was eventually appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he had spent most of his career dreaming of. He was well respected by his peers in his new position, ended up dropping a staggering 80 pounds, and remarked "I do not remember that I was ever President". Taft would serve in this capacity for several more years until his death in 1930. He is one of two U.S. Presidents to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The house on 2038 Auburn Ave. is now a museum and educational center run by the National Park Service which operates 7 days a week from 8 AM to 4 PM. It is a Greek Revival two-story home built in 1835, and is about a mile north of downtown Cincinnati. Taft would end up spending all of his childhood there, remaining for 25 years until his acceptance to Yale. The house would pass out of family ownership after Taft’s move to Washington, and his descendants would spend several years after attempting to reacquire the home as part of the William Howard Taft Memorial Association. They gained ownership in 1953, and would spend $92,500 on renovations to restore the property to its former glory in 1961. Three years later the home was declared a National Historic Landmark, and in 1969 the National Park Service took over the running of the property. The five rooms making up the lower level of the home have been restored to appear as they did when Taft lived there, and many of the portraits and books on display were actually owned by the family, while the upper level has been converted into a museum detailing William’s achievements. Another structure sits on the property as well; the National Historic Site’s Visitor’s Center also known as the Taft Education Center is located next to the home and includes offices, a gift shop, and exhibits on the 27th President.

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