James Garfield 20th President, 1881

Birthplace, Moreland Hills, Ohio
The youngest of five children and the last of the “log cabin” presidents, James Abram Garfield was born on November 19, 1831 on a frontier farm in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, now called Moreland Hills. The home no longer stands. He spent his youth helping his near penniless, widowed mother work her farm outside of Cleveland, Ohio. He never knew his father, a strong man known for his wrestling abilities. His father had been apprenticed to a farmer but managed to save enough money to buy his own farm. Unfortunately, when James was just two years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him on the farm. Like his father, James was good with his fists and loved the outdoors, but he never liked farming. He dreamed instead of becoming a sailor. At aged sixteen, Garfield ran away to work on the canal boats that shuttled commerce between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. During his six weeks on the boats, he fell overboard fourteen times, finally catching such a fever that he had to return home. While recovering, Garfield vowed to make his way in the world using brains rather than brawn.

Home, Lawnfield, Mentor, Ohio
The last president born in a log cabin and the first to have his mother see him inaugurated, James Garfield bought the nine-room farmhouse near the shores of Lake Erie in 1876. To accommodate his wife, Lucretia, and their five children, Mr. Garfield added 11 rooms. After his election to the presidency in 1880, and his death less than a year later from an assassin’s bullet at age 49, Lucretia added a library and vault, the predecessor to the presidential libraries so popular today. Mr. Garfield’s desk from his nine terms as a U.S. congressman sits in the library, as well as the floral wreath sent to his funeral by Queen Victoria.

Mr. Garfield’s home has been restored to the period of 1880-1904 by the Western Reserve Historical Society and the National Park Service. Since the house was occupied by Garfield descendants until 1936, 80 percent of the artifacts are original pieces. Mr. Garfield’s great-grandson, Jim Garfield, is the groundskeeper. Mr. Garfield set up a campaign office behind his house from which he wrote letters and sent out telegraph messages. The office remains much as it appeared in 1880. A train stop was established at the rear of the property, and thousands of constituents took the train to Lawnfield for the chance to speak to their candidate who was on the front porch. Sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows of the first-floor dining room falls upon 16 ceramic tiles encircling the fireplace. The tiles are decorated with birds and flowers thought to have been painted by Lucretia and the children.

The Garfield home has had many improvements made to it over the years but one of considerable note is the front porch. The front porch, of course, is the platform from which President Garfield spoke so successfully during his campaign for the Presidency in 1880. It was during that great campaign that visitors by the thousands traveled to this farm, taking the train to a temporary stop at the back of the property and walking up the narrow lane to the house to hear the candidate speak. News reporters who literally camped out on the spacious lawns nicknamed the place, “Lawnfield.”

Garfield’s home has just recently undergone a top-to-bottom restoration.The home was restored to the period 1880-1904, during which President Garfield campaigned for president and two major additions were made to the home. One addition was completed in 1880 by James Garfield, and one in 1885 by Lucretia, his wife, which includes the Presidential Memorial Library.

Highlights of the exterior work are the restoration of the famous front porch, major foundation changes, replacement of the red cedar shingle roof, and the restoration of gingerbread detailing. Since the restored configuration of the house is 1885, the exterior color scheme is accurate to that period. The house is a medium shade of gray with a red roof, red window sashes, and dark gray trim.

Interior work includes reproduction of original wallpapers, preservation of all original wood and finishes, restoration of the original brass light fixtures, and major conservation work on paintings and furnishings. Approximately 80% of the artifacts are original Garfield family pieces.

Lawnfield is a 7.82 acre site which has many structures besides the Garfield home, including the 75-foot tall pump house/windmill (recently restored), gas holder, granary, barn (recently restored), chicken coop with run, and a tenant house. The Presidential campaign office and the carriage house complete the list.

The 1893 Carriage House now plays the role of Visitor Center and also houses administrative offices. Inside the Visitor Center is an exhibit on the life of Garfield, with scenes from his career as a politician including his inauguration, his nomination at the Republican Convention, and his death after an assassin shot him. Also featured are documents, clothing, and funeral memorabilia. An 18-minute video describes President Garfield’s life and career.

Gravesite, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio
On July 2, 1881, James A. Garfield was shot in the back as he walked with secretary of state Blaine in the Washington, D.C. train station. The proud president was preparing to leave for Williams College where he planned to introduce his two sons to his alma mater. The shots came from a 44 British Bulldog, which the assassin Charles J. Guiteau had purchased specifically because he thought that it would look impressive in a museum. Garfield’s doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which was lodged in the president’s pancreas. On September 19, 1881, the president died of blood poisoning and complications from the shooting in his hospital room at Elberon, New Jersey, where his wife lay nearby ill with malaria.

Guiteau, aged thirty-nine at the time, was known in and around Washington as an emotionally disturbed individual. He had killed Garfield because of the president’s refusal to appoint him to a European consulship. In planning this violent act, Guiteau stalked Garfield for weeks before shooting him. On the day Garfield died, Guiteau wrote to now President Chester A. Arthur, “My inspiration is a godsend to you and I presume that you appreciate it. Never think of Garfield’s removal as murder. It was an act of God, resulting from a political necessity for which he was responsible.” At his trial, the jury deliberated one hour before returning a guilty verdict. Sentenced to death by hanging, Guiteau climbed the scaffold on June 30, 1882, convinced that he had done God’s work.

Garfield was laid to rest in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Founded in 1869, Lake View Cemetery sits on 285 acres of land and was modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian England and France. There are over 99,000 people buried at Lake View, with more than 700 burials each year. There are 70 acres remaining for future development. Anyone can be buried at Lake View, without regard to race, creed, religion or walk of life. Offering the beauty, serenity, selection, history, horticulture and architecture rarely found in other cemeteries.

Memorial, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio
The Garfield Monument is located in Lake View Cemetery, in Cleveland, Ohio. Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 and is known as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum.” The 285-acre grounds hold many significant pieces of art and architecture. The cemetery was modeled after the garden cemeteries of Victorian England and France. The name of Lake View Cemetery was selected because of the view of Lake Erie. The cemetery’s history is filled with the names of those who made great contributions to Cleveland’s and the nation’s industrial, civic, social and cultural fabric. A few examples include John D. Rockefeller, Eliot Ness, Carl Stokes, Garrett Morgan, and President James A. Garfield.

The construction of President Garfield’s monument began in 1885 and was completed five years later in 1890. The monument was dedicated on May 30, 1890. People who were in attendance were President Benjamin Harrison, former President Rutherford B. Hayes, and members of Garfield’s family.

A combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine architecture, the structure has been called the first true mausoleum in America, combining both tomb and memorial functions. The monument, pinnacled by a three-tiered circular tower 50 feet in diameter and 180 feet in height, stands upon a broad stone terrace. The exterior of the base is decorated with five life-size base relief panels depicting Garfield in different phases of his life and career. A white Carrara marble life-size statue of Garfield stands inside the monument in the memorial room. The caskets of Garfield and his wife, Lucretia, and urns containing the ashes of his daughter and son-in-law lie in a crypt directly beneath the memorial hall.

Memorial, Washington, DC
Standing near the U.S. Capitol is a bronze figure of James Garfield on a granite pedestal with three bronze figures at the base depicts him as a student, warrior, and statesman. He served as a Brigadier General in the Civil War, as U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and 20th President of the United States. The statue was erected jointly by the U.S. Government and the Society of the Army of the Cumberland. The sculptor was John Quincy Adams Ward.