Ohio is sometimes known as the mother of Presidents, with no fewer than eight chief executives (but none since Warren Harding nearly a century ago) from the state.
As a result, there are an abundance of presidential sites to visit throughout the state. We took a journey to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont. We used to live in Fremont, so for one reason or another, it was a regular stop for us.
The centerpiece of the museum is Spiegel Grove, the 31-room home, which underwent a $1.5 million restoration recently, and it now looks like it did when Rutherford and Lucy Hayes lived there after his presidency ended in 1881.
The nearby museum tells the story of Hayes’ life and the context around it, from his time in the Civil War (a display of a wartime hospital uses his actual jacket – you can tell from the bullet hole and the spot where it was cut open to treat the wound) to his days as president (you can see his top hat and overcoat and dresses worn by his wife). There are even dollhouses that his children played with, always an attraction at the museum and especially popular with my daughter.
The library is a haven for local genealogists, so it’s natural that part of the display lays out the lineage of the Hayes family. Rutherford and Lucy’s son Webb Hayes is given special mention. He served his father’s secretary while he was governor and president, and was the driving force behind the establishment of the museum. Hayes’ Medal of Honor, given for his actions during the Philippine insurrection, is on display, and Webb Hayes’ final resting place, along with his wife, is on the center’s grounds, next to his father and mother.
The museum also holds a gallery of presidents, with letters and memorabilia from everyone who’s held the office. Exhibits at the Hayes Center don’t just show presidential history, but history of the area in and around Fremont, from one of the city’s first fire trucks to an exhibit on the ice harvesting industry on Lake Erie, which remains on display until Feb. 25. Other exhibits include “The Art of Photography,” which shows off photos taken by Hayes Center staff. There’s also a photo exhibit, “Bhutanese-Nepali Neighbors,” focusing on refugees from that area in Ohio. That exhibit runs through May.
For more Ohio history, Find It Here at Ohio.org.