Monday, March 23, 2009

Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Center

I went to the Hayes Center in Fremont, Ohio, over a month ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to posting about it here! I was excited to go when we did because there is currently a display up called First Lady Style with both original and reproduction dresses on display. It was a fabulous exhibit!
The Hayes Home, Spiegel Grove, is a fabulous house tour, but it is in the midst of a major renovation so if you want to come, and have to travel for it, I recommend waiting a few years until they finish this. This house was originally built as a summer home for Rutherford Hayes and his family by his uncle, Sardis Birchard. There is also a museum on the same property. This is where the First Ladies exhibit was. This actually is a huge variety of things in this museum as Webb Hayes was in China during the Boxer Rebellion and brought back a lot of interesting memorabilia. You’ll notice this Chinese connection even in the house in some of the decorations in the rooms that Webb and his family used. Fanny’s dollhouses in the basement of the museum are well worth the time to investigate as well – so huge and intricate!

The day we went up the museum was picture perfect to see the grounds as it was lightly snowing. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the grounds (about 10 minutes and it is $3) and it was perfect to see the grounds that way. The Hayes on buried on the grounds and this takes you over to the graves.
From my earlier post on White House china, you might remember that the Hayes Presidential White House china is very distinctive and they have many pieces and it is really lot of fun to see.
This really is a great museum and house. Right now the tour at the house focuses too much on the renovation, but that will change, I’m sure, once they are finished.
On the website of the Hayes Center, you can access and search the diaries and letters, which is a great source in itself.
Things to Remember:
  • The tours are guided so make sure to account for that in your schedule. There is plenty to see in the museum as you are waiting for the tour to begin.
  • Make sure to have directions as while Fremont isn’t that large, I did find it somewhat hard to find the right roads. This one, as do most, needs more signs on the way!
  • Tickets are reasonable, but make sure to realize there is two parts to the tickets – the home tour and the museum.
  • Make sure to account for the renovation and you might want to put off your visit for a few years.


Rob Velella said...

Well, now I want to go. I have also added the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in the Catskills to my list. Do you think all the house tours they offer focus on the renovations or was it just the one you took? In my experience, tour guides put together their own tours individually and are not dictated to or given a "script."

Jennie W said...

I think right now most of the tour guides will talk a lot about the renovations simply because some of the rooms are in such dishabille. There is usually a general tour "script," although most do have their own variations (I'm a tour guide at the National First Ladies Library and that is certainly true for me although I do know some of the guides follow the "script" to the letter...that would bore me to pieces!). It probably also varies by the size and composition of your tour group as if you have a small group you can usually focus the guide where you want versus a larger group which is more standardized (and I was part of a larger group).

This is certainly worth the time to see even now - the groups are magnificent!

Rob Velella said...

It really sounds like one of the great tour spots that doesn't rank amongst the typical "must-sees." I'm a historic house tour guide myself, and thank goodness I've never been given a script or "required" talking points!

schiller1979 said...

I went to the Hayes Center about 3 years ago. Nice museum and very good house tour. My trip must have been before the renovations began.

I remember a conversation with the tour guide about "Lemonade Lucy". The story as I had always heard it was that she never allowed alcohol to be be served in her presence.

The guide's story was a bit different. He said that it was President Hayes's decision not to serve alcohol in the White House (with the exception of one meeting with Russian diplomats), in order to set an example.

Apparently, alcohol was served to guests at the house in Fremont, although Lucy did not partake.

I too had a bit of trouble finding the place, and I agree that more signage would be helpful.