Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

James Parton, one of Jefferson’s earliest biographers, said: “If Jefferson is wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right.” Perhaps it would be better to say that Jefferson, and America, have been right on the large principles, but sometimes wrong in failing t20150827_113555o carry through on them. Jefferson, the greatest articulator of those principles, spectacularly failed to carry them through on the issue of slavery. His failure anticipated America’s greatest failure, corrected only after civil war and a long struggle for civil rights. We know of no better place to meditate on American history, right and wrong, than surrounded by Jefferson’s words in his memorial by the placid Tidal Basin.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington DC

My parents have both told me that their families used to huddle around the radio regularly for Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats.” Roosevelt was president through twelve years of unremitting crisis, first economic depression and then world war. There were more than a few times during that period when it must have seemed to many people in the country that the jig was up. Certainly one of Roosevelt’s achievements as president was to inspire confidence and simply cheer people up with his infectious optimism. Appropriately, the Roosevelt Memorial focuses on his words, from his pledge of a “new deal” to the “Four Freedoms.” The famous 10-foot statue shows him, as the public never saw him in his lifetime, in a wheelchair.

Located along the famous Cherry Tree Walk on the Tidal Basin near the National Mall. Interstates 66 and 395 provide access to the Mall from the south. Interstate 495, New York Avenue, Rock Creek Parkway, George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the Cabin John Parkway provide access from the North. Interstate 66, U.S. Route 50 and 29 provide access from the West. U.S. Routes 50, 1, and 4 provide access from the East. There are several Metro train routes from the suburban areas surrounding the city. The Smithsonian Metro stop comes out on the National Mall.

The White House

DSC01787President John Adams, the first official resident of the White House, moved into the house in November 1800. The house was still not quite finished after nine years of construction. (It was a government contract, after all.) In 200 years, the house has endured arson (by British soldiers in 1815), one plane crash, numerous redecorations and renovations, far too many mediocre presidents, and the midnight soliloquies of Richard Nixon. The exterior, a significant example of Federal architecture, remains much as it was in 1800. The guided tours of the famous first-floor rooms show off more historic memorabilia than you will ever be able to absorb.

The White House Visitor Center is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 14th and 15th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Visitor Center is inside the north end of the Department of Commerce Building.

Declaration (Graff) House, Pennsylvania

This reconstructed house was originally built in 1775 by Philadelphia bricklayer Jacob Graff, Jr. During the summer of 1776 Thomas Jefferson, a 33-year-old delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress, rented two second-floor rooms and drafted the Declaration of Independence there. The first floor contains exhibits and a short film on the drafting of the Declaration. On the second floor, the bedroom and parlor that Jefferson occupied have been recreated and contain period furnishings. Also included are reproductions of Jefferson’s swivel chair and the lap desk he used when he wrote the Declaration. Declaration House, as it is now known, is part of Independence National Park in Philadelphia.

Located on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets, Philadelphia.

Adams National Historic Site, Massachusetts

The first father and son to have both served as U.S. presidents were John and John Quincy Adams. Both John and John Quincy had long and distinguished careers in public service. For both, the presidency was the least successful and probably least satisfying experience in public service. John and John Quincy Adams were the only two one-term presidents among the first six men to hold the offcie. Both were driven from office by the leaders of broad popular movements against the more elitist style of politics represented by the Adamses. The Adams National Historic Site includes the birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, as well as the “Old House,” which was home to four generations of the Adams family. The site also includes the United First Parish Church, where both Presidents and their First Ladies are entombed in the Adams family crypt.

From Boston and Route 128: Traveling south on U.S. Interstate 93 or Route 128, take exit 7 – Route 3 south to Braintree and Cape Cod. Take the first exit off Route 3 south – exit 18, Washington Street and the Quincy Adams T. Continue straight on Burgin Parkway through six sets of traffic lights. At the seventh set of traffic lights, turn right onto Dimmock Street. Follow Dimmock Street one block to the intersection of Hancock Street. Turn right onto Hancock Street. The National Park Service Visitor Center, located in the Galleria at President’s Place is two blocks on your left, 1250 Hancock Street. Parking is in the garage in the rear of the building, turn left just before the building. From Cape Cod: Traveling north on Route 3, take exit 19, Quincy Adams T. Quincy Center. Continue straight on Burgin Parkway through six sets of traffic lights. At the seventh set of traffic lights, turn right on to Dimmock Street. Follow Dimmock Street one block to the intersection of Hancock Street. Turn right on to Hancock Street. The National Park Service Visitor Center located in the Galleria at Presidents Place is two blocks on your left, 1250 Hancock Street. Validated parking is in the garage in the rear of the building, turn left just before the building.

James K. Polk Memorial State Historic Site, North Carolina

James K. Polk was one of the most successful American presidents, at least in his own terms. He set out so complete the annexation of Texas, acquire California from Mexico, settle the boundary of the Oregon Territory, and lower the tariff. He accomplished these things, and went home at the end of one term to Tennessee. Unfortunately, his acquisition of the southwestern territories from Mexico ignited the last stage of the long dispute over the expansion of slavery, and resulted in Civil War just eleven years after Polk left office. Polk himself died less than four months after leaving office. This site is located on land once owned by Polk’s parents. The memorial commemorates significant events in the Polk administration: the Mexican War, settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute, and the annexation of California. Reconstructions of typical homestead buildings-a log house, separate kitchen, and barn-are authentically furnished. The Visitor Center features a film on Polk’s life and civic contributions.

The James K. Polk Memorial is located in near Charlotte, North Carolina. From Interstate 77 south of Charlotte take Interstate 485 east (Exit 2). At the Pineville exit take U.S. 521 south through the town of Pineville for about one and one-half miles. The Polk Memorial is on the left.


The famous home of Thomas Jefferson was a work-in-progress during most of Jefferson’s lifetime, designed and redesigned, built and rebuilt over more than forty years. Jefferson described the house as his ‘essay in architecture.’ The final product is a monument to Enlightenment rationality and the cultivation of a refined and 5centscontemplative way of life. The home and grounds are now lovingly (that’s not too strong a word) maintained by the private Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. The waiting line for entrance to the house can be two or even three hours long during the summer. It’s worth it, but even a stroll around the grounds is rewarding if you don’t have the time to wait. The guides are very well informed, so ask lots of questions. Don’t ask about Sally Hemings, though (somebody will bring that up anyway). Ask about the contributions of slave labor to Jefferson’s way of life, and why he (unlike Washington and Madison) did not free all his slaves in his will.

Located in the Virginia Piedmont, Monticello is about two miles southeast of Charlottesville and approximately 125 miles from Washington, D.C.; 110 miles from Williamsburg, Virginia; and 70 miles from Richmond, Virginia. From Interstate 64, take exit 121 (if traveling westbound) or 121 A (eastbound) to Route 20 South (If traveling westbound, turn south, or left, on Route 20). To go to the Monticello Visitors Center, turn right at the first stoplight. To go to Monticello, turn left on Route 53, just after the first stoplight. The entrance to Monticello is located on the left, approximately one and a half miles from Route 20.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, Iowa

The Hoover Library and Museum is part of the Presidential libraries system of the National Archives and Records Administration. The Hoover papers form the core of the library’s holdings, but it is also a nationally recognized center for the study of twentieth-century history and the American presidency. In addition to the papers of Herbert Hoover, the manuscript holdings include those of Lewis Strauss, Gerald P. Nye, Felix Morley, Clark Mollenhoff, Robert E. Wood, Westbrook Pegler, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, among others. There are more that 150 collections things such as conservative journalistic thought, agricultural economics, famine relief, atomic energy, and governmental reorganization. The museum features displays of the Australian Outback, China at the turn of the century (the Hoovers lived through the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China), a Belgian relief warehouse during the First World War, the Hoover inauguration of March 4, 1929, and ever-changing exhibits in the large temporary gallery. The library is open to researchers by appointment. Contact the library staff for information about access to its collections.

The Hoover Presidential Library Museum and the Hoover Birthplace Cottage lie within the 186-acre Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, located in West Branch, 10 miles east of Iowa City, just off Interstate 80 at Exit 254.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, New York

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, located in Hyde Park, NY, is the nation’s first presidential Library and the only one ever used by a sitting president. It is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States Government. In addition to artifacts from the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, this facility also houses their papers, and additional material belonging to those who served with them. Prior to Roosevelt’s Presidency, the final disposition of Presidential papers was left to chance. Although a valued part of the nation’s heritage, the papers of chief executives were private property, which they took with them upon leaving office. Some were sold or destroyed and thus either scattered or lost to the nation forever. Others remained with families, but inaccessible to scholars for long periods of time. The fortunate collections found their way into the Library of Congress and private repositories. In erecting his library, Roosevelt created an institution to preserve intact all his papers and set a precedent followed by most presidents since.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum is located on the grounds of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. From the New York State Thruway (I-87): Exit 18 (New Paltz), take 299 east to 9W south, follow signs to Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge. After bridge crossing follow overhead signs to Route 9 north. The park entrance will be about 5 miles on the left. From the Taconic State Parkway: Northbound vehicles exit at Route 55 west (Poughkeepsie). Follow Route 55 west to Route 9 north. Located approximately 5 miles north on Route 9. Southbound vehicles exit at Red Hook onto Route 199 west. Take Route 308 from Route 199. Proceed to Route 9 south (left hand turn at light). Located approximately 12 miles from Rhinebeck on Route 9. (NOTE: commercial vehicles are not allowed on the parkway) From New York City: Henry Hudson parkway (Route 9A) to the Sawmill River parkway to Taconic State Parkway. See Taconic State Parkway (northbound) directions above. OR – Proceed north on the Palisades Parkway to the New York State Thruway (I-87). See directions from New York State Thruway (I-87) above. From Long Island: Proceed west on the Cross Bronx Expressway to the New York State Thruway (I-87) northbound. See directions from New York State Thruway (I-87) above. OR – cross the Throgs Neck Bridge, follow I-95 to the Hutchinson River Parkway north to I-684 to I-84 west. Take exit for Taconic State Parkway north. Follow directions from the Taconic State Parkway (northbound) above. From New Jersey: Proceed north on the Garden State Parkway onto the New York State Thruway (I-87). See directions for New York State Thruway above. From Connecticut: Take I-84 west to exit 13 to Taconic State Parkway north. Follow directions for the Taconic State Parkway (northbound) above. From Massachusetts: Take the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) to the Taconic State Parkway (south). See directions from Taconic State Parkway southbound above. OR: Take the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) to the New York State Thruway (I-87) south. See directions from New York State Thruway above.

Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Missouri

Harry S Truman (1884-1972), 33rd President of the United States, lived from 1919 until his death in a white Victorian house at 219 North Delaware Street in Independence, Missouri. The house was known as the “Summer White House” during the Truman administration (1945-1953). Harry S Truman National Historic Site includes the Independence home and the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, Missouri, both within the Kansas City metropolitan area. Built in 1894 by Harry Truman’s maternal grandmother, the Farm Home is the centerpiece of a 5.25-acre remnant of the family’s former 600-acre farm. Mr. Truman worked the farm as a young man, from 1906-1917.

The visitor center is located at the intersection of Truman Road and Main Street, in historic Fire Station No.1. From the north or south, take I-435 to the Truman Road exit. Travel east on Truman Road three miles (you’ll pass the Truman Home at Delaware Street). From the east or west, take I-70 to the Noland Road exit. Travel north on Noland Road four miles to Truman Road. Turn west on Truman Road and travel two blocks. To Grandview: The Truman Farm Home is located amid the retail and commercial district along Blue Ridge Boulevard. From the east or west, take I-435 and exit southbound on Route 71. From the north or south, travel Route 71 and take the Blue Ridge Boulevard exit. Travel west one mile. The Farm Home is on the left, set back from the road.