The Taft house in Cincinnati is big and it’s yellow. The Taft family moved to Ohio from Vermont in 1838. President Taft’s father, an attorney, moved his family to this Greek revival style home in 1851.
The following year, Mr. Taft’s first wife Fanny died, leaving him with two small sons. He then married Massachusetts schoolteacher Louise Torrey, and they had four more children, including our future president, William Howard Taft, born September 15, 1857.
The second Mrs. Taft wrote frequent letters to her family. The correspondence contained details about the home and its furnishings, which helped the historians restore the house to the “Taft era.”
We took a Nerd Trip to the Taft house in August 2009. We started in the Visitor’s Center with a film about our 27th president and some displays about his life. One memorable feature was an animatronic Charlie Taft, President Taft’s son. Known as “Mr. Cincinnati” when he was mayor, Charlie Taft was an avid fisherman so robotic Charlie appears in his fishing gear (According to Wikipedia, Charlie Taft’s epitaph reads “Gone Fishing”).
Charlie Taft was also very involved in preserving the Taft house, and robotic Charlie shares stories about his famous family.
Back at the Taft homestead, we had a private house tour, just my mom and me, with a very friendly and enthusiastic ranger. Since my mom had trouble with stairs, we got to ride in a super tiny, somewhat old-fashioned elevator retrofitted into the house. It was kind-of cool!
You can’t take photos in the Taft house, so you will need to go to Cincinnati to see the house for yourself. The tour focuses on Taft’s childhood and upbringing as well as the home’s features and furnishings.
The third floor had displays about Taft’s political life, including some very vicious political cartoons. Considering today’s harsh political climate, I somehow take comfort in the ferocity of the attacks on President Taft. It seems that our country continues to forge ahead despite this negativity.
As you may recall, Theodore Roosevelt (once a Taft supporter) ran as a third-party candidate against Taft for his second term. Woodrow Wilson won.
But President Taft did okay. After the White House, he went on to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the only person to hold both these prestigious and powerful positions. A visit to his home in Cincinnati reveals the profound impact of his family and upbringing on the person and president he became.
Right now, I have a profound and acute appreciation of the role our parents play in our lives. I have not posted in several weeks because my mom, my Taft house touring partner, passed away unexpectedly.
My mom was a big supporter of Nerd Trips (even if she didn’t quite understand what a blog was) and she was one of my most frequent
companions for nerdy adventures, most notably we when got trapped at a funeral at President Garfield’s memorial or when we nearly drove her new car over a cliff in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (she screamed from the backseat, but we really weren’t that close).
Mom had an adventurous spirit, leaving home at the age of 19 for a government job that took her all around the world, including Greece, Laos and Bangkok. Going through some of her papers recently, we discovered postcards she sent to her family from all across Europe. She also visited the pyramids in Egypt.
Despite some physical limitations as she got older, my mom was always up for a trip. She loved to talk to people, always wanting to know where they were from. She was smart and curious and loved to laugh (even at herself), and we never lacked for conversation. I will miss her addressing historical people by their first names as if she knew them, her unique associations and her somewhat off-the-wall questions, such as asking if Lynda Johnson and Chuck Robb are still married.
Like mother, like daughter, she was always up for a preemptive trip to the bathroom and a snack, particularly an ice cream cone or cookie. She also liked to go out to dinner with “a good drink,” like a perfect Manhattan.
She enjoyed learning about people and cultures, which I am sure put me on the path toward Nerd Trips. I miss her more than words can say.
In honor of Marge Boston, I encourage you to take a trip, ask a lot of questions and be sure to stop for a sweet snack and a good drink.