Every president (save for more modern ones) has their national historic site. Taft's happens to be at his boyhood home in the Mount Auburn section of Cincinnati, just to the north, and high above, Downtown. Taft's, just like many others, is also completely free and includes guided tours.
The residence is the main attraction. One of the first houses built in the area, it's been kept in immaculate condition and features period or period reproduction furnishings on the first floor and a small museum with various artifacts and historical interpretive signs on the second. The house is in the same condition as it was during Taft's upbringing, made possible by diligent notes from those employed as staff at the home during that period.
The guided tour was very informative, and the preceding video inside the visitors center offered a good introduction to one of the lesser known presidents.
The Taft certainly has a remarkable collection & history. The home, built in 1820 by Martin Baum, was handed down to Anna Sinton Taft, wife of Charles Phelps Taft (half-brother to President Taft) & co-creator of the museum, distinguished as being both a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1908 William Howard Taft gave his presidential nomination acceptance speech on the front portico of this museum when it was the Taft home.
Newly-discovered trompe l'oeil murals done by local artist, Robert Duncanson, the first internationally recognized African-American artist, have recently been restored. We were lucky to visit during the restorations & it was amazing to watch the restorers painstakingly uncovering the work. You'll find the docents of the museum to be quite fascinating as they regale you with the background of each of the pieces & the history of the home; it is obvious that they love their work and that they look forward to informing visitors. I asked the docent why the murals were forgotten, why anyone would wish to cover up such lovely works of art. She stated that because the Taft had been a resident, each new owner wished to put her stamp on the place and the décor was changed according to the whim of decorating fad. The murals had simply gone out of fashion. We're lucky the paintings had merely been papered & painted over.
My favorite work of art is the Rembrandt painting because it is missing its other half! Its pendant painting, Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!
Located just south is the small, lovely Lytle Park where a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln resides. If you walk north one block and west a few blocks you'll see the twin towers of P&G.
Free to all on Wednesdays.
Photo: September 2005
The Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati has much more to offer than just great works of art. The building itself is a National Historic Landmark and served for many years as one of the most opulent residences in Cincinnati. The last of four families to live here were Charles and Anna Taft, of the famous political family which produced a president of the United States (William Howard Taft), governors and other leaders of note. The house and courtyard are well worth seeing even if there were no works of art on display.
The house and 690 examples of fine and decorative arts, many dating back hundreds of years, was assembled between 1901 and 1927 by the Tafts, who founded the museum and bequeathed it to the city.
In addition to the art there is a performance lecture facility, museum shop, Tea Room, garden and terrace and a free parking garage.
There is a nominal charge to visit the museum every day except Wednesday, which is free to the public.
The Taft Museum is also available rent for private events. I performed a wedding here and found it to be a very impressive venue.
Tuesday - Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed January 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This is the family home of William Howard Taft the US's 27th President. Taft is a little known and undistinguished one of our Presidents. The Museum like its subject is also pretty undistinguished. There is one small exhibit room in the visitor's center with almost no information on Taft. The house is nice but not unlike many other restored houses of the same period.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site is a memorial to the 27th President of the United States. He is the only president who also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. From the time of his birth in 1857, until he embarked on a political career that would win him the two highest offices in the nation, William Howard Taft lived here, surrounded by family and what his mother called "inspiration to everything that was good." The house is restored to its appearance during the years Taft lived here as a child and young adult.
Although Taft did not go down in history as a particularly outstanding president, the fruits of his administration are still a part of American life. He backed the constitutional amendment providing for an income tax, worked within a budget, indtroduced "dollar diplomacy," strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission to better regulate transportation and control railroad rate wars, and signed New Mexico and Ariizona into the union. He also inaugurated the presidential tradition of throwing out the first baseball of the season.
Taft was serving as Secretary of War when outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt anointed Secretary Taft as his successor. "My ambition is to become a justice of the Supreme Court," Taft wrote his brother in 1905. "I presume however, there are very few men who would refuse to accept the nomination of the Republican party for the presidency, and I am not an exception." He received the nomination for President in 1908 and won the electoral vote in November two to one. He served one 4 year term and was defeated in his bid for re-election. In 1921 Taft was named by President Warren G. Harding as 10th Chief Justice of the United States, a post which he held until shortly before his death in 1930.
Born here in 1857, the 27th President of the United States (1909-13), this restored house is now under the administration of the National Park System.
Generally considered a poor politician, Taft is the only President to later serve as Chief Justice of the United States. Appointed during the Harding administration (1921-23), Taft, who disliked politcs and much prefered law, considered that the greatest honor of his life.
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