Dave's Presidential Graves
Travel Stories Listed by Trip

Fall Color Tour
(The Journey Begins)

29th President
1st in my collection

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Photo Album

This crazy hobby started during a fall "color tour" in northern Ohio, and totally unexpectedly . We lived in suburban Detroit at the time and I had been making weekly site visits to a client in Mansfield, Ohio. The only way to get from Detroit to Mansfield was to drive, three hours down Wednesday and three hours back on Friday. It was fall, actually Halloween week, and years before we had Jesse. Lyn agreed to accompany me and turn my business trip into a very low key week-end getaway. She got to have a businessman's lunch with me. She got to visit Mansfield's floral gardens and the Johnny Appleseed monument. We got to drive around, visit some cities we had been to previously, and generally enjoy viewing the fall colors.

Lyn with Warren Harding's HUGE TombWe were passing by Marion, Ohio (the home of the Ohio State Penitentiary) when we passed a HUGE freeway sign informing us: "Warren G Harding's Tomb, Next Exit". How can you resist such an offer? With the sunlight fading, we pulled off and followed the several directional signs for around a mile to the front corner of a cemetery. There, we were greeted with a HUGE circular marble structure, ringed in fifty foot high marble columns and open to the air. It was immense! It was bizarre! I got out the camera and took Lyn's picture in front of it. We walked up the stairs and located inside the open air courtyard were marble tombs marked as being President and Mrs Harding. A small floral arrangement was maintained by the local VFW, and several historical markers decorated the wrought iron fencing. Several small and tasteful signs described the political career of President Harding and the circumstances of his death (natural causes, during his term). Unknown at the time, burial places of presidents that die during their term regularly outclass in size and grandeur those that live out a retirement period. We were directed to visit Harding's childhood home and museum, but it was already closed for the day. Instead we just enjoyed the crisp smell of the fall air, ringed in beautiful autumnal trees, then climbed in the car and headed for home.

You can guess the rest of the story. After we arrived home and developed the pictures, I could not stop pondering the thought that if Warren G Harding (a president of very modest accomplishment) had a HUGE marble eternal resting place, what would a GOOD president (say, Lincoln or Washington) have? Where were they all buried? Were any cremated or buried at sea? Could you find and visit each tomb? Would they all be spectacular? Besides JFK's eternal flame at Arlington and "Grant's tomb" in NYC, I had absolutely no idea about the whereabouts and circumstances of any presidential remains. So within a week of these thoughts and with very little research effort, my Information Please Almanac and my Goode's World Atlas provided me all the information I would need to complete my collection (of one). I simply logged the data, then transported it into colored push-pins on a Rand McNally USA road map which I mounted on a small cork board and hung on the wall over my worktable in the basement. My hobby had officially started and would be finished in eight short years.

The pushpins revealed that all presidents were indeed buried and accessible to visit and that they were scattered around the eastern US with several concentrations. The Washington DC area contained 4 (Washington, Taft, Wilson, JFK). 2 each were buried in central Virginia (Jefferson & Madison - 5 miles apart), Richmond (Monroe & Tyler - same cemetery), Boston (John and Quincy Adams - same vault) and the Nashville area (Jackson & Polk). The rest were spread all over, with 5 in New York state, 5 in Ohio, and 1 each in New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois. The recent Presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ) were outliers in Missouri, Kansas and Texas but the others might lend themselves to a series of circle tour trips over the coming years and decades.

I had simply fallen in love with the notion of seeing the USA by car, and simultaneously decided to try to attend a baseball game in each of the major league stadiums. Years later I would open that challenge to minor league teams, too. But while 40 presidents would take me eight years of pilgrimage, the 200+ ball teams (that only play between April and September, and are only home for half their games) have proved to be a much greater challenge. But I also put up pushpins in my cork board for the major league, and top level minor league baseball teams, too. I had succumbed to a chronic case of wanderlust.

copyright, 2000, all rights reserved

Previous Trip:
November 1993

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April 1986

Original Web Upload: February 2000
Last Update on: January 3, 2002