U.S. Presidential Libraries and Museums

Isaac Kremer/ November 11, 2012/ preservation/ 0 comments

The methods for preserving the memory of U.S. Presidents are as diverse as they are unique. Here are just a few of the different types of sites and memorials that have been established:

  • Presidential library
  • Museum
  • Residence
    • Birthplace
    • Home before becoming president
    • Home during presidency
    • Home after presidency
  • Burial site

The responsibility for maintaining these different sites also broadly varies. Some are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration of the U.S. Federal Government. Others are managed by other public and private organizations.

Presidential Libraries
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center was officially the first to break ground. in 1912. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum opened in 1916.The museum was located near the Spiegel Grove house and grounds that were also donated and eventually opened to the public. Later the Hayes museum served as an example for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Library & Museum, also situated near President Roosevelt’s house in Hyde Park, New York.

In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the Federal government. At that time Roosevelt also formed a non-profit to raise funds to build a library and museum on his Hyde Park, New York estate. Eventually this program of Presidential libraries expanded and grew so that every President since Herbert Hoover now has a Presidential library officially administered by the National Archives. These libraries today maintain vast archives available for scholarly research. There are now 13 such libraries in operation.

31. Herbert Hoover, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York
33. Harry S. Truman, Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Independence, Missouri
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas
35. John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Dorchester, Massachusetts
36. Lyndon B. Johnson, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Austin, Texas
37. Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California
38. Gerald R. Ford, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan
38. Gerald R. Ford, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan
39. Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia
40. Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
41. George H. W. Bush, George Bush Presidential Library & Museum, College Station, Texas
42. Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, Little Rock, Arkansas
43. George W. Bush, George W. Bush Presidential Center, Dallas, Texas

Of the remaining 31 presidents without a Presidential library run by the National Archives (including President Obama), there are nine other Presidential libraries either privately or publicly owned and operated. Of these, the Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon (that has yet to be constructed), will be the only one to be built and maintained without any government funding.

1. George Washington, Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon (Under Construction), Mount Vernon, Virginia, run by Mount Vernon Ladies Association

6. John Quincy Adams, Stone Library at Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts, run by National Park Service

16. Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Illinois, run by State of Illinois

17. Andrew Johnson, President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library, Tusculum, Tennessee.

18. Ulysses S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, Starkville, Mississippi, run by Mississippi State University & Ulysses S. Grant Association

19. Rutherford Hayes, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio, run by Ohio Historical Society & Hayes Presidential Center, Inc.

25. William McKinley, William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, Canton, Ohio, run by Stark County Historical Society

28. Woodrow Wilson, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia, run by Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Foundation

30. Calvin Coolidge, Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum, Northampton, Massachusetts, run by State of Massachusetts

The process of establishing a Presidential library for those without one has proven to be a difficult affair. An effort is underway to create a Grover Cleveland Library in Buffalo, New York. The organization Free New York, Inc. has applied for tax-exempt status. Their website describes: “If and when we are approved, we will begin to accept donations of Grover Cleveland books and memorabilia and look for a suitable location for this museum.”

An increasingly common practice has been to associate presidential libraries with major research universities.

  • James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library / University of Mary Washington
  • Andrew Johnson Museum and Library / Tusculum College
  • Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library / Mississippi State University
  • Theodore Roosevelt Collection / Harvard University
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum / Marist College
  • John F. Kennedy Library and Museum / University of Massachusetts, Boston Campus
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum / University of Texas at Austin
  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library / University of Michigan
  • George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum / Texas A&M University
  • George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum / Southern Methodist University

Speculation is that when President Obama designates a location for his library, that both the University of Hawaii and University of Chicago will contend for that honor. Building on the example of President Ford before him who has his library and museum in two separate cities – both in Michigan – perhaps President Obama could be the first President to have libraries in two separate states.

Presidential Museums
Of all the Presidents whose libraries are part of the NARA system, their Presidential library serves dual purpose as a presidential museum as well. This means that in addition to the library proper, there are  interactive exhibits, interesting and fun public programs, and important educational events. Of the presidents within the NARA system, President Gerald Ford is the only one to have a library and museum in separate cities. The museum is located in Grand Rapids and the library in Ann Arbor.

For those presidents outside of the NARA system or without a dedicated library of the own, a list follows of all known museums to date. Every President with the exception of Zachary Taylor, has at least one place where people can go to remember their presidency.

2. John Adams – Adams National Historic Park administered by the National Park Service with residence of John Adams and several other family members.
3. Thomas Jefferson – Monticello estate with the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.
4. James Madison – James Madison Museum in Orange, Virginia
5. James Monroe – James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, Virginia
7. Andrew Jackson – The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee . Home and museum administered by the Ladies’ Hermitage Association.
8. Martin Van Buren – Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Kinderhook, New York. Administered by the National Park Service.
9. William Henry Harrison – Grouseland, Vincennes, Indiana. House while Governor of the Indiana territory.
10. John Tyler – Sherwood Forest Plantation, Charles City, Virginia.
11. James K. Polk – James K. Polk Ancestral Home, Columbia, Tennessee.
12. Zachary Taylor – none.
13. Millard Fillmore – Millard Fillmore House, East Aurora, New York.
14. Franklin Pierce – Pierce Manse, Concord, New Hampshire.
15. James Buchanan – Wheatland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
17. Andrew Johnson – Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Greeneville, Tennessee.
20. James Garfield – James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor, Ohio.
21. Chester A. Arthur – Chester A. Arthur State Historic Site, Fairfield, Vermont; Chester A. Arthur House, New York, New York.
22. Grover Cleveland – Grover Cleveland Birthplace, Caldwell, New Jersey.
23. Benjamin Harrison – Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, Indianapolis, Indiana.
24. Grover Cleveland – Grover Cleveland Birthplace, Caldwell, New Jersey.
26. Theodore Roosevelt – Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay, New York; Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, New York City, New York; Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo, New York; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, North Dakota.
27. William Howard Taft – William Howard Taft National Historic Site, Cincinnati, Ohio.
29. Warren G. Harding – Harding Home, Marion, Ohio.

Presidential Burial Sites
The final resting place of our U.S. President’s is one final way we’ve found to honor their role and contributions. The burial locations chosen are varied. Some are on private property such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Others are publicly owned such as Andrew Johnson’s National Historic Site and National Cemetery, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, and many others.

Increasingly the trend has become to designate the burial site at the location of the Presidential library and museum. That tradition began with Rutherford B. Hayes, the progenitor of the first Presidential Library and Museum in 1916. Initially Hayes had been buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Fremont, Ohio, following his death in 1893. Later he was moved to a burial site at his family home near Spiegel Grove in 1915 that was very near the Presidential Museum that opened the following year.

The tradition of moving the burial site of Presidents is not uncommon. A similar treatment was given to Abraham Lincoln who was disinterred several times.

1. George Washington, Washington’s Tomb at Mount Vernon Estate, Mt Vernon, VA.
2. John Adams, United First Parish Church, Quincy, MA.
3. Thomas Jefferson, Monticello Graveyard, Monticello, VA.
4. James Madison, Madison Family Cemetery, Montpelier, VA.
5. James Monroe, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.
6. John Quincy Adams, Congressional Cemetery, Quincy, MA.
7. Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage, Nashville, TN.
8. Martin Van Buren, Kinderhook Cemetery, Kinderhook, NY.
9. William Harrison, William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial, North Bend, OH.
10. John Tyler, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.
11. James Polk, Tennessee State Capitol Building and Grounds, Nashville, TN.
12. Zachary Taylor, Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, KY.
13. Millard Fillmore, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.
14. Franklin Pierce, Old North Cemetery, Concord, NH.
15. James Buchanan, Woodward Hill Cemetery, Lancaster, PA.
16. Abraham Lincoln, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL.
17. Andrew Johnson, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site and National Cemetery, Greeneville, TN.
18. Ulysses Grant, General Grant National Memorial, New York, NY.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, OH.
20. James A. Garfield, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, OH.
21. Chester Arthur, Albany Rural Cemetery, Albany, NY.
22. Grover Cleveland, The Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ.
23. Benjamin Harrison, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, IN.
24. Grover Cleveland, The Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ.
25. William McKinley, McKinley National Memorial, Canton, OH.
26. Theodore Roosevelt, Youngs Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, NY.
27. William H. Taft, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
28. Woodrow Wilson, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC.
29. Warren Harding, Harding Memorial Park, Marion, OH.
30. Calvin Coolidge, Notch Cemetery, Plymouth, VT.
31. Herbert Hoover, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, West Branch, IA.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Hyde Park, NY.
33. Harry S. Truman, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, MO.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower Presidential Center, Abilene, KS.
35. John F. Kennedy, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Stonewall, TX.
37. Richard M. Nixon, Richard Nixon Library, Yorba Linda, CA.
38. Gerald R. Ford, Gerald R. Ford and Betty B. Ford Burial Site, Grand Rapids, MI.
39. Jimmy Carter, Living, (planned for near home in Plains, GA).
40. Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA.
41. George H.W. Bush, Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, TX.
42. Bill Clinton, Living, (plans unknown).
43. George W. Bush, Living, (planned for Texas State Cemetery in Austin, TX)
44. Barack Obama, Living, (plans unknown).

As has been shown, efforts to memorialize and remember our U.S. President’s have varied greatly through the years. In coming years it is hoped and suspected that interest in efforts of this nature will only grow. Some day it would be a fitting tribute for most if not all U.S. President’s to have a library and museum in their honor. Meanwhile, there are no shortage of Presidential sites to visit, all throughout the U.S.

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About Isaac Kremer

A nationally recognized downtown revitalization leader, downtowns Isaac managed achieved $350 million of investment, 1,300 jobs created, and were 2X Great American Main Street Award Semifinalist and a 1X GAMSA winner in 2023. His work has been featured in Newsday, NJBIZ, ROI-NJ, TapInto, and USA Today. Isaac is a Main Street America Revitalization Professional (MSARP) with additional certifications from the National Parks Service, Project for Public Spaces, and the National Development Council.

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