Polk Home, by Brian Jewell
Published June 02, 2014
Though he isn’t as celebrated as many other U.S. presidents, Tennessean James K. Polk served one successful term as the country’s 11th president. In the small town of Columbia, the President James K. Polk Home and Museum preserves the president’s only surviving private home and teaches visitors about Polk’s role in national history.
The home was built in 1816 by Polk’s father and is considered one of the state’s pre-eminent examples of Federal-style architecture. Polk was in college when the house was built and lived there for six years after finishing school and before beginning his political career.
“We’ve gathered belongings from throughout Polk’s life and brought them here,” said director John Holtzapple. This is the closest thing there is to a Polk presidential library.”
Visitors begin their visit with an introductory video and then get a tour that highlights some of the family’s most interesting belongings. Groups will see furnishings that once resided in Polk’s law office, as well as his smoking jacket, travel trunk and carpetbag. Numerous items illustrate Polk’s time in the presidency, including several pieces of White House china, as well as vases, a clock and other household items.
The home also includes a detached kitchen, where groups can see period cooking demonstrations, and an on-site museum. Just around the corner from the home, the Polk Presidential Hall is a changing-exhibit museum that displays exhibitions related to Polk, the presidency or 19th century history.