Presidential Sites: Ohio favorite and almost only home fore Warren G. Harding

Published 10:20 am Thursday, July 7, 2022

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  • By  Betty Etchison West

    For the Enterprise

    Seven presidents were born in Ohio: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding.

    That is just one less than the number of presidents born in Virginia where eight were born: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson.

    One of the seven Ohio-born presidents was Warren G. Harding who lived in Ohio the rest of his life except when political jobs took him to other climes.

    Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio. He was the oldest of the eight children born to George and Phoebe Harding. He attended public schools and then Ohio Central College from which he was graduated when he was 17. Harding studied law and sold insurance but did not find anything he really liked until he got into the newspaper business. He finally was able to purchase “The Marion Star” and then he was happy.

    He met and married Florence Kling, a lady who was a bit older than he was and who helped him with the newspaper.

    Warren G. Harding, a Republican, got interested in political issues. He attracted attention because he was a good speaker. The first political office to which he was elected was that of State Senator. He lost some elections, but went on to win others. His wife was always his chief cheerleader.

    After rising through the ranks, he was nominated as the Republican candidate for President of the United States in 1920. His wife may have been more interested in him being elected President than he was. According to the book, “?The American President: by James McPherson, Harding said: “The only thing that I really worry about is that I might be nominated and elected. That’s an awful thing to contemplate.”

    In spite of how her husband felt, Florence Harding turned every stone possible to get her husband elected.  After he was chosen as his party’s candidate, he campaigned from the porch of his home in Marion.  That porch had collapsed earlier and a sturdier porch with a gazebo had been built. That gazebo was an excellent place from which Harding could speak to the crowds that gathered in his yard to hear him speak. Even though being president may not have been his greatest desire, he did campaign hard after he became the Republican candidate.  The result—he was elected as the 29th President of the United States. (History is not a set of facts that never changes. History often changes as more information is discovered.  The docent at the Harding Home recently said that the information about Harding’s wife wanting him to be president more than he did was not true – so twhat do you do? Do you simply accept the fact that new information reveals more correct information or do you stick to the facts found in the history books? You decide.)

    It was at that house at 380 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Marion, Ohio, that Warren Harding lived in from the time he was married until his death on Aug. 2, 1923, except when a political office required him to live in another setting.

    The house in Marion is a two-story frame house with an attic. On the first floor, there is a parlor, a dining room, a library, a kitchen and a wash room.  About 90 to 95% of the furnishings in the house belonged to Warren and Florence Harding, a much higher percentage of furnishings you find in many of presidential homes open to the public. For example, Mrs. Harding’s piano is still in the living room, and in the dining room, there is a cabinet which holds white and blue White House china and also Wedgewood and Dresden china, which the Hardings owned. In the library, there is a desk and chair which was used by Mr. Harding when he served in the State Senate. In the kitchen, there is an old icebox, a six-burner gas stove made by A.B. Stove Co. of Battle Creek, Mich., a toaster, a deep fryer, a coffee mill, etc. On the second floor, you find the master bedroom with twin beds, made from bird’s eye maple, a rocker, etc. The list of Harding items in the house goes on and on and that makes it an interesting place to visit.

    A new Harding Library has been built near the Harding House which contains documents and items important to his administration. The other place in Marion which those interested in presidential history should visit is the Harding Memorial at 966-879 Delaware Ave., not far from the Harding home. The original cost of the Memorial was $786,000. The building is a circle of tall columns made of Georgia white marble, which reminds one of a Greek temple.  It does not have a roof which allows plants to grow inside the circle. People can visit the Harding Memorial from dawn to dusk throughout the year.

    In the third year of his presidency, Mr. Harding decided to take a long trip to Alaska, which he called “a voyage of understanding.” The President was tired. He wanted to get out and meet the people of America so they could understand him better and he could understand them. The President and his wife went to Alaska, and, on the way home, Mr. Harding was stricken in Seattle. The doctors first thought that it was an attack of indigestion but then decided that it might be a heart attack.  The President and his wife on traveled on to San Francisco.  The doctors then decided that he had pneumonia and that he was getting better.

    On Aug. 2, 1923, Warren G. Harding died in a hotel room in San Francisco while his wife was reading to him.  Mrs. Harding had his body placed on a train for the trip back to Washington. Crowds of people waited by the train tracks along the way to pay tribute to the fallen president. His body was taken first to the White House, and then a funeral was held in the Capitol Rotunda. President Harding was buried in a temporary grave in Marion, Ohio, until a proper memorial could be built. President Harding’s wife, Florence, died on Nov. 21, 1924, and her body was also placed in a temporary vault in Marion. Both the body of President Harding and that of his wife were moved to the Harding Memorial in Marion in December 1927.  The Memorial was dedicated by President Hubert Hoover on June 16, 1931.  In recent years, the Harding Memorial had to undergo a renovation which was said to cost appropriately $1million.

    Harding’s wife, Florence Kling Harding, left the Harding property to Ohio Historical Society, now the Ohio History Connection. The Harding Home is open throughout the year. Call 800-600-6894 for information concerning President Harding and the sites connected to that president.