Posts Tagged ‘28th President’

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

In addition to the distinction of remaining a resident of the National Capitol City after leaving office in 1921, President Woodrow Wilson also has the distinction of being the only President whose final resting place is in D.C.  The 28th President is interred at Washington National Cathedral, which is located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood. And on today’s 91st anniversary of his death, it was the destination for this bike ride.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as President from 1913 until 1921. While still in office, President Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October of 1919, leaving him paralyzed on his left side, and with only partial vision in his right eye. This was compounded by the effects of a previous stroke he had while sleeping one night in 1906, which had caused blindness in his left eye. As a result, he was confined to bed for weeks and sequestered from everyone except his wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson. As there was no clear constitutional precedent at that time for what to do if a president became unable to perform his duties, Edith Wilson effectively led in his place.

Wilson served as President during a time prior to ratification of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits a President to two terms in office. And had it not been for his significant health problems, he would have run and most likely been elected to a third term as President. But by the following year his disability had diminished his power and influence, and the Democratic Party ignored his tentative plan to run for re-election.

Despite his poor health limiting the time he was able to serve in office, Wilson was not only one of the more effective Presidents in history, but one of the more interesting ones as well. In addition to being the only President to live in D.C. after leaving office, and the only one to make D.C. his final resting place, the following are just a few of the more interesting facts about him.

Although he could not read until he was 9 years old and was mostly home-schooled, he went on to be the only President, so far, to earn a PhD.  He went by “Tom” or “Tommy” for most of his life, and didn’t switch to going by his middle name until he headed off to law school, because he thought it sounded more impressive. While living there, he was the first person to ride a bike in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Afterward he remained an avid bike rider.  He was the first President to cross the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the first President to hold a press conference. He holds the record for spending more time outside the U.S. than any other President. Wilson was the first President to attend a World Series game, throwing out the first pitch of Game 2 between the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies in 1915.   Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.  As President, Wilson issued a declaration creating Mother’s Day. His nickname is Professor because he was one at Princeton, where he was voted as the most popular professor for six consecutive years before becoming President of the University. He was married twice, and his second wife was a direct descendant of legendary Native American Pocahontas. He let flocks of sheep stay on the White House lawn. And after running on a platform of keeping the U.S. out of World War I, and then leading the nation into the war, Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to avert future world wars. The Second World War would begin two decades later.  And the last thing he said was his wife’s name, Edith.

President Wilson retired in 1921, and he and his wife moved into an elegant 1915 town house on Embassy Row in northwest D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. Less than three years later, on February 3, 1924, the 67-year old former President died at home of another stroke and other heart-related problems. He was buried at the Washington National Cathedral, which was under construction at the time. Thirty years after his death his body was moved inside the church, where he was interred in a sarcophagus. Edith Wilson stayed in the home another 37 years, dying there on December 28, 1961, after which she was also interred at the Cathedral, below the tile in front of President Wilson’s crypt.

woodrow_wilson_crypt

Woodrow Wilson House

Woodrow Wilson House

While most Presidents happily retire back to their home state after leaving office, Woodrow Wilson decided to remain in D.C.   In fact, he is the only American President to select D.C. to be his home following his final term in office.  So on a recent bike ride I chose to go by the Woodrow Wilson House in northwest D.C.   Sometimes referred to as “the other executive mansion,” the house is located at 2340 S Street (MAP) on Embassy Row in the city’s Kalorama Neighborhood.

Late in 1920 after leading the nation through the first World War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and creating the League of Nations, the 28th President’s second and final term was nearing its end.  Needing a place to live after leaving The White House, his wife Edith Bolling Wilson began to search for an appropriate residence.  His second wife, she had lived in D.C. before they met and received a small fortune when her former husband, a prosperous local jeweler, passed away.  However, her husband made his own plans.  On December 14, Wilson insisted that his wife attend a concert.  When she returned he presented her with the deed to the Georgian style mansion on S Street.  He had bought the house despite having never even seen it.  The former President and his wife moved into the home on Inauguration Day in 1921.

The Wilsons moved into their new retirement haven, but it wasn’t an easy move.  Prohibition forbid the transportation of alcohol, and that presented a problem for Wilson, who did not want to leave his fine wine collection in the White House for his successor.  The recently elected Warren G. Harding was known to be a heavy drinker.  He appealed to Congress, and Congress granted an exception to Prohibition by passing a special law just for him, which allowed one person on one specific day “to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2340 S Street.”

Wilson, partially paralyzed from a stroke he suffered in 1919, spent his few remaining years in partial seclusion at the house, under the continuous care of his wife and servants.  It was from the balcony of this house that Wilson addressed a crowd in November of 1923 as his last public appearance.  On February 3, 1924, he died in an upstairs bedroom.  He was laid to rest in Washington National Cathedral, becoming not just the only President to remain in D.C. after his presidency, but also the only President to be buried in D.C.   Mrs. Wilson continued to live in the residence until her death in 1961.   She bequeathed the property and all of its original furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1964.  The National Trust continues to own the house, and currently operates it as a museum.

I think President Wilson would have approved of my adventures biking around and exploring D.C.  He cycled regularly, including several cycling vacations.  However, as President he was unable to bike around D.C. for security reasons.  Unable to ride, he took to playing golf with equal enthusiasm.  In fact, Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.

WoodrowWilsonHouse04     WoodrowWilsonHouse02     WoodrowWilsonHouse03