Historic Sites and Buildings
James A. Garfield purchased the Lawnfield estate in 1876, during his service in the U.S. House of Representatives, as a country home for his young and active family, which included five boys and a girl. From the residence, he conducted his successful race for President in 1880. In March 1881 he left for Washington to assume his official duties. Only a few months later, however, an assassin mortally wounded him.
The farmhouse at Lawnfield, erected in 1832 by James Dickey, was originally a small, 1-1/2-story frame structure. Between 1877 and 1879 Garfield and his wife enlarged it to 2-1/2 stories, added a porch across the front, and refurnished the interior. An enthusiastic farmer, he spent many hours tilling the soil and conducting a variety of agricultural experiments.
This idyllic interlude ended in June 1880, when Garfield unexpectedly won the Republican nomination for the Presidency. At Lawnfield, he conducted much of his successful campaign from his "front porch." He entertained an endless procession of visitors in his home, and used one of the outbuildings as a campaign office. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, whose tracks ran across the estate, routed special excursions to Mentor and scheduled a stop at Garfield Lane, a country road leading to the house.
In March 1881 Garfield moved into the White House. He was never to see Lawnfield again, for on July 2 an assassin shot him at a Washington train station. Lingering on for more than 2 months, at first in Washington and then at a seaside retreat in New Jersey, he died on September 19 and was buried in Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery, where an impressive memorial to him was constructed. Four years later, Mrs. Garfield, who continued to live in the farmhouse for some time, completed their plans by adding a library wing and several rooms to the rear. The structure has remained largely unchanged since that time.
In 1936 the Western Reserve Historical Society, which had acquired Lawnfield from Garfield heirs and restored the first two floors, opened it to the public. It is presently administered by the Lake County Historical Society, which maintains a museum on the third floor and a library on the first. Other rooms on the first floor include the entrance hall, main hall, the bedroom shared by Mr. and Mrs. Garfield, that of his mother, a reception hall, a parlor, a nurse's room, and a dining room. The second floor contains additional bedrooms, the President's study, the memorial library built by Mrs. Garfield, and several other rooms. Both of these floors are furnished with original Garfield items and mementos, as well as period pieces.
At the northeast corner of the farmhouse stands the small, one-story frame building used first as a library and in 1880 as the campaign office. Equipped with telegraph facilities, it was used by Garfield's secretary and from it the election returns were received. The building is being converted into a museum. Not far from the main house is a replica of Garfield's log-cabin birthplace. Also on the grounds, dating from the period of the President's occupancy, are a windmill-pumphouse, carriage house, and barn.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004