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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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THE PRESIDENTS of the United States
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark Spiegel Grove
Spiegel Grove
Spiegel Grove

Sandusky County, at the intersection of Hayes and Buckland Avenues, Fremont.

The residence on this estate, the home of Rutherford B. Hayes from 1873 until his death in 1893, was occupied by Hayes descendants until 1965 when it was opened to the public as a house/museum. Also on the grounds are the Hayes Museum/Library and the present burial site of President and Mrs. Hayes.

Sardis Birchard, a prominent Fremont merchant and uncle guardian of Hayes, acquired the estate about 1846 as the prospective site of a home for himself and his nephew, who was practicing law locally. Because the reflection of the trees and lush vegetation in pools of water after a rain reminded Birchard of German fairy tales he had heard in his youth, he named the estate Spiegel (German for "mirror") Grove.

Spiegel Grove
Spiegel Grove. (Rutherford B. Hayes Library.)

In 1849 Hayes moved to Cincinnati to pursue a career in law and politics. As a result, Birchard changed his plans and during the period 1859-63 constructed a 2-1/2-story brick residence with veranda on the estate as a summer retreat for his nephew. The latter moved into it permanently in 1873, when he returned to Fremont after completing his second term as Governor of Ohio the year before.

At that time, Hayes also took charge of his aging uncle's affairs and, to better serve his family of six children, enlarged the house. It then consisted of a formal entrance hall, a large parlor, kitchen facilities, bedrooms, and storage space. The one-story frame addition, on the west side, extended the veranda and provided an office-library, drawing room, a new kitchen, wood house, and privy.

The next year, upon Birchard's death, Hayes inherited the estate. The year before, he had been elected to a third term as Governor, and in 1877 became President of the United States. Three years later, before retiring from office, he erected a major brick addition on the north. This duplicated the gabled front of the original portion of the structure and more than doubled its size. Also completely remodeling the interior, Hayes extended the master bedroom on the first floor, enlarged certain other rooms by constructing a three-story projecting bay, and built a cupola on the fourth level.

Reception held at Spiegel Grove by President and Mrs. Hayes on September 14, 1877, while on a visit from Washington. (Rutherford B. Hayes State Memorial, 1877.)

In 1889, the year his wife died, Hayes tore down the 1873 frame addition and replaced it with a 2-1/2-story wing that included the present formal dining room, a kitchen, and several upstairs chambers.

Hayes derived much pleasure from maintaining and landscaping the grounds. He was especially fond of trees, and in 1877, during a reunion at Spiegel Grove of members of his Civil War unit, the 23d Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, he christened five oaks on the estate in honor of comrades in attendance. These are sometimes referred to as the "Reunion Oaks." He subsequently dedicated other trees to prominent military and political guests.

After Hayes' death in 1893, one of his sons, Col. Webb C. Hayes, lived at the estate for many years. In 1909-10, acting as spokesman for the Hayes family, he presented it to the State of Ohio with the stipulation that it be reserved for family use and that the State be required to build a memorial library-museum on the grounds.

Constructed between 1916 and 1922, partially with funds donated by Webb C. Hayes, and enlarged in 1967, the Rutherford B. Hayes Library, a short distance north of the house, is a large structure of gray sandstone in the Classical architectural style. Books, correspondence, diaries, pictures and photographs, scrapbooks, and other possessions of the Hayes family form the nucleus of the voluminous collections, which also contain valuable materials dealing with local, State, and National history. The museum section of the library exhibits a variety of items, including personal souvenirs of President and Mrs. Hayes, letters written and signed by many of the Presidents, objects associated with Abraham Lincoln, and some American Indian artifacts.

Hayes, wife, and Smith
Hayes (standing), in retirement at the age of 67, his wife, and Hon. William H. Smith, on the porch of Spiegel Grove. during the winter of 1888-89. (Library of Congress.)

The rambling residence, which now has some 20 rooms, epitomizes 19th-century Victorian architecture. Its broad veranda, now screened, stretches along the double-gabled facade. The central hall, featuring white-walnut paneling, runs through the center of the house to the large formal dining room. From the hallway a butternut stairwell with black walnut balusters rises from the first floor to the fourth-level cupola. Because of the various renovations, only two rooms—the red parlor to the south of the entrance hall on the first floor and Sardis Birchard's bedroom above it on the second—remain in their original state. The first-floor brown-and-gold drawing room and the formal dining room were modeled after rooms in the White House. The first floor also contains a modern kitchen and a family dining room; the upper levels, bedrooms and guestrooms that largely reflect the tastes of later generations of the Hayes family.

The six entrance ways to the estate consist of impressive iron gates that were once at the White House. A monument of Vermont granite marks the tomb of President and Mrs. Hayes, south of the residence. Their remains were moved there from Fremont's Oakwood Cemetery in 1915. The house and grounds, library, burial site, and 25 acres of land are administered by the Rutherford B. Hayes and Lucy Webb Hayes Foundation as the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. The Hayes Museum/Library and Hayes Home are open to the public year-round. (updated July 24, 2006)

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004