On the North side of Indianapolis sits the home of the 23rd President of the United States. The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site preserves the home and artifacts of the family, while welcoming the public for tours and events. The museum staff focus heavily on using the home as an educational tool and also to promote civic duty. Activities range from hosting school field trips to acting as a voting site during elections.
Disclaimer: I was given a private tour of the Harrison Home. Honest opinions, as always, are my own.
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
Benjamin Harrison is celebrated as Indiana’s only President, but he had a long an storied past too. His great-grandfather, Benjamin Harrison, was a member of the Constitutional Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father, William Henry Harrison, was the first governor of the Indiana Territory and 9th President, though he died of pneumonia after only serving one month of his term.
Benjamin Harrison was a lawyer and politician in Indianapolis, eventually serving as a US Senator representing Indiana. During the Civil War, he was promoted to Brigadier General. He served one term as President of the United States from 1889 to 1893. His Presidential actions included promoting voting rights, modernizing the US Navy, the Sherman Anti Trust Act, preserving land for national forests and protective tariffs. All topics familiar in today’s news. Above all, Harrison was known as a man of integrity and civic duty. The museum strives to carry on that legacy through tours and educational events.
Touring the Benjamin Harrison House
Upon arrival, guests check in behind the house at the reconstructed barn. Inside visitors can purchase tickets for a guided tour, which begin every half hour. While waiting for your tour, peruse the gift shop, and see what is in the special exhibit space.
The stately three story 1875 Italianate Victorian mansion fronts a quiet tree lined street; a mere mile and a half from the Indianapolis city center. The highway just a block south seems surprisingly distant. Unlike many other historic homes, touring this one doesn’t feel so formal and dry. For starters, only one room is roped off due to its original carpet. The rest of the rooms are open for visitors to walk through just as the Harrison family did well over a century ago. In contrast to many museum houses I’ve toured, roughly 80 percent of the furnishings and personal belongings are original to the house.
Items of note in the along the tour are the many portraits of Harrison family members, Benjamin Harrison’s office furniture, and the bed where he passed away in 1901. The mix of artifacts on display are both incredibly interesting to a history buff or an elementary school student. Benjamin’s first wife, Caroline, was a talented artist and many of her paintings are on display throughout the home. A letter from Helen Keller to Caroline is on display in one of the sitting rooms.
The third floor houses special exhibits created from the Harrison collection and other items on loan. While I was touring, gifts to US Presidents from citizens and foreign dignitaries was on display. Elegant dresses, decorative trinkets, and even a chair made of bull horns. The exhibits rotate annually and displays celebrating the centennial women’s suffrage are in the works for 2020.
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site’s website is filled with plenty of information about the Harrison family and home. Details and pictures of several interesting artifacts are accessible. Visitors can even download files to 3D print some of the artifacts and architectural details at home. This innovation is one way to get the younger generations more interested in history and also makes for a great souvenir.
Information and Tips for Visiting the Benjamin Harrison House
The home is open for public tours seven days a week. Monday through Saturday 10am to 3:30pm and Sundays noon to 3:30pm. The museum occasionally closes for special events, so check their website prior to your visit. Tickets are $12 adult, $7 ages 5/17 and college students, and free for kids under 5. Discounts available for active military, veterans, and seniors.
Guided tours of the home begin even half hour, with the last tour of the day starting at 3:30pm. The tours last roughly an hour and fifteen minutes and content will vary depending on the individual docent. Most rooms do not have barriers, so be sure to keep an eye on kids.
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is located at 1230 North Delaware Street Indianapolis, IN 46202. There is a very small parking lot on behind the house and additional parking on the streets. The area features many one way streets, so check the map before you arrive as it can be difficult to navigate.
For more information and background on the home and collections, visit their official website.