Sites of Presidential Proportions
President’s Day is fast approaching, and with our nation’s (and the world’s) newfound fascination with the Commander in Chief, there’s a heap of places you can put your presidential passions to educational use.
Drive down Highway 288 South near Houston, Texas, and you can catch a glimpse of six presidents of gigantic proportions. The 18- to 20-foot-tall busts of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and George H. W. Bush (a Houston native) were sculpted by David Adickes and will soon become part of Presidential Park. When the park opens in September, all 43 presidents (that’s right–Obama might be the 44th, but Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, thus making 44 presidencies but only 43 presidents) will be on display. Obama’s bust will be unveiled on February 16.
No presidential site is more famous than Mount Rushmore (named after an attorney, oddly). Officially complete in the 1940s, the park gets some three million visitors a year. The park rangers there host plenty of guided walks and talks, so if you visit this month, be prepared for the cold. Walk the Presidential Trail to get up close to the mountain, and president buffs shouldn’t miss the nearby National Presidential Wax Museum.
Presidential Libraries: Former president FDR was the first to set the precedent of creating a presidential library upon leaving office. Likewise, every state that gave birth to a president has grave sites
(like John Tyler’s, above), museums, and more dedicated to the state’s infamous son (or sons), so navigating a whole list can be confusing. The National Archives has a site dedicated to all of the libraries from Hoover to George W. Bush (yes, Hoover came before FDR, but after FDR created his library, Hoover thought he deserved one as well). Click on “locations” of each president on PresidentialMuseums.com and you’ll get a list of important historic sites. My history-buff boyfriend and his roommate also swear by Who Was Buried in Grant’s Tomb? by historians Brian Lamb and Richard Norton Smith, which details the deaths and burial places of each president.
Of course, behind every president is a vice president, and the National Portrait Gallery hasn’t forgotten about them. Through Jan 3, 2010, Presidents in Waiting will exhibit the lives of the fourteen VPs who also served as presidents. While there, don’t miss One Life: The Mask of Lincoln, the newest portraits of George W. Bush and his wife, as well as Shepard Fairey’s infamous portrait of Obama.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
It goes without saying that presidents have big heads, but the Washington Nationals have taken this to a whole new level. If you’re in D.C., don’t miss the Presidents Race Tryouts at Nationals Stadium this weekend–donning a 40-pound head isn’t as easy as it looks (check out the video below).
Photo: James Rickard and Brad Swain