Welcome to another in a series of travelogue articles spotlighting presidential museums, homes, and historic sites. In this article we will provide a visitors overview of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the beautifully restored estate of our 15th President, James Buchanan…
President James Buchanan: An Overview
Presidential trivia buffs know James Buchanan was America’s only bachelor president, but his life and presidency is a fascinating story. Elected to the presidency at the relatively advanced age of 65, Buchanan had previously served under three other administrations.
At the time of his election in 1856, tensions that ultimately led to civil war were escalating. His successor, President Lincoln, carried out many of the agenda items from Buchanan’s administration. The most notable of these was a show of force against the confederate states if Fort Sumter was attacked. Buchanan fought long and hard to avoid war between the states, but was generally hamstrung by a divided Congress.
Buchanan’s niece, Harriet Lane, had lived with him since being orphaned at age eleven. She assumed the duties of First Lady during his administration, and was in fact the first person to be bestowed that title. Buchanan himself, a staunch opponent of war yet a strong supporter of the Union, retired to his Pennsylvania home after his presidency. He continued to advance his causes as an elder statesman until his death in 1868.
Visiting Lancaster And President Buchanan’s Home
President Buchanan’s restored estate, Wheatland, can be visited just outside of downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, about 85 miles west of Philadelphia. Tours are available daily during the spring, summer, and fall, with limited winter hours.
Visitors will experience not only the home of the president, but also the expansive Wheatland Garden and Tanger Arboretum. The arboretum is a popular attraction that hosts a collection of over 100 species of trees from around the world.
Tours last about an hour, longer if you linger in the garden and arboretum. The home itself is restored to the appearance when Buchanan lived here. It is a beautiful two story period home, with many original furnishings and memorabilia from his life and presidency.
In the aptly named Presidents Shop, you can purchase items not only related to Buchanan, but other presidents and the presidency in general. We added several unique items to our collection not found in other museum stores of its kind.
Lancaster is a perfect stop on the way to Gettysburg from Philadelphia. For presidential historians, this trip is ideal. Philadelphia of course is known for its historical attractions, as is Gettysburg. Don’t pass up a chance to stop in Lancaster on the way. Not only is Wheatland a must see, but the historic downtown area is a perfect stop for lunch or dinner.