Welcome to another in a series of travelogue articles spotlighting presidential historic sites. America’s 11th president, James Polk, was born in North Carolina and later moved to neighboring Tennessee. His birthplace in North Carolina and family home in Tennessee are both open to visitors and historians. Join us as we visit both sites and learn more about President Polk…
President James Polk: An Overview
James Polk was born into a North Carolina farming family in 1795. Ten years later, Polk’s father moved his family into Tennessee, where Polk eventually made a name for himself. After his graduation from the University of North Carolina, he established a law practice in Columbia, Tennessee.
In 1822, Polk was elected to the Tennessee Legislature and married his wife Sarah, who became an integral part of his later campaigns. Polk himself was well known as a staunch supporter of President Andrew Jackson and became a United States Senator at age 29 in 1824. He remained in the Senate for fourteen years, before successfully running for governor of Tennessee.
With his national ambitions intact, Polk was drafted as a compromise candidate for the presidency in 1844. Running on a campaign of continued westward expansion, he won the election and served as president until early 1849.
During his productive administration, the boundary of the United States was extended to the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of square miles of land was acquired in the northwest territory.
After leaving the presidency, Polk returned to Tennessee. Long suffering from rather frail health, only three months later he died of cholera at age 53.
Polk Home In Columbia, Tennessee
In historic Columbia, Tennessee, in the eastern part of the state, visitors can tour the only remaining home where Polk lived. The handsome two story structure was built in 1816 by Polk’s father. It is here where Polk lived as a young lawyer until his marriage in 1824.
Tours of the home are available year around for $7. Over 1000 items belonging to Polk and his family are displayed here, and there is a beautiful garden adjacent to the property. Campaign memorabilia, inauguration items, and White House china are among the many items to see. A small gift shop is also on site which carries a number of interesting presidential themed gifts.
In Pineville, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte, a memorial site is dedicated to James Polk on the land where he was born. The actual birthplace building is long gone, but faithful reconstructions of period buildings now occupy the site.
Visitors can view a film about Polk’s life and his presidential administration. The buildings are authentically furnished and emphasis is placed on Polk’s North Carolina roots.
Both of these historical sites give visitors and historians a glimpse into the life and administration of President James Polk.
Polk’s influence is still felt today. He was a visionary who foresaw the need for western expansion and making the United States a continental country.