02 November 2015

President Buchanan

How could I have forgotten official residences when I started using Pinterest a while ago? It goes way back: Judith Holliday was collecting library postcards and I loved finding her exotic (mostly not vintage) cards of libraries as I traveled about. She said I needed a category and I wanted something architectural and picked official residences. I quickly had plenty of postcards of the White House and the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg. I had spent much of my childhood in official residences; my dad was a pastor and we lived in the parsonage. What I mean by official residence is the domicile that comes with a position. I've got postcards of jailer's houses, parsonages, college president's houses, governor's mansions, palaces, and other types. I don't think I have a maid's room or the Downton Abbey lower level, but they'd fit. I include the houses of U.S. presidents other than the White House since many of the presidents used them during their term in a semi-official (or totally official) way. Besides, they're often nice houses.

Yesterday's New York Times had an article about "The other presidents' houses: lesser-known homes can have their own rewards" by Robert Strauss.
This is Wheatland, the Federal-style house of President James Buchanan, in Lancaster, Pa. The picture is by Will Figg for the Times and accompanies the article. Buchanan bought the estate in 1848 (before he became president, 1857-1861) and lived there until he died in 1868. He was the only bachelor president and has been rumored to have been bisexual or homosexual.

Just before the Civil War, Buchanan was upset that Lancaster residents weren't renting rooms to Franklin & Marshall College students when there weren't enough rooms on campus. So he rented out some rooms and got the neighbors upset. My mind, naturally, meandered to the pleasure of having some young men, presumably most of the students were men, around the house. Probably nothing in it since Buchanan was in the White House and they are only rumors but still ...

By the way, the lacuna of "Official residences" in LCSH was remedied about a dozen years ago when I proposed it as a new subject heading. The narrower term is "Parsonages."

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