Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Kitchen at the Home of James K. Polk, Columbia, TN (4 of 5)

Leaving the main house through the dining room server's door, you come to the last stop on the guided tour, the kitchen.  In the early 1800's the kitchen was always detached from the main house because of the risk of fire.  The Polk's kitchen has not been modernized , as is the case with so many historic homes.

Looking to the right, as you traverse the worn brick walkway that connects the kitchen to the dining room, you get a glimpse of the classical garden that graces the rear of the property.  This fountain near the two houses provides a focal point, with brick pathways radiating in all directions.

You are welcomed into the kitchen by the "prep table" which, at mealtime, might bear food waiting to be served in the dining room.

A cluttered work area to the right gives evidence of the activity normally found here.

The adjacent room contains relics from the period including an early American round table with a large "lazy susan", some herbs from the garden and a spinning wheel.

To arrange for your group's nineteenth century cooking class, contact www.jameskpolk.com.

Upstairs at the Polk Home, Columbia, TN (3 of 5)

The downstairs of this mid-nineteenth century home was obviously designed for entertaining,  the upstairs suitably apportioned for the family's private life.

At the top of the stairs is a small study with this rustic secretary and an enclosed bookcase containing Mr. Polk's law books.

From the study, you step into a re-creation of Sarah Polk's bedroom from the era of her husband's public service, displaying the accouterments of the modern political wife.  Note her travel jewel chest on the left juxtaposed to the folding travel desk in the center of the room.  Sarah had been encouraged in her education since childhood, so  her good looks and Southern charm were not all this forward thinking woman brought to the table.

Next, we step forward in time to Sarah's bedroom as it would have been fitted for the grieving widow, aged by her four years in the White House and mourning her husband's premature death from cholera.  Her mother-in-law's portrait hangs over the mantle and the fire screen stands ready to protect her wax-based makeup from the comforting warmth of the fire place.

Sarah's bed stands in the corner, with her walking stick handy.  Her mourning shawl and lace gloves, which she wore the rest of her life,  are laid out on the traditional bedspread.

As you prepare to descend the stairway back into the home's public space, you are struck by this portrait  of Sarah Childress Polk's mother.  It was she who encouraged Sarah's education and her own wisdom seems to be captured in her enigmatic smile.

Don't miss seeing this and the other fine portraits collected in the home of James K. Polk.  Plan your experience by first visiting www.jameskpolk.com.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Downstairs at the Home of James K. Polk, Columbia, TN (2 of 5)

Behind the green door of the Polk home, lies this welcoming entrance hall.  The thirsty traveler was always greeted with a cool beverage from the sterling service on the right, a Southern tradition.

The top for this table in the front parlor was a gift to the president from an African emissary.  The docent points out the "error" in this portrayal of the Presidential Seal.  Did you notice the brown head of the American Bald Eagle?  Was this an error or a comment on our fledgling democracy?  The Bald Eagle, after all, does not gain his white feathers until adulthood.

Passing through the parlor into this large, well-lit dining room, you can't help being impressed with the restrained opulence expressed by the window treatments.  The magnificent mirror reflects the portraits of James' mother (over the mantle) and wife.

Looking to your right, you find the table is set with Sarah's specially crafted White House china, featuring the Presidential Seal  and decorated with hand-painted wildflowers.

Visit The Polk Home at 301 West 7th Street in historic Columbia, TN.

The Polk Home, Columbia, TN (1 of 5)

The simple facade and lone Tennessee Historical Marker by the front walkway do little to draw you into this wonderfully preserved ancestral home of our eleventh president, James Knox Polk.

The front of this elegant town home is now partially obscured by massive magnolia trees.

James K. Polk lived in his father's home from 1818 to 1824 while he practiced law a few blocks away. This building has become a repository for both his presidential and personal belongings, as well as those of his family, being his only existing residence other than the White House.  It thus serves as his Presidential Library as well as providing a glimpse into the elegant southern lifestyle of the mid-nineteenth century.

The home is accessed through the side door of the adjacent "Sisters' House", built by his father for James' two sisters, which now serves as a museum and gift shop. One item in the museum especially demands your attention-  the vision of First Lady Sarah Polk in her inaugural gown.

The home provides individual or group tours as well as special events and programs.  Visit their website at
http://www.jameskpolk.com/ to plan your visit. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Garden at the Polk Home, Columbia, TN (5 of 5)

The docent opens the door to leave the kitchen saying, "This is the end of the tour, but feel free to stroll around the garden as long as you like."  I took her up on the offer and would have stayed for hours had I no promises to keep.

The fountain shown in the previous post is to the property as Rome is to Italy...all paths (of which there are six) lead there.  As you follow the one that parallels W.7th St. you may pause to check the sun dial, looking back toward the house (on the left) and the kitchen (on the right).

Turn and continue to the next intersecting walkway, you may look to the right and be tempted to head back to the entrance of the Sisters' House...

But turn to your left and the sunlight which was so hostile only moments ago seems to beckon you into this quiet, monastic meditation garden.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nineteenth Century Club, Memphis, TN

This once grand mansion (c.1909), also known as the Rowland Darnell Home, has fallen into a sad state of disrepair.  The ladies club which owned it has now sold it at auction to a company that wants to tear down this last remaining mansion on Union Avenue, in favor of an Asian restaurant and strip mall.  The case against the old girl has been made and the strip mall has won.  However,  a local organization, Memphis Heritage, has found a potential buyer that would take over the property and restore it, converting it into a fine dining and event center.  This purchase would result in a substantial profit for the current owner/developer as a reward for their few months stewardship.

Please help this address become a historic destination by contacting Memphis Heritage and offering your support.

To sign the petition promising to boycott any business that is built on this demolished site, click here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-demolition-of.fb31?source=s.icn.fb&r_by=8755513