The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site at 1230 N. Delaware St. in Indianapolis includes one of the nation’s most authentic presidential homes, with about 80 percent of its contents used by Harrison and his family.
Benjamin Harrison was born in Ohio in 1833, the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president. In 1854, after studying law in Ohio, Harrison and his wife Caroline moved to Indianapolis, where he established a law practice. In 1874, his practice flourishing and his political status increasing, Harrison began building a magnificent house on the outskirts of the city, about a mile north of his office. When completed a year later at a cost of $28,000 (about $500,000 today), the 10,000-square foot Italianate brick house included 16 rooms on three floors. Featuring running water, a coal furnace, brass gaslights, 12-foot ceilings, masterfully carved woodwork and French plate glass windows, it was perhaps the finest house in Indiana.
When word reached Indianapolis in 1888 that the Republican convention had nominated Harrison for president, supporters gathered outside his house, where he made a short speech. He campaigned from his house, receiving delegations in the front parlor. Although called a “front porch campaign,” the house at the time did not have a porch. Harrison lost the popular vote to incumbent Grover Cleveland but won the Electoral College vote and became the 23rd president in March 1889. After Cleveland defeated him in 1892, Harrison returned to his home in Indianapolis, where he died in his bed of pneumonia in 1901. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery (more next week) in Indianapolis beside Caroline, who died in the White House in 1892.
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site was named a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The Arthur Jordan Foundation operates the site, which offers guided tours by appointment. A reconstructed carriage house serves as a visitors’ center.