Calvin Coolidge and Civil War Vet at Plymouth, Vermont

President Calvin Coolidge meets with a Civil War veteran at his family home in Plymouth, Vermont, in August 1924. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Here, two very different generations meet; an unidentified veteran of the Civil War shakes hands with a president who was born seven years after the war had ended.  However, the Civil War wasn’t actually too far removed from 1924, relatively speaking.  Certainly by then many veterans had passed away, but encountering one in 1924 wasn’t unheard of, either; 1924 was closer to the Civil War than 2015 is to World War II.  In fact, the last confirmed veteran of the war died 32 years later, in 1956, during Eisenhower’s presidency.  I don’t know who this veteran was, or what happened to him, but it is possible that he outlived Coolidge, who died relatively young just nine years later.

Calvin Coolidge at Plymouth, Vermont (3)

President Calvin Coolidge walking up the steps to the Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The house in 2014:

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This scene shows Calvin Coolidge walking up the steps of the home that he grew up in, now known as the Coolidge Homestead.  He is accompanied by his wife Grace, his father John, and a few other people who I can’t identify.  Today, the house has been restored to its appearance during Coolidge’s presidency.  It looks like several of the trees are still there as well; the two large trees on the left-hand side of the 2014 photo appear to be the same ones that were there in 1924.

Calvin Coolidge at Plymouth, Vermont (2)

President Calvin Coolidge in the road in front of his family’s house in Plymouth, Vermont, in August 1924. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The road in 2014:

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From this spot, President Coolidge would have been looking at the Union Christian Church, which is across the street from the house that he grew up in.  He is standing on Messer Hill Road, and the building beyond him and to the left is a c.1870s shed that served as the workshop for his father’s farm.  On the right-hand side is the Plymouth Cheese Factory, which was opened by Coolidge’s father and four other local farmers in 1890.  It was later owned by Coolidge’s son John, and today it is owned by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and still operates as a cheese factory.

I don’t know why Coolidge was standing in the middle of the road, but apparently neither did photographer, Leslie Jones of the Boston Herald-Traveler.  His caption was “A penny for his thoughts,” although it probably would have taken more than a cent to get Silent Cal talking.  Certainly, though, his thoughts could’ve been on his on, Calvin Coolidge, Jr., who had died just a month earlier of blood poisoning following an infected blister.  Perhaps this was the reason for the vacation to Plymouth – an opportunity to get away from D.C. and spend time with his father, his wife, and their other son John.

Calvin Coolidge at Plymouth, Vermont (1)

President Calvin Coolidge checking the temperature on the front porch at his family home in Plymouth, Vermont, in August 1924. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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The front porch of the Coolidge Homestead doesn’t look much different from its appearance 90 years ago; it is now a museum and has been restored to its appearance during Coolidge’s presidency.  Here, he is checking the thermometer; according to Leslie Jones’s caption, “It said 80 degrees in the shade.”

Plymouth, Vermont

The village of Plymouth, Vermont, in August, 1924. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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Plymouth in 2014:

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The first photo was taken when President Calvin Coolidge vacationed in his hometown of Plymouth, Vermont.  The first scene shows many visitors, most of whom were probably there hoping to catch a glimpse of Coolidge.  After all, this was part of his image as president; that he was a humble, down-to-earth New England farmer and a friend of the common man.  Certainly the setting did little to detract from this image; most of the “center” of Plymouth can be seen in this view, with the general store/post office in the foreground, the church visible behind it, and the Coolidge Homestead to the right.

All of these buildings are part of the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District, and each one has some significance to the president.  He lived in the house to the right from age four until he left for high school, he and his family attended the church across the street, and he was born in the back of the post office/general store.  This building was built in the 1850s, and Coolidge’s father owned it from the 1870s until 1917.  During his 1924 visit, Coolidge used the upper room in the store as his “Summer White House.”

Coolidge Homestead, Plymouth, Vermont

The Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont, probably in August 1924. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The house in 2014:

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From the exterior, this Vermont farmhouse doesn’t look like it was once the place where a president took the oath of office, but it was here at 2:47 on the morning of August 3, 1923 that Calvin Coolidge was administered the oath by his father.  Throughout his political career, Coolidge frequently returned to his hometown of Plymouth, Vermont, and it was during one such visit while he was Vice President that President Warren Harding died.

This particular photo was probably taken in August 1924, during one of Coolidge’s vacations while he was president.  This vacation was well-documented by Leslie Jones of the Boston Herald-Traveler, and the trip was also featured in this short 1924 documentary.  It appears as though Coolidge (left) and the First Lady, Grace Coolidge (right) are walking down the street, although I don’t know who the woman in the middle was.

Today, not much has changed in Plymouth or at the Coolidge Homestead; the building is now a museum, and it has been restored to its 1923 appearance.  The house, along with the surrounding village, are a National Historic Landmark, and the area has been maintained by the state of Vermont.