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.


The building in 2014:


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.


Plymouth in 2014:


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.


The house in 2014:


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.

President Taft at Springfield, Mass (2)

Another scene of William Howard Taft at Court Square in Springfield on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).


The scene in 2014:


These were taken from the same spot as the photos in this post, just facing toward the Connecticut River instead of toward Old First Church.  The 1912 photo shows President Taft arriving in Springfield, with a crowd of onlookers waiting for him.  The photo also shows the extension of Court Square, which once went all the way down to the Connecticut River.  Today, Interstate 91 passes across here, with a parking garage underneath.

President Taft at Springfield, Mass (1)

President William Howard Taft, giving a speech on Court Square in Springfield, on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).


The scene in 2014:


The 1912 photo was taken on the same day as the photo in this post, which shows a close-up of President Taft speaking on the platform.  Here, the platform can be seen behind Old First Church on the left-hand side, and it shows the massive crowd that had assembled to see him during his 1912 presidential campaign, which would end with him earning the Republican nomination but losing to Woodrow Wilson in the November election.  Today, three of the buildings from the first photo are still there: Old First Church, the Court Square Hotel, and the old Hampden County Courthouse.  There are also some remnants of this part of Court Square, which once stretched from the back of Old First Church to the Connecticut River (which can be seen in this post).  Today, the Hampden County Hall of Justice covers part of the land, and East Columbus Avenue passes diagonally across it.

President Taft in Springfield, Mass

President William Howard Taft speaking behind Old First Church on April 25, 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.


The scene in 2014:


The 1912 presidential election was an unusual one, brought on by a rift in the Republican party between President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt.  Both sought the Republican nomination, and on April 25, Taft was making his way through Massachusetts before the primary five days later.  April 1912 was an eventful time – when the photo of Taft was taken, Fenway Park had just opened five days earlier, and five days before that, the Titanic sank. However, at the time, the most pressing political issue in the country was the apparent fracturing of the Republican Party.

The Massachusetts voters ended up choosing Roosevelt for the Republican nomination, but at the national convention a few months later, the party bosses chose Taft. It would end up being a Pyrrhic victory for them, though, because Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate, which split the Republican vote in he November election and gave Democrat Woodrow Wilson an easy victory.  In the end, Taft won just two states and eight electoral votes, a dismal showing for an incumbent president.

For the speech, Taft stood behind Old First Church, facing what was at the time the newly-cleared extension of Court Square, which went from the back of the church to the railroad tracks next to the Connecticut River.  The brick section in the back of Old First Church is still there today, although it was substantially renovated in 1947.  The windows behind Taft have since been bricked up, but their outlines, formed by lighter-colored bricks, are still visible.