Go See Benjamin Harrison in Indy

Benjamin Harrison. The president bookended by Cleveland’s two terms. The grandson of William Henry. The last bearded president. He’s more often an answer to a trivia question than a featured president in history class. Perhaps his presidency wasn’t terribly significant, but a visit to his house is a real trip back in time.

The late 19th century rocks in Benjamin Harrison’s home. It’s a historical time capsule, as the furnishings are 75% original. Plus, you can actually take pictures in this president’s home. Let’s take a look.

The BH monogram on the Victorian front door of Benjamin Harrison’s house
The parlor is full of original items from BH’s stay in the White House.

The Reginaphone

The Reginaphone was made by the Regina company in the late 19th century. It plays metal music discs that resemble large circular saw blades. The music box has a beautiful and full sound, with a hint of Victorian eerie. Check out our video below to hear it in action.

The Reginaphone, a 19th century music box

Family Tree in the Library

Benjamin Harrison’s library is a family history lesson. The Harrison family has roots in the Virginia planter class. In fact, Benjamin Harrison’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Harrison V, signed the Declaration of Independence.

BH’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Harrison V – signer of the Declaration of Independence
BH’s grandfather – 9th president, William Henry Harrison
BH’s father & mother, Congressman John Scott Harrison & Elizabeth Harrison
BH and non-family member, Abraham Lincoln

Harrison’s Desk

BH’s desk and artifacts, including a presidential walking stick and cigar box labeled “The President.”
Presidential centennial walking stick, given to BH as a gift. Harrison became president 100 years after George Washington was first elected. Every president – from Washington to Harrison – is featured on the hand carved stick.

The Art of Caroline Harrison

Caroline Harrison was an artist of considerable talent. Her watercolor paintings adorn walls throughout the house. Caroline designed the Harrison presidential china with a blue background and golden grain stalks. Caroline fell ill during her time in the White House. She died in 1892 – from what would later be diagnosed as tuberculosis. The Harrison house maintains a letter by a young Helen Keller who wrote the ill First Lady in 1892.

A portrait of Caroline Harrison (reproduction)
Still life by Caroline Harrison (original)
Floral still life by Caroline Harrison (original)
Floral still life by Caroline (original)
Harrison presidential china in blue and gold (top row). Lincoln presidential china in magenta (second row)
A letter written by “a little unknown friend” named Helen Keller. The 12 year-old Keller wrote this letter to Caroline Harrison.

The Harrison Kids & Grandchildren

Throughout the Harrison household, you’ll find paintings and photographs of family members. One funny story tells of the Harrison grandchildren wreaking havoc throughout the White House with their pet goat, Mr. Whiskers.

BH’s son, Russell Harrison, with his daughter, niece, and nephew on the White House lawn. The kids are riding on a cart pulled by their pet goat and co-conspirator, Mr. Whiskers.
BH with daughter Elizabeth. Harrison remarried after Caroline passed away. Harrison’s second wife, Mary, gave birth to Elizabeth when Benjamin was 63 years old.

A Home Gym in the Bedroom

The Whitney Home Gymnasium came with dumbbells, ropes, and Indian clubs.

The Third Floor Museum

On the third floor of the house, you’ll find a nice museum with many interesting artifacts – from original campaign posters and buttons to a unique horn chair.

1888 campaign poster. The silver letters and gold designs are made with sparkling ink (original).
1888 campaign poster for BH’s VP candidate, Levi P. Morton (original)
Harrison Hustlers, an 1888 campaign button
Grandpa’s stuff is everywhere. 1840 campaign poster for William Henry Harrison
Presidents sure do get some strange gifts. This is called a horn chair, a gift from a Texas rancher. It’s made of 18 horns, wild cat fur, and glass ball feet.

Goodbye, For Now

Well, that’s it. Another presidential site, and this is a great one. If you’re passing through Indianapolis, be sure to make some time for the Benjamin Harrison house. It’s a wonderful place to visit; well-worth the price of admission (adults $12, kids $7).

The site and artifacts are in excellent shape, with great attention to detail. Our tour of the house took a little over an hour. Parking was no problem, as it’s located right behind the house. The staff members were very welcoming and answered all of our questions. We’ll definitely be back. Thanks for the great tour, Jim!

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site