The 7 American Presidents to visit Long Branch (and their terms in office) were: Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), James A. Garfield (1881), Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885), Benjamin Harrison (1889-1993), William McKinley, Jr. (1897-1901), and T. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921). Garfield died in Elberon from his assassination wounds.
Although seven American chief executives have visited Long Branch, I was only able to dig deep on two: Presidents Garfield and Grant.
President James A. Garfield: 20th American President
Born November 19, 1831, on a farm in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Garfield was the last president to be born in a log cabin.
The product of extreme poverty but with a first-rate mind and drive to succeed, Garfield went on to build one of the more impressive pre-presidential resumes in US history: Lawyer, professor of ancient languages, president of Hiram College, Ohio state senator, Civil War major general, and eight-term US Representative.
Garfield won the 1880 US presidential election by defeating Winfield Scott Hancock, the Sandy Hook fort namesake and heroic Civil War general. The Republican Garfield topped the Democrat Hancock by fewer than 10,000 votes out more than 9.2 million cast nationally. He captured the Electoral College by 214-155. In winning the presidency, Garfield lost New Jersey by about 2,000 votes.
He served less than 4 months as president before the assassination attempt by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881 at the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, DC (the president wasn’t guarded). After languishing in hot, humid Washington for two months, the president was moved to Long Branch in the hopes the shore conditions would aid his recovery. He died in Elberon on September 19, 1881. The most likely cause of death was infection, not a bullet wound. The president was only 49 year old.
Photo taken by Mrs. Lucretia Garfield at Long Branch a few days before her husband was shot, June 1881. The president called her “Crete” — she outlived him by about 36 years.
President Garfield’s statue by the sea. Dedicated in September 1918 in Ocean Park on Ocean Avenue (later Garfield Park). Festivities included a parade of several thousand. One of the slain president’s sons represented the family: Harry Garfield, who as a 17-year-old had witnessed his father’s shooting in Washington, DC. Brilliant like his dad, Harry went on to become president of Williams College (the president’s alma mater).
President Garfield statue and memorial park, 1960s. The memorial is 16-feet high. The bronze statue is a Carl Schweizer design. It was moved to Garfield Park in 1959 and again to its current location by the Ocean Place Hotel 30 years later.
President Garfield statue and memorial park, 1950s. It stood near City Stadium for many years. The cornerstone for a Garfield monument at this location dates to Sept. 1907.
President Garfield statue in front of the old Long Branch stadium, 1930s.
President Garfield statue watches over the city oceanfront promenade, 2019. It was moved to its present site in 1989 at a cost of $8,400. Technically on the grounds of a private hotel, the land was once the seven-acre oceanfront Garfield Park and before than Ocean Park.
President Garfield statue — with an ocean view, 2000. Of Long Branch, Garfield once said: “I have always felt the ocean was my friend and the sight of it brings rest and peace.”
President Garfield granite marker at his death spot in Elberon, 2010s. Placed there in 1959.
President Garfield memorial monument words in Elberon, 2005.
Garfield Tea House or Hut on the Oliver Byron property (1882-1910). Built from the railroad ties used to create a spur line that transported the ailing president from the Elberon train station to the Francklyn cottage.
Garfield Tea House or Hut on the grounds of the Church of the Presidents in Elberon, 2000s.
Death of an American President in Long Branch, October 1881. “I want to go down by the sea” was the wounded and dying president’s request for Long Branch.
President Garfield’s final moments in Long Branch, Sept. 1881. He lasted just 16 days at the shore.
President Garfield’s last looks at the sea from his LB cottage, Harper’s Weekly, Sept. 1881. It’s likely the president’s own doctors killed him — health historians believe that with the constant poking and probing of his wound with septic fingers and instruments the doctors made the president’s infection worse and his recovery impossible.
President Garfield’s sick room at the Francklyn cottage, Sept. 1881.
President Garfield’s funeral train, 1881.
President Garfield’s cottage, 1885.
President Garfield’s cottage, 1881. Known as the Charles Francklyn cottage — it was a 20-room mansion.
President Garfield died here in Sept. 1881. The house was badly burned in 1914 and torn down in 1920.
President Ulysses S. Grant: 18th American President
Born on April 22, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio, also in a log cabin and very poor, Grant fell in love with Long Branch and spent every summer of his presidency here with his family. No question his presence there helped make Long Branch the nation’s top summer resort.
A natural leader, before Grant won the presidency he was the Commanding General of the Union Army that won the Civil War in 1865. The Republican Grant was elected US president in 1868, defeating Democrat Horatio Seymour (a former governor of New York) with 52% of the popular vote and a 214-80 Electoral College margin. Grant lost NJ in that race by about 2,800 votes. In 1872, he easily won re-election over Horace Greeley (founder of the New-York Tribune) with 55% of the vote and a 286-66 Electoral College blowout. This time he won NJ by 15,000 votes.
Grant was a very complicated fellow. He was personally very honest, yet his administration was one of the most corrupt in history. He fainted at the sight of blood, but engaged in some of the most lethal battles in military history. He had a serious drinking problem, and was still a steady and expert horseman all his life.
Above all, Grant was a man of simple pleasures. During his summer times in Long Branch the president liked to rise each morning at 7 am and ride his two-horse buckboard quickly along the oceanfront — sometimes for up to 20 miles.
President US Grant — with house and horse — at Long Branch, (1869-1877).
President Grant with family at Long Branch, 1883.
“President Grant and Friends at His Cottage by the Sea.” Long Branch, Summer 1872. During the time when he was staying in Long Branch, the President-General was the most famous man in the country, perhaps in the world.
President Grant with family and staff at Long Branch, 1870s.
President Grant with his son and wife at Long Branch, 1870s.
President Grant with his wife, Julia, and his father-in-law, Frederick Dent, at the Long Branch cottage, 1872.
President Grant dancing at a Grand Ball at the Stetson House given in his honor, July 1869. General Phil Sheridan and Bill Sherman attended.
Grant surely loved the beach — here with his family in the surf at LB. August 1869.
Grant cottage in a postcard, 1914. Wealthy benefactors paid $32,000 for the house and gifted it to the Grants.
Grant Cottage in Long Branch, 1867. The house was a gift from George W. Childs, a rich Philadelphia newspaper man, who owned a nearby cottage.
President Grant’s cottage, 1880s. The 28-room seashore cottage was built in 1866.
President Grant cottage, early 1900s. “A mixture of English villa and Swiss chalet,” according to the New York Tribune.
President Grant cottage, 1963. Grant summered here every season from 1869 to 1884. “I have never seen a place in all my travels better suited for a summer residence,” Grant said of Long Branch.
President Grant’s cottage being razed, 1963. Once “the Summer White House.”
Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicting President Grant in Long Branch, 1873.
New-York Tribune cartoon on President Grant and Long Branch, 1870s.
President William McKinley
President William McKinley (l) and Vice President Garret Hobart in Long Branch, 1899.
Arrival of President Chester Arthur at the Elberon Station on Sept. 20, 1881 to pay his respects to the late President Garfield.
Church of the Presidents
Church of the Presidents on Ocean Avenue in Elberon, 1966. Founded in 1879.
Church of the Presidents, 1991. All seven presidents to visit LB also worshiped here.
Church of the Presidents, 2000s. Consecrated as the St. James Episcopal chapel in June 1879, services stopped in 1953.
Church of the Presidents sketch, 1964. The building was saved from a wrecker’s ball in 1999 by the Long Branch Historical Museum membership.
Church of the Presidents, 1930s.
Church of the Presidents postcard, 1940s.
Church of the Presidents, 2021.