A Day of James A. Garfield History and a Night of Shakespeare's Hamlet!

Blog Date
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival's Saturday, July 2, 2022, performance of "Hamlet" at James A. Garfield National Historic Site
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Over the years, I have attended Cleveland Shakespeare Festival shows at many venues around northeast Ohio, and I have even participated in their "Open Mic Shakespeare" nights at Negative Space Gallery and Mac's Backs Books. While I have enjoyed Cleveland Shakespeare Festival actors' performances at all the outdoor venues where I have seen them perform, it was at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site on July 1, 2017, that I learned of the Garfield connection with Shakespeare. I learned that the Garfield family often entertained themselves reading Shakespeare's plays! While on the James A. Garfield National Historic Site house tour in 2017, I took a photo of the portrait of William Shakespeare in the Memorial Library.

July 1, 2017, tweet with portrait of William Shakespeare in James A. Garfield Memorial Library
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See all my Twitter photos from the July 1, 2017, house tour and Cleveland Shakespeare Festival performance of The Taming of the Shrew in my blog post:


While writing this blog post, I found the following that shows President Garfield's Shakespeare books:

The White House Historical Association -- James A. Garfield's set of illustrated Shakespeare
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The White House Historical Association
James A. Garfield's set of illustrated Shakespeare

President James A. Garfield owned an illustrated set of Shakspeare’s Complete Works, bound in tooled leather. The volumes are labeled with Garfield’s bookplate and feature illustrations of Shakespeare’s plays and characters, including the engraving of Juliet.

credit Folger Shakespeare Library

This connection that President Garfield and his family had with William Shakespeare made Saturday, July 2, 2022, even more interesting to me as I enjoyed seeing:



Tweets From Before Tour and Hamlet Performance




Tour of James A. Garfield Birth Site

4350 SOM Center Rd, Moreland Hills OH 44022 Phone: 440 248 1188
. . .
In 1880 President Garfield reflected,
“…walked out under the cold starlight and tried to recall the old sensations of boyhood. Here I first learned the constel[l]ations and their places in the heavens. It is my Greenwich,
where all the world is exactly in its right place. Every other place shows variation more or less.”

Displayed on the campus of the Village of Moreland Hills is a replica of the boyhood cabin as described by President Garfield.  This site has been visited by thousands of children and historians from all over the country. 

I had a truly serendipitous moment that led me to a very enjoyable time talking to a Moreland Hills Historical Society volunteer, Debbie, at the James A. Garfield Birth Site! I had not planned on visiting the birthplace, but happened to drive by it and decided to stop.

I highly recommend you talk to her to learn about the 20th president of the United States -- the last of the log cabin presidents -- who was born in Ohio. When I later in the day mentioned her to the ranger at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, she knew exactly who I was talking about, since Debbie also volunteers at this national historic site visitor center.

I had visited the birth site on Sunday, August 14, 2016, after I had seen a Western Reserve Historical Society special exhibition about Ohio's connection to the republican party. This took place during the time the Republican Convention was in Cleveland. In 2016, the birth site cabin was not open, so it was great to tour it on Saturday, July 2, 2022, to see the historic re-creation.

The James A. Garfield Birth Site cabin is open on Saturdays, June - September, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.




Bioretention is the process in which contaminants and sedimentation are removed from stormwater runoff. The main objective of the bioretention cell is to attenuate peak runoff as well as to remove stormwater runoff pollutants.

Green Infrastructure Grant Program

The [Northeast Ohio Regional] Sewer District recognizes the importance of green infrastructure such as rain gardens, bioretention, pervious pavement, and other site-based stormwater management practices in the combined sewer area. The Green Infrastructure Grants Program is open to member communities, governmental entities, non-profit organizations 501(c)(3), or businesses working in partnership with their communities in the combined sewer area interested in implementing green infrastructure projects that remove stormwater from the combined sewer system.

Private, for-profit entities may also put forward projects in partnership with communities or non-profits. Applicants must demonstrate the ability to ensure the long-term ownership and maintenance of these practices.

If you would like more information on these projects or the grants program, contact Jessica S. Cotton at (216) 881- 6600 ext. 6458.

As I went down the beautiful woods trail from the cabin to the original James A. Garfield Birth Site, I learned about the work of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to improve water quality by creating a bioretention area.

Learn more about Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's work in my blog post:



Tour of James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

James A. Garfield National Historic Site Visitor Center

In 1893, Lucretia Garfield constructed a Carriage House and Horse Barn behind the Garfield Home. In 1998, the same building was opened as the Visitor Center at James A. Garfield National Historic Site. Inside visitors can find the site's 18-minute film as well exhibits in chronological order of the president's life. Check-in for tours of the Garfield home are at the Front Desk.
. . .
May - October, the Visitor Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours change from November - April, when the site is open Fridays-Saturdays-Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
. . .
Visitors to the James A. Garfield National Historic Site can enjoy the site in a number of ways:

As I was preparing this blog post, I found tweets from from previous years (2013 & 2017) when I toured the Garfield home and then attended outdoor Shakespeare theatre. My wife and co-blogger, Julie, enjoyed the house tour, as we have in the past. It is interesting to know that the Garfield House originally was managed by the Western Reserve Historical Society, which is where Julie volunteers at the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel. (Learn more about this former Cleveland amusement park in my six Euclid Beach Park blog posts.)

Here are the photos of the tour that I shared on Twitter:


Garfield House

On the house tour, I took a lot of photos to try to capture the feeling of the house, but you really need to take the tour yourself to experience it.


The Campaign Office


Visitor Center

Here is the video that is shown in the Visitor Center, followed by tweets from my visit:


Picnic Area

Julie and I had a nice picnic dinner after buying some food locally. We used the City of Mentor Visitor Guide that a park ranger gave us to choose where we purchased our dinner. I did not know that the park had a nice shady picnic area. It was a nice place to relax as we watched the Cleveland Shakespeare company set up their stage.



Virtual Tour of James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Virtual Tour of James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Explore the home of James A. Garfield. Garfield was elected as the United States' 20th President in 1881, after nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His Presidency was impactful, but cut short after 200 days when he was assassinated. As the last of the log cabin Presidents, James A. Garfield attacked political corruption and won back for the Presidency a measure of prestige it had lost during the Reconstruction period. Garfield lived here from 1876 until early 1881. His widow, Lucretia, owned this home and property until her death in 1918. The site visitors see today is more reflective of her many years here after the President's death than the few years he lived here before becoming the nation's 20th President.

As I mentioned above, in 2017, I took a photo of the portrait of William Shakespeare on the wall, but I forgot to look for the Shakespeare picture when on my Saturday, July 2, 2022, tour. I remembered that the picture was in the Memorial Library, but wondered if my memory was correct.

The Internet holds the answer -- I searched for the James A. Garfield Memorial Library, and found that the National Park Service provides an incredible Virtual Tour of James A. Garfield National Historic Site on Google Arts & Culture. I recommend going in person (the house is free to visit), and then using the virtual tour to show others what you enjoyed on your tour, and to encourage them to visit as well.



Hamlet - Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" -- Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1
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Now entering its 25th season, Cleveland Shakespeare Festival prides itself in delivering rich and insightful theatrical productions directly to local communities for Free! Attracting over 5,000 patrons every summer, CSF productions tour across greater Cleveland—performing outdoors in the beautiful parks of northeast Ohio. With a history of bringing neighbors together and adding tremendous value to the diverse communities that make up our home, Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is a vital source of art and culture for all of Cleveland!

...The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

Congratulations to Cleveland Shakespeare Festival on your 25th season! I am glad to be able to celebrate this accomplishment by attending your production of Hamlet at a fitting location -- the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.



Thank you!!

I want to thank the James A. Garfield Birth Site, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, and Cleveland Shakespeare Festival for the interesting and entertaining day. I highly encourage you to participate in the activities of these three organizations.



Watch for Future Shows & Park Events!

Be sure to visit the CleveShakes.com website and follow both @CleveShakesFest and @GarfieldNPS for announcements of future play productions and other happenings at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.



CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Along with being an art, putting on a live theater performance is a miracle of logistics. It’s about getting dozens of people into the right place at the right time, along with props, costumes and sets, and making split-second sound and lighting decisions.

Stage that same performance outdoors and the challenges increase -- there’s the weather, noise and other distractions to deal with.

. . . On July 2, they brought the Immortal Bard to the James A. Garfield Historical Site in Mentor, where they will return with the French comedy July 30. . . .

The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival will perform “Hamlet” July 8 in Tremont’s Lincoln Park, July 9 in Lorain at Black River Landing and July 10 at BAYarts in Bay Village, all at 7 p.m.

Performances of “The Learned Ladies” will kick off July 22 at Coventry P.E.A.C.E Park and continue through Aug. 7 with visits to Lakewood, Berea, Cleveland Public Square, Mentor, Lorain, Euclid, Tremont and Lakeside Chautauqua.

The night I published this blog post, I saw that Cleveland.com had published an article about the performance of Hamlet that we saw and an announcement about upcoming shows, so I added all the details here:


Related Blog Posts

Here is a list of related blog posts that I wrote that may be of interest:

I have also written blog posts on the following topics that relate to what I mentioned in this blog post:


I hope this blog post encourages you to explore theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s work, and to learn about the 20th U.S. President's life in Ohio.