Sen. Alexander Seeks To Preserve James K. Polk Home

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 02:24:24-04

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - The James K Polk Home and Museum might be one of Tennessee's best historic sites, but it doesn't get a lot of attention. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander is trying to change that.

He's behind an effort to forever preserve the former president's only house that is still standing. Senator Alexander wants to preserve it by putting it under the National Park Service.

Tom Price has been the curator at the James K. Polk Museum and Home for nearly 20 years. The house is the main historic site for the former President.

"It's the only home still standing except for the White House that James Polk ever lived in,” Price said. "We've been open to the public as a historic site since 1929."

Now, a big effort is under way to preserve the home forever.

Legislation filed by Senator Lamar Alexander would lead to the home becoming part of the National Park System.

Officials in Alexander's office said if legislation passes Congress and is signed by President Obama the federal government would preserve and run the facility.

Right now the property is owned by the State of Tennessee, but managed by a non-profit group in Columbia called the James K. Polk Memorial Association.

Tiny Jones is part of the Association and said the members support Senator Alexander's plan.

There are more than 1,300 artifacts and items from the President's years in Tennessee and in the White House.

A center table was given to Polk by the consul of Tunisia. It's made out of Egyptian marble. The Presidential seal is surrounded by 30 stars representing the 30 states at the time.

The country would get much larger under Polk, who became known as the expansionist president.

"If you can imagine a map of the United States, everything from Texas to California would come in and for the first time the United States would become a truly continental nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,” Price said.

The country's 11th president is much more popular than you might think. A C-SPAN poll of historians recently rated Polk number 12 in presidential leadership -- that's higher than Andrew Jackson and just behind Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson.

If the Polk home becomes part of the National Park System as Senator Alexander proposes, it would fall under the Department of the Interior.

Ironically, the last bill signed by President Polk before he left office created the Department of the Interior.