James K. Polk Birthplace - State Historic Site

Within the sprawling suburbs south of Charlotte sits 21 acres dedicated to the birthplace of the 11th President of the United States, James K. Polk.  That park is President James K. Polk State Historic Site.

This free attraction has been a state historic site since 1968.  The park's museum showcases Polk's life and presidency in addition to life in Mecklenburg County in the early 19th century.  There is also a brief 13-minute video on Polk and his presidency inside the museum.  Other exhibits in the museum showcase the Mexican War and the 1844 Presidential Campaign.

Polk was born on 150 acres of land near Pineville in once rural Southern Mecklenburg County.  He grew up at the rural homestead until he was 11 when he and his family moved west to Tennessee.  Polk was a young protege of Andrew Jackson.  His political ambition saw him serve as Governor of Tennessee, a member of Congress, and serving four years as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835-1839.

Polk's one term as President, 1845-1849, was consequential as his campaign promises of expanding the United States saw the annexation of Texas, signing of the Oregon Treaty (which gave all Oregon Country land south of the 49th parallel to the United States,) and the Mexican Cession gains in the Southwest after the conclusion of the Mexican War.

Polk died less than four months after the conclusion of his single term in Tennessee on June 15, 1849.

Within the outside grounds of the museum is a recreation of what the Polk homestead would have looked like at the turn of the 19th century.  The three structures: the main house, kitchen house, and pack house - are all restored buildings that moved to the site in the 1960s.  There is also a garden and family cemetery on site.  Of the 101 gravesites - only ten headstones are recognizable.

At the entrance to the park is the James K. Polk Birthplace Monument.  The pyramid-shaped monument dates to 1904 and was installed by the Mecklenburg County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The monument originally sat where the current visitor's center and museum are located. When the State Historic Site was created in the 1960s, the DAR permitted moving the monument to its current location. 

James K. Polk State Historic Site is free to visit.  Tours of the main house, kitchen house, and grounds are offered Thursday through Saturday for $2 per adult and $1 per child.  Also, a small gift shop is located within the museum and visitor's center.

All photos taken by post author - March 5, 2024

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