Presidential Death Locations

On July 6, 2014 · 3 Comments

After examining birthplaces for the Presidents of the United States, I shifted gears and did the same for the places where they died. This proved to be a little more problematic because greater attention had been focused on their exact places of birth, undoubtedly because it’s a more cheerful subject. I began with the shared spreadsheet compiled in the prior article and added columns for all of the presidential death locations, including as many exact latitude/longitude coordinates as I could find and links to appropriate websites for more information.

View Presidential Birthplaces & Death Locations in a larger map

I then overlaid presidential death locations onto the earlier birthplaces map. Some sites might be worth visiting. They included palatial estates later converted to museums and often co-located with presidential libraries. Others, well, I’m not convinced I need to visit the hospital room where Richard Nixon died of a cerebral edema.

Died in Office

Garfield Memorial, Long Branch, New Jersey

I could imagine a subset of macabre presidential trivia aficionados focused on the eight Chief Executives who died in office. That would be a bit morbid for my tastes, and yet I’ve trudged over to Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House to see where Abraham Lincoln was shot and died. James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy were also felled by assassins. The other four, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt died of natural causes.

Garfield barely served as President, elected just a few months before he was shot by a delusional office-seeker in the waiting room of a Washington, DC train station in 1881. He may have been killed as much by the inept medical attention he received after his injury as by the bullet itself.

Had Garfield been left where he lay, he might well have survived; the bullet failed to hit his spine or penetrate any vital organs. Instead, he was given over to the care of doctors, who basically tortured him to death over the next 11 weeks. Two of them repeatedly probed his wound with their unsterilized fingers and instruments before having him carted back to the White House on a hay-and-horsehair mattress.

Doctors eventually brought the suffering Garfield to a summer cottage on the New Jersey shore in a last-ditch hope that fresh air and cooler temperatures might revive him. Nothing remains of the original cottage and only a granite marker records the place where Garfield spent his final few days.


Woodrow Wilson’s House by JB, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Presidents died in a more dispersed pattern than where they were born. Nonetheless two clusters demonstrated the opposite extreme and offered much tighter groupings than any of the birthplace clusters. Neither location surprised me, nor will they likely surprise the 12MC audience.

Many former presidents remained politically active as they grew older and retained their ties to Washington, DC. One might expect that some of them died there. I counted seven. Three died in office within the physical boundaries of District: Lincoln, W.H. Harrison and Taylor (the last two passed away in the White House). John Quincy Adams died in the Speaker’s Room of the US Capitol Building. Dwight Eisenhower died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Woodrow Wilson and William Taft died at their post-administration mansions. Wilson’s home included 39,200 square feet of livable space. Taft’s home became the Syrian Embassy (until ordered closed in March 2014). Maybe I’ll undertake a Presidential Death Location tour for an upcoming 12MC Bicycle Ride.

If not politics, then financial power would seem to be attractive to people of this elevated stature. Four of the former presidents ended their days in Manhattan: James Monroe; Chester Arthur; Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon.


Ulysees S. Grant Cottage
Ulysees S. Grant Cottage by Selbe & Lily, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I scratched my head in bewilderment at some of the places where presidents died. I never would have guessed that Garfield died at the Jersey Shore. Monroe in Manhattan seemed odd too. He’d spent the bulk of his retirement in Virginia and moved-in with his daughter Maria only after his wife passed away. Maria had married Samuel L. Gouverneur, a New York City attorney and politician.

The placement of Ulysses Grant’s death also seemed out of context, a cottage in the woods north of Saratoga Springs, New York. Grant spent the final six weeks of his life at the cottage rushing to complete his memoirs. He died of throat cancer three days after finishing his task. The book provided financial comfort for his family after his death and remains in print.

Sweet Retirement

Gerald Ford Home, Rancho Mirage, California

Some former presidents managed to escape office and retired to lifestyles with less pressure. Many of them resided on sprawling estates and lived well as they grew older and eventually passed away there: Thomas Jefferson at Monticello; Andrew Jackson at The Hermitage; Rutherford Hayes at Spiegel Grove; Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill; Lyndon Johnson at his Johnson Ranch. Even later presidents like Gerald Ford seemed to live in style, with Ford’s home situated conveniently along a golf course in Rancho Mirage, California.

There were other gems. I’ll leave the rest of the spreadsheet to the 12MC audience to explore.

Circling Back

On May 11, 2014 · 1 Comments

"Circling Back" would be the best title for this article, implying a revisiting or rethinking of previous ideas with a connection back to Twelve Mile CIRCLE. It’s appropriate. Also it sounded a lot better than "barely warmed-up leftovers" which is what it really is.

I reached back to a trio of articles for the first item including one from the very early days of 12MC. My wife and I made our annual pilgrimage to "Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience" yesterday evening. I first wrote about this event in May 2008 which was also the first year it was held. Back then the venue was the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC and since then it’s been held at the National Building Museum except for last year when it moved to New York City. Naturally I’ve attended every year except for last year.

I’m getting to the point where my poor old body can’t take too many beer festivals anymore. We concentrate on Savor which is run by the Brewers Association (the same group that does the Great American Beer Festival) and also the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin, which is run by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. Those are all I need; I might as well concentrate on the best. Quality over quantity.

Right about now the entire 12MC audience is wondering where I’m going with this. Let’s jump back a couple of months and revisit Geo-BREWities. One of the places I referenced was Confluence Brewing in Des Moines, Iowa. Well, to my complete surprise, notice what I spotted last night.

Confluence Brewing

Last February I said,

Looking at its location a little more closely, the brewery can’t be more than maybe a mile-or-so from the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers… I’ll bet the river confluence inspired the name of the brewery at least a little even if I couldn’t find it stated explicitly.

I can confirm that now. I had a nice conversation with the owners. Either that or they were humoring some oddball geo-geek who was asking them about their name.

Lickinghole Brewery

Another brewery connected with 12MC’s Three Notches article, and specifically to the Three Notch’d / Three Chopt Road in Central Virginia which runs not too far from the brewery. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is at the forefront of the whole Farm Brewery movement that’s been building in recent years and offered a "Three Chopt Tripel" for tasting. Lickinghole sounded like a rather, um, interesting name for a brewery too. I guess you do what you gotta do to get your name to stand out in a crowded field. It’s certainly memorable.

By the way there is also a Three Notch’d Brewing Company named after the same road a little farther west in Charlottesville. They weren’t represented at Savor (I’ve tried their beers elsewhere) although I thought it was still worth mentioning because it aligned with the theme. I’ve now discovered a beer and a brewery both named for the same basic road.

Also represented was Mother Road Brewing Company from Flagstaff, Arizona, which would definitely qualify as a Geo-BREWity too. It was named for the Mother Road of course — the famed Route 66 — which ran through Flagstaff on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica. I should have taken a photo. I guess I was too busy grabbing coasters and stickers from their table. I’m a sucker for breweriana swag.

Monumental Ride

The boys and I will replicate the Monumental Ride I first referenced about three years ago, later today. I was informed in very certain terms that the best possible Mother’s Day present would involve removing myself and the kids from the house for a few hours.

Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument from the Potomac

This might also be a good opportunity to mention the upcoming 12MC Geo-Oddity bicycle ride I’ve been threatening for awhile. It’s finally going to happen and I’m trying to narrow down the date to a Saturday or Sunday in June. It will feature many of the sites discussed in Monumental Ride plus many more. The route remains a work in progress although here is what I’m thinking:

View Epic 12MC Geo-Oddity Bike Ride in a larger map

Those who expressed interest earlier should have already received an email message with more details and a request for date preferences. Those who want to jump on the bandwagon can contact me and I’ll forward the same information along. It should be a fun, casual ride with plenty of stops for abundant geo-geekery.

Dorena-Hickman Ferry

Everyone is probably tired of hearing about my Riverboat Adventures so I’ll be brief. The Dorena-Hickman ferry made an appearance in Part 3 (Borders). I finally uploaded some video footage to YouTube and created a dedicated page for the ferry on my travel website. That probably won’t interest most of the 12MC audience although maybe a handful of readers share my ferry fascination and may want to see much greater detail about this particular one.

Starting Points

On March 23, 2014 · 8 Comments

Preparing for a quick out-of-town jaunt to visit with friends living in the Twelve Mile Circle, the actual geographic quirk in Delaware for which this site was named, prompted me to plot a course designed to avoid the dreaded Delaware Border Tax. I succeeded in that goal by the way although that wasn’t germane to the story. Rather, this was more about the starting point (singular) although in actuality it became a matter of starting points (plural).

For some odd reason I won’t type my home address into any of the online mapping programs, harboring an unrealistic expectation that somehow those all-powerful corporate or government entities can’t find me or track my movements if I take that one simple step. I know. Fit me for a tinfoil hat. I realize it’s completely delusional and irrational from an intellectual standpoint even though that doesn’t change my behavior. That’s why I found myself dropping a rather generic "Washington, DC" into several mapping programs to research an optimal route and noticing that each site defined that simple starting point differently.

It reminded me of a day many years ago during the infancy of online mapping applications, if I can go down a tangent for a moment. I was taking a walk and noticed a woman driving through the neighborhood visibly lost. Finally she stopped to ask for directions after passing me three or four times. She wanted to find a very specific apartment building several miles away and had simply designated "Arlington, Virginia" in (I think it was) Mapquest which directed her to a point two blocks due north of my house. First, I thought, what kind of idiot would put the name of a 26 square mile county into a map site and expect it to bring her to the exact spot she needed; and second, hey it was pretty cool that I lived so close to the value the map returned. Don’t bother attempting that trick today. Mapquest changed its starting point for Arlington to the more logical county courthouse site years ago.

Back to the present, either intellectual curiosity or boredom — it could have been both — led me to examine Washington, DC as defined by several mapping sites.


OpenStreetMap’s Washington, DC Epicenter

OpenStreetMap specified a point on the northern edge of the Ellipse just across from the White House.

Zero Milestone Marker
My Own Photo

This was a spot that fell near if not directly atop the Zero Milestone marker. It was an excellent choice. The marker itself read, "Point for the measurement of distances from Washington on highways of the United States." It was hard to argue with that. Well done, OpenStreetMap. You get the Gold Star today.

Bing Maps

Bing Maps’ Washington, DC Epicenter

I’m not sure what made 14th & Madison, NW so special. It fell just outside of the Smithsonian’s American History museum, had a nice view of the Washington Monument, and provided easy access to the National Mall. That was a pretty location among hundreds of other pretty locations nearby. Nothing indicated why Bing chose that particular intersection as the starting point for Washington, DC.


Mapquest’s Washington, DC Epicenter

Ditto for Mapquest at 6th St. & Constitution Ave., NW. I love the National Gallery of Art, and the tip of Federal Triangle seemed like a slightly more logical starting point although the Zero Milestone would have been better.

Google Maps

Google Map’s Washington, DC Epicenter

And then there was the wackiness of Google Maps which selected Scott Circle for some inexplicable reason. It got weirder. I’m certain this little trick will only work for a short time. It will be eliminated once Google learns of the glitch so if someone reading this article in the future tries this trick and it doesn’t work, then understand the situation.

Type "Washington, DC" into (old) Google Maps. Use the slide bar to zoom-in to the extreme street level, then take the peg man and drop him onto the red marker. This will take you to the Secret Bunker under Scott Circle. I’ve provided a direct link too; I wanted to show you how it could be found manually so you didn’t think I was nuts.

Secret Bunker
Nathan Rhoades’ Secret Bunker, Washington, DC
via Google Street View, January 2014

I also took a screen shot in case it disappeared someday. It was a single room with typical Google 360° imagery, although one can only look around in a circle and not move anywhere. What a weird room, too. I see a couch, a chair, three flat-screen televisions, what appears to be a bottle of Kahlua atop a wooden crate, and a billiard table. Otherwise it was spartan, almost sterile. Maybe this is where the President of the United States will hide during the next disaster. I think Dick Cheney may have used it on 9/11. I’m kidding!

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, however it appeared to be a user error. Nathan Rhoades, whoever he may be, must have accidentally specified Washington, DC as the location of his awesome rec room, and Google dutifully posted the file where its algorithms thought Washington, DC should be. One can click on Nathan’s name in the online version and it will jump to his gallery. This included an additional image of the same room, this time located at a house in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Nice man cave, Nathan!

Completely Unrelated

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with reddit over the years, often reserving praise for the underlying premise with a heaping plate of scorn (if you must know the gory details) reserved for its MapPorn subreddit.

This weekend was an exception. I noticed quite a number of new visitors because of a user on the MapPort subreddit who demonstrated courtesy by taking an extra step. Redditor "CupBeEmpty" handled this exactly as it should be done in my opinion, respecting intellectual property and copyright. He went out of his way to acknowledge ownership by posting a prominent link to the original 12MC article that described the "borderlocking" phenomenon. Thank you CupBeEmpty.

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