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Published: Friday, 8/8/2008

President's descendants paying visit to Hayes Center in Fremont

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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FREMONT - Stephen Hayes said he and his three brothers were "normal kids" who liked to ride go-karts and sail.

For at least part of the year, though, they just happened to live in a 31-room mansion built for a U.S. president: their great-great grandfather, Rutherford B. Hayes.

"I sort of understood [the historical significance], but not completely until I got older," Mr. Hayes, now 55, said. "What was odd was that the museum, the library, was right next door to the house, and people could go through there and walk around the property."

Along with other descendants of the 19th president, Mr. Hayes will be at the Hayes Presidential Center tomorrow, meeting for the first time with descendants of First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes as well as the public.

"We want people to come and meet Hayes family members. They will be outside greeting people," said Kathy Boukissen, the presidential center's development director.

With the exception of an evening gala, admission to all events during "Celebrating Presidential Memories" is free, including tours of historic sites at the 25-acre Spiegel Grove; a 1 p.m. concert on the Hayes Home veranda by a brass quintet from the U.S. Marine Band, and programs on Hayes family genealogy that will be presented at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. by Becky Hill, head librarian.

Ms. Boukissen said this will be the first time the presidential center has brought together family members of President and Mrs. Hayes. She said the idea sprang in part from a conversation she had with Stephen Hayes, the president of the center's board of trustees.

Though she is a Fremont native, Ms. Boukissen she said she hadn't realized Mr. Hayes had lived in the Hayes Home as a child.

"I said it's just amazing that Hayes family members actually lived in the home and they're still alive to tell stories about it," Ms. Boukissen said. "I mentioned that I thought people would like to meet Hayes family members and make Spiegel Grove and the Hayes Presidential Center come a little more alive in today's world."

Stephen Hayes, who lives in Washington and works as president of DHR International, a worldwide executive search firm, plans to be at Spiegel Grove for the daylong event with his wife, Theo, and their youngest daughter, Elizabeth, a junior at the University of North Carolina.

The stately brick home to which President Hayes moved after leaving the White House in 1881 was passed on to the oldest son of each generation. Stephen Hayes said his parents and brothers split their time between Fremont and Chevy Chase, Md., until 1965 when his father, Webb Hayes III, decided to deed the house to the state as a museum.

"He realized this house has to be part of the state of Ohio. It's just too wonderful to just live in and have it for yourselves," Mr. Hayes said.

While the home was largely unchanged when it opened to visitors in the 1960s, it is undergoing a $1 million-plus restoration aimed at returning seven key areas of the house to their appearance in the late 19th century, when President and Mrs. Hayes lived there.

"It's really a special place, and the people in Fremont love it. It's sort of like it's theirs," Mr. Hayes said.

The home and museum will be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the regular admission fee. For more information about tomorrow's event, go to http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-335-5972.



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