Built in 1816, the only surviving home of the eleventh U.S. President (other than the White House) now displays original belongings of President and Mrs. Polk. It was here that James K. Polk began his legal and political career, living in this house until he was inaugurated 11th president of the United States in 1845. He was the first “dark horse” candidate for president and during his term extended the territory of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Polk entered politics in 1821, serving in the Tennessee legislature and becoming a friend of Andrew Jackson. A Democrat, Polk served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835-1839, leaving to become governor of Tennessee (1839 - 1841). Polk was a leader of Jacksonian Democracy during the Second Party System and became the surprise candidate for president in 1844, defeating Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party by promising to annex Texas. In 1845, at age 49, he became the youngest man to assume the presidency at the time. Polk is remembered for his foreign policy successes. After a threat of war, Polk split the ownership of the Pacific Northwest with Britain. He led the nation to a sweeping victory in the Mexican-American War, followed by purchase of California, Arizona and New Mexico. He secured passage of the Walker tariff of 1846, with low rates that pleased his native South, and established a treasury system that lasted until 1913. Polk oversaw the opening of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the country’s first postage stamps. He kept his promise to serve only one term and died of cholera three months after his term ended. The house is built in the Federal style and is furnished with relics from the Polk White House. Nearby is the home of Polk’s sisters. Tours of the homes include exhibits of Mrs. Polk’s ball gown and jewels, Polk’s inaugural Bible, Mexican War memorabilia, and the family gardens.
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