On a week’s vacation from work, I decided to rent a car and go upstate. First stop Kinderhook — home to Martin Van Buren, our nation’s eighth president.
Lindenwald, Van Buren’s home and farm, is a national historic site and is open to the public. I stopped by the visitors center and watched a short film, and then I took a ranger-guided tour of the house itself. The interior is very well preserved, with many original furnishings and wall coverings. No photographs were allowed inside. The ranger was knowledgeable and personable. He spoke a great deal about Van Buren’s life and times, pointing out that he was in large part responsible for creating the Democratic Party.
Before he became president, Van Buren was very briefly governor of New York state, then he was called to Washington to serve as secretary of state under President Andrew Jackson. In Jackson’s second term, Van Buren was vice president. In 1836 Van Buren was elected president, but the economy crashed and he failed to be elected to a second term. He would run for president twice more, unsuccessfully, in 1844 and 1848. Van Buren had large sideburns, and he is credited with having come up with the word “OK”!
After the historical site visit, I also visited Van Buren’s grave, which is a short drive away at the Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery.
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