I drive to or through Nashville fairly often, and every time I drive that way I see a sign pointing to President James K. Polk’s home in Columbia, TN. I often thought about stopping, but never had the extra time (or people were with me who would whine incessantly about visiting a “boring” historic home). A few weeks ago I decided to make some time to drive up to Columbia specifically to visit the home of a president I know very little about.
The only things I really knew about President Polk before my visit to his home were 1. he started the Mexican-American War in 1843 (and those were the days when Congress actually declared war, presidents didn’t just start wars without Congressional approval) and 2. he expanded the US borders to the Pacific ocean. After visiting the Polk House museum, I realized how much I don’t know about this very interesting and very significant president.
It’s really easy to find the Polk home. First, there are lots of brown signs on interstate 65 before the exit. Head towards the middle of Columbia and signs guide you all the way there. When I pulled up, I saw the county visitor’s center across the street from the stately white old home. I decided to stop at the Visitor’s Center to pick up information about other interesting sights to see in the general vicinity. A very friendly woman was working in the office and pointed out all of the numerous brochures free for the taking. The walls were lined with photos of people with their horses. I asked if people in the county just really like horses. Turns out that the photos are all of mules. Mules grow exceptionally large in this part of Tennessee (the woman said because of the phosphates in the soil) so the mules in the photos looked suspiciously like horses. She told me about the Mule Day in Columbia in April 2014, a giant and well attended festival celebrating local mules. The festival’s been going on for decades and is quite popular in the area. Who knows, I may go to that in the spring. After picking up about a million brochures of other museums and historic sites that looked interesting, I wandered across the street the to Polk home.