In the Spirit of Liberty: Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
To honor this great president, all you have to do is visit the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. The site is a treasure trove of the president and his family’s collections: presidential gifts of state, family portraits, decorative arts, household furnishings, clothing, jewelry, as well as examples of late 19th/early 20th century agricultural equipment. The village is virtually unchanged since August 3, 1923, when Coolidge was sworn in as president.
The Coolidge site covers 600 acres, with 25 well-preserved historic structures. There is the village church, general store, and community dance hall that served as the 1924 Summer White House office.
Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
Exhibits and Events
Enjoy visiting the Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, throughout the year. The 2019 season runs from May 25–October 20 and is open from 10am–5pm daily (except for the Coolidge Holiday Open House, see below). Call (802) 672-3773 or go to www.historicsites,vermont.gov for more information.
Presidential Menagerie: The Coolidges and Their Pets examines the important role animals played in the private life and public image of the Coolidge family. The Coolidge White House was a veritable menagerie with dogs, cats, birds, and exotic critters such as Rebecca Raccoon. The story is told using artifacts and images from the site’s collection and on loan from the Coolidge family and other public institutions. Opens May 25.
More than Two Words: The Life and Legacy of Calvin Coolidge. This nationally award-winning permanent exhibit uses Coolidge’s own words, objects from his life, and state of the art interactive media to tell the story of how a boy from rural Plymouth Notch became the 30th President of the United States.
June 9, 4–5pm, Grace Coolidge Musicale #1
Cellist Kate Jensik and pianist Abigail Charbeneau perform Brahms’ Sonata in E minor.
July 4, 10am–5pm, President Calvin Coolidge Birthday Celebration
Plymouth’s July 4th commemorates the Nation’s birth, as well as the only U.S. president born on Independence Day, selected as a “Top 10 Summer Event” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
July 21, 4–5pm, Grace Coolidge Musicale #2
Ellen Nordstrom and Abigail Charbeneau present Flighty Females and Other Femmes
Fatales from the Golden Age of Broadway, with songs full of optimism, hope, and vocal tangos.
August 3, 10am–4pm, Plymouth Old Home Day
Wagon rides, chicken barbecue, old-time music, sheep shearing, traditional craft demonstrations, and historic children’s games.
August 25, 4–5pm, Grace Coolidge Musicale #3
Abigail Charbeneau and Susan Cobb present a “piano four hands,” featuring music by American composers George Gershwin and Amy Beach.
August 31 & September 1, 2–5pm, Plymouth Folk & Blues Festival
Plymouth’s 15th annual folk & blues concerts features; Dan Weber, Jay Psaros, The Whispering Tree, The Milkhouse Heaters, Zack Dupont, and The Kennedys.
October 12, 10am–4pm, Plymouth Notch Antique Apple Fest and 5K Race
Annual Coolidge 5K Race, cider pressing, wagon rides, historic farm & craft demonstrations, barbecue & harvest treats, cheese making and guided tours of the Plymouth Cheese Factory.
December 7, 10am–4pm, Coolidge Holiday Open House
Sleigh rides, old-time music, craft demonstrations, lunch at the Wilder House Restaurant, a special cancellation at the historic Plymouth post office, and children’s holiday activities.
How the President Earned the Name “Silent Cal”
A man of wit and few words
Calvin Coolidge was the vice president under Warren Harding. When Harding died suddenly a little more than two years into his term, Coolidge became president and served from 1923–1929. Many voters liked his “cool” style. Coolidge quickly earned a public image as a serious man who did not spend money or words easily. Coolidge’s reputation for honesty and integrity helped him restore public faith in the government following the scandals during Harding’s time in office.
Since Coolidge rarely took part in casual conversation, he earned the nickname “Silent Cal.” As the US vice president, Coolidge and his wife Grace were invited to many parties. Although Coolidge was known to be a skilled and effective public speaker, in private he was a man of few words and was commonly referred to as “Silent Cal.” According to Wikipedia, it was reported that a matron, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” He replied, “You lose.” Coolidge often seemed uncomfortable among fashionable Washington society; when asked why he continued to attend so many of their dinner parties, he replied, “Got to eat somewhere.”
Even though the president was considered a quiet person, he spoke often on the radio, appeared in a talking film, met with reporters regularly, and posed in funny costumes for photographers.
He easily won elected in 1924. Historians believe he could have won another term, too, in 1928. But Coolidge chose not to seek office.
Some believed he was too saddened by the death of his teenaged son. Shortly after Coolidge became president, the boy had been playing tennis and slightly wounded his toe. The wound became infected. The infection spread to the boy’s blood. A few days later, he died. Although Coolidge continued his presidency, he later said the joy had gone from the job.
By Dian Parker
Photos from the Collection of the State of Vermont, Division for Historic Preservation.