Tuesday, April 14, 2009

President Garfield Tea House

I have written about seven US Presidents that have summered at Long Branch NJ and because of that history the museum/church that was once known as the St. James Chapel is a now known as the Church of the Presidents.
There is an amazing little building located in the back of the property. It was moved there to save it and at one time was known as the President Garfield Tea House.
Where the heck did that name come from ??
Here we go.
One of the US Presidents who loved Long Branch was James Garfield. In the summer of 1881, just four months after his inauguration, the president was heading to his beloved "Branch" to spend time with his family. As he waited on the train platform an unbalanced individual, Charles Guiteau, shot him. The mortally wounded commander in chief remained in Washington for two months while no less than six surgeons botched numerous operations. It is often said that it was not Guiteau's bullet that killed the President but the surgeons that worked on him.
With the thermometer in the capital rising each day while a malaria epidemic swept the city it was decided to move Grafielf to Long Branch where he could convalesce by the sea.
Arrangements were made to transport Garfield to a comfortable cottage on the grounds of the Elberton Hotel. The story mesmorized the world. He was in such bad shape that the surgeons thought he might not survive the short horse drawn ambulance trip from the Long Branch train station to the cottage.
A bold plan was hatched and the residents and tourists of Long Branch made history when they constructed a 5/8 mile spur railroad line connecting the cottage to the RR terminal.
Less than twenty-four hours after the first spoke was hammered, the president's car glided gently up to the front door of the cottage.
OK..Emil..where the heck does that shack come into this story.
Well, after the trip the railroad ties of the world famous spur were removed and sold to a summer cottager who incorporated them into a tiny structure called Garfield's Hut.
The owner hosted tea parties in the hut where legend says he stored his cream and butter in an icebox accessible by a trapdoor.
Upon his death his son inherited the tea room and after more than a century of neglect the Garfield Hut, or Garfield Tea Room, was moved to the museum grounds for protection and eventual restoration.
Next time you are in the area check it out.
Now you know :)


  1. Hi Emil,it's a great story,the whole renovation of the church of the presidents.Last year (2008) i was fortunate to be selected to paint the first phase , and this year maybe we will be able to finish the exterior of the project.It is a great project to be involved with. Regards, Steve Harvey,

  2. My dad would have loved you..he had a zillion anecdotal comments about the Jersey shore...I only remember some, and those of my own years as a child of the shore.

  3. Emil, isn't this the same cottage that was used as a concession stand during the art festivals held on the Church of the Presidents property in the 70's?

  4. Jersey Girl

    Not sure..does anyone know?

  5. Hi all,
    I am trying to use my FB fan site to drive some traffic to the blog so please pass on the link if you enjoy what I am doing.
    The nice part of the blog is that I can share more info without clogging your FB news feeds ( I do not like the new FB format ) and also, other Jersey Shore people can log on to the blog even if they are not FB users

    Career of Long Branch
    Written and Illustrated by the Writers' Project,
    Work Projects Administration, State of New Jersey

    "The railroad ties laid to bring the dying President directly to the cottage were torn up shortly after his death and purchased by Oliver Dowd Byron, the actor. Out of them he built a small cabin on his North Long Branch estate. Still standing, Garfield's Hut, as it is called, consists of a single room 8 x 12 feet and about 8 feet high. It is in log cabin style and has a patriotic color scheme; the ties that are laid lengthwise are painted red, the frame is blue and
    the room is finished with white trim. It has a Dutch door in the front, and on each side is a window with colored glass borders. One of the original rails supports the ceiling.
    Oliver Byron used the small building for tea parties; it is said that he kept his butter and cream for such occasions in an icebox that he reached by a trap door in the floor. When he died, theGarfield Hut was moved to Highlands by his son, Arthur Byron,also an actor. He recently returned it to Oliver Presley, whose father built it for the elder Byron. It now stands on the grounds of his home on Atlantic Avenue opposite Church Street".

  7. This very educational also interesting thanx Emil