The James Buchanan House in Wheatland


Story: Bryan Stephens
Photography: Bryan Stephens
Sunday, September 8, 2019

James Buchanan served as the 15th President of the United States from March 4th, 1857 until March 4th, 1861. Constructed in 1828, Buchanan’s house is located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 10am-3pm with guided tours every hour. Admission and the guided tour is $15. Inside the visitors center, you will find artifacts from James Buchanan himself and Lancaster County history. Also within the visitors center is a small theater with a 10 minute documentary on Buchanan. Past the theater is two different archives separated by glass panels. The archive you first enter is the Lancaster County Archives and in the separate room are the James Buchanan Presidential archives.

Upon approaching Buchanan’s house for the guided tour, you notice that there are two entrances, one in the front of the house and one in the back. Both sides are intentionally designed completely different. With Buchanan holding political power in the United States, he often entertained different people at his house from both the south and north. The entrance used for people from the south was specifically designed to look like a Southern plantation and the entrance used by people from the north looked more like a Northern mansion. The time period Buchanan was president, and just prior, was a very tense time in the United States - as the country was heading for a Civil War over slavery.

Buchanan was the only American President never to marry. At one point he was engaged to be married but his fiancé caught him cheating and called off the engagement. Since Buchanan never married, his niece Harriet Lane served as First Lady during his term as President. James Buchanan is widely considered to be the worst President in American history due to the fact that he didn’t try to do anything to stop the Southern states from leaving the union, which ultimately lead to the Civil War. Southern states started leaving the union in November of 1860 after Abraham Lincoln won the Presidential election with only 40% of the popular vote and not even appearing on the ballot in the south. South Carolina was the first state to leave the union. Though Buchanan believed that it was illegal for the states to leave, he didn’t do anything to stop them. One thing Buchanan did do was bolster military personnel at military forts in the south. This included the infamous Fort Sumter. Buchanan managed to keep southern forts under American control for the rest of his term by claiming that, no matter what the south does, the forts are still legal property off the U.S. Government.

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