• Dante Mazza

Westland: The Grover Cleveland Home


Westland Mansion

The Westland Mansion in February 2016

 

Westland is the home in Princeton, New Jersey that President Grover Cleveland retired to following the conclusion of his second nonconsecutive term in 1897. He lived here until his death in 1908. The stately mansion was originally built for Commodore Robert F. Stockton in 1854. The front facade, pictured above, looks much as it did when Cleveland lived here, while the majority of the rest of the property has been altered significantly. In Cleveland's day, an extension was added in the rear of the house to serve as stables and servants' quarters. This section was demolished in 1950 and the former carriage house became a separate residence of its own on a new lot.

Grover Cleveland was born in Caldwell, New Jersey, now a leafy suburb of New York City 50 miles north of Princeton. His family moved to upstate New York when he was young, and he launched his political career from that area. Finding fame and success through his Buffalo law firm, Cleveland served as Sheriff of Erie County from 1871-1873. After a break from elected office, Cleveland ran for Mayor of Buffalo in 1881 as an anti-corruption candidate, a reputation which followed him for the rest of his career. Known as the "Veto Mayor", Cleveland gained great respect for cracking down on graft and patronage by the City Council, frequently vetoing contracts and expenditures he felt were unnecessary or illegitimate.

His road to the White House from Buffalo City Hall, via a stint in Albany as Governor of New York, was a remarkably short one, lasting only three years. His principles and strong personal character drew him the support of many independent voters, and he was elected President in 1884.

Gubernatorial Portrait of Grover Cleveland, New York State Capitol Albany

Gubernatorial Portrait of Grover Cleveland, New York State Capitol Albany

In his first term, Cleveland took a hard stance against providing any form of economic subsidy to any interest group, vetoing false Civil War pension claims, denying relief funding to Texas farmers, taking back federal land which had been granted to railroads in the West, and calling on Congress to reduce protective tariffs. On a personal note, Cleveland married 21 year old Frances Folsom midway through his term, becoming the only President to get married physically inside the White House.

Cleveland is far more famous however, for another feat which he was the sole man to accomplish. Having lost his 1888 reelection bid to Benjamin Harrison (though he won the popular vote), Cleveland ran again in 1892 and defeated Harrison, becoming the only President in history to serve two nonconsecutive terms.

The most notable event of his second term was his stern breakup of a massive railroad strike in Chicago. Using his authority as President to ensure U.S. Mail was delivered, Cleveland sent federal troops to end the strike. Tariffs and currency were also major issues of this term, as a financial panic was sweeping the nation. When the Democrats met in 1896 to select a new nominee, the party broke from Cleveland and embraced a push for the free coinage of silver under new standard bearer William Jennings Bryan.

Before leaving the White House for a second time, Cleveland and his wife had decided they wanted to live in the vibrant college community of Princeton. This was partially due to the rousing welcome Cleveland, unpopular and rejected by even his own party at the end of his second term, had received when visiting the town and campus to celebrate the university's Sesquicentennial. Mrs. Cleveland picked out the house, and the President named it after Princeton Professor Andrew F. West, a close friend of his.

Cleveland greatly enjoyed his retirement. He was actively involved with nearby Princeton University, frequently wrote to friends, and maintained a healthy social life. It is said he felt more at home in Princeton than anywhere else he had lived. President Cleveland died peacefully on June 24, 1908 and is buried in Princeton Cemetery, a short distance from the home.

Grover Cleveland was well known and is remembered for his brilliance, courage, and honesty. An adept reader of people, he could easily tell the difference between sincerity and opportunism. His commitment to public service and strong sense of morality were hardly ever questioned during his political career, and he was always the enemy of the corrupt and entrenched political machines of his time. As the President himself put it, he was continually "engaged in a hand to hand fight with the bad elements of both parties." While such tenacity was not always popular during his lifetime, it has drawn his memory much honor and distinction.

Westland is still a private residence and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Though no Cleveland furnishings remain in the home, it is still significant for its association with President Cleveland and, through him, 19th century politics.

Bust of Grover Cleveland, Hall of Fame for Great Americans Bronx NY

Bust of Grover Cleveland, Hall of Fame for Great Americans Bronx NY

 

For Further Information:

Official NHL Nomination (PDF)

Official Photos (PDF)

White House Biography of Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland Entry in A Princeton Companion

Grover Cleveland by James Lowry Whittle (1896)

Grave of Grover Cleveland in Princeton Cemetary

Grave of Grover Cleveland in Princeton Cemetery NJ

#NationalHistoricLandmarks #MercerCounty #NewJersey #Building #USPresidents #1800s #1900s #PoliticsGovernment #NHLCriteria2People

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