Next to the Upper Cut Barber Shop in downtown Delaware, Ohio stands a gas station with a note, in the form of a plaque, to presidential sojourners: THIS TABLET MARKS THE BIRTHPLACE OF RUTHERFORD B. HAYES, NINETEENTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
Now home to a BP gas station, this presidential site on East William Street hosts a plaque put up by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1926 – the same year the Hayes home came down.
Ohio has the distinction of being the birthplace of eight presidents including Hayes (it is tied with Virginia for the moniker “Mother of Presidents”). Having served three terms as governor of Ohio, Hayes was a one-term president who had the thankless task of following Ulysses S. Grant while trying to unite a post-Civil War country. He wasn’t exactly swept into office in a popularity landslide – in fact, he lost the popular vote. But he won the Electoral College (by only one vote), and was sworn into office in 1877.
Hayes was a devoted family man, married to Lucy Webb Hayes and the father of seven children. Mr. & Mrs. Hayes were staunch teetotalers, and whether it was the legacy of Grant or the country’s growing temperance movement, the Hayes managed to get alcohol entirely banned from the White House. And while it’s easy to discount his time in office as bland and unremarkable compared to other presidencies, he served the office with honesty and distinction, transforming the process of civil service appointments by replacing political patronage with a system of merit. That meant you actually had to be able to DO the job you were appointed to. Crazy, right?
So celebrate Rutherford B. Hayes by filling up your gas tank. And while you’re driving, think of him as maybe our first “social media president” – after all, he was the first to own a typewriter, and the first to have a telephone in the White House. And if he’s the first to get his own gas station, that would seal it for the distinguished gentleman from Ohio.
Update as of October 2019: A sculpture of Hayes was added to the memorial.
Know Before You Go
Located in front of the BP gas station on E William St., downtown Delaware, Ohio