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the home of James Buchanan
Located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Wheatland was built and named by William Jenkins, a local lawyer, in 1828. William M. Meredith bought the estate in 1841, and it was purchased by James Buchanan in 1848. Buchanan occupied the house for the next two decades, except for the years during his ambassadorship in Great Britain and his presidency.
The main brick house at Wheatland consists of a Federal-style two and one-half story central section flanked by three-story wings. The main block of the building contains a central hall with two matching rooms on either side; there are 17 rooms in all. A Doric-columned porch dominates the front of the main section of the house. The house still looks much as it did when first built, except for some interior improvements made by Buchanan. These included installation of a furnace and central heating, replacement of the open hearth in the kitchen by a cast-iron stove, and the addition of such modern conveniences as a tin bathtub.
James Buchanan retired to Wheatland following his presidency, and died in the house on June 1, 1868. The estate was inherited by his niece, Harriet Lane, who sold it to George Wilson in 1881. It passed to Mary Willson Rettew, a cousin of George Willson, after he died of a heart attack in 1929. Rettew died in 1934, and her will stipulated the establishment of The Willson Memorial Building to preserve the family's heirlooms. Her will also requested that the main house be occupied by the Lancaster County Historical Society, which had been founded in 1880. The house, along with 4.25 acres of land (of the original 22), were sold to the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland in 1936, and it was opened to the public on May 5, 1936. Wheatland was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 4, 1961, and listed on the National Register of Hisoric Places on October 15, 1966.
Still open to the public, Wheatland is furnished just as it was when Buchanan lived there, and many of the items, especially those in the library, belonged to Buchanan. Today, LancasterHistory.org retains 10 acres of the original 22-acre property, including the home and three outbuildings.
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This page was last updated on August 30, 2018.