Quirky Attraction: James Polk’s Tomb in Nashville

president polk grave

The Tomb of President James K. Polk
Location: Nashville, Tennessee (State Capitol, 6th Ave. N & Charlotte Ave.)
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 5-10 minutes
Website: www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=823 (unofficial)

Nashville is a paradise for dead president seekers. In addition to President Andrew Jackson’s grave at the Hermitage, the tomb of one James K. Polk lies next to the Tennessee Capitol building downtown. His wife Sarah is in the grave with him.

Our 11th president died in 1849 and was moved to this location in 1893. The tomb is very modest, with the grave under a small roof surrounded by a short fence.

There’s not even a statue of Polk here. That’s especially odd when you consider that literally steps away are statues of both Andrew Jackson (left) and Andrew Johnson (right), two other presidents from Tennessee. That’s right – President Polk’s grave has statues of two other men but not himself.

Andrew Jackson Johnson statues Nashville

Thanks to a reader for noting that the James K. Polk Home & Museum in Columbia, Tennessee offers a much greater chance to get to know President Polk. They have daily guided tours and lots of exhibits about the former president. The museum is the place to go if you’re really into presidential history!

James K. Polk Grave Site: Facts About the President

I leave you with a few quirky facts about Mr. James K. Polk:

-He was the only president who had been Speaker of the House. (Sorry, Newt Gingrich. It was never going to happen for you.)

james polk tomb

-He became president at age 49, making him the youngest commander in chief to that point.

-He was the first president to voluntarily step down after one term, fulfilling a campaign promise he had made.

james k polk grave nashville

-He passed away just three months after leaving office.

-He died of cholera. (Cholera is such a pain. I used to hate when I got it while playing Oregon Trail.)

-Historians consider him one of the most underappreciated presidents, since he accomplished most everything on his agenda.

8 thoughts on “Quirky Attraction: James Polk’s Tomb in Nashville”

  1. You may not know the really very quirky story of James K. Polk’s final resting place. His final resting place? He was originally buried in the Nashville City Cemetery, on June 16. On May 22, 1850, his remains were reinterred in a monument (designed by William Strickland *) on the grounds of Polk Place (Their large southern mansion which was located a few blocks from the Capitol building and grounds.) His wife Sarah continued to live at Polk Place until her death in 1891.) Sarah Childress Polk, joined him in death on August 14, 1891, and was buried by his side. Polk Place was sold in 1898 and eventually razed in 1901.The late President and his wife, along with their burial monument, were moved to the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol on September 19, 1893, where they remain to this day. There is a recent push to move his remains once again to his childhood home in Columbia, TN. “We are so grateful for the hard work of our resolution sponsor Rep. Michael Curcio in helping with this grassroots effort to honor the late President’s wishes to be buried at home. The James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia most closely fits Polk’s request, and since 1929, it has been the main historic site for James K. Polk, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors each year, and it is home to the largest collection of Polk artifacts. We hope that having the Polks’ tomb here will honor the legacy of our 11th President, and this week’s support from the committee members got us one step closer to making that hope a reality. Polk wanted to be buried where his legacy resided. But since his home in Nashville was sold outside of the family and torn down in 1901, the Polk Home in Columbia is the only home still standing other than the White House that he ever lived in. That is the place where people come and learn about his life and legacy.” said Thomas Price, who served as curator of the President James K. Polk Ancestral Home for 21 years. If he is eventually moved, I think, he would be tied with my 5th cousin, 5 times removed, Abraham Lincoln for the number of times a President’s remains had been interred after burial.
    * William Strickland’s remains are interred in the walls of the Tennessee State Capitol Building which he planned and is arguably his greatest work. He was a student of Benjamin Latrobe and mentor to Thomas Ustick Walter (who designed the United States Capitol). William Strickland helped establish the Greek Revival movement in the United States. He planned Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA and many other important and notable buildings. He was a pioneering engineer, he wrote a seminal book on railroad construction, helped build several early American railroads, and designed the first ocean breakwater in the Western Hemisphere.

  2. I love this kind of off beat non mainstream attraction and I would have not known it was there if it wasnt for you sharing this with me so thanks for that!

  3. I’ve been to Nashville several times but didn’t realize that it was a “paradise for dead president seeker.” 🙂 Loved that phrase. Interesting facts about Polk. I’m sure Newt is so jealous he won’t be visiting his grave anytime soon.

  4. — He was the first president
    to voluntarily step down
    after one term, fulfilling a
    campaign promise he had
    Must have been a great man. The last point in fact proves it!!
    Have a nice day Scott 🙂

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