Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday introduced legislation directing the Secretary of the Interior to take the next step in preserving former President James K. Polk’s home in Columbia, Tn., as a site within the National Park System.
“Tennessee is full of history, and the presidency of James K. Polk is one of our state’s great contributions to our nation’s history. Failing to include his home in the National Park System would be a glaring omission,” Senator Alexander said. “Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the presidential home of the president who created the Department of Interior, the home of the National Park Service, to be managed by the National Park Service? I sure think so.
“We talk a lot about the importance of science and math. But, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, most high school seniors in America score the worst in history. I cannot think of a better way to encourage the study of U.S. history and what it means to be an American than to make sure that our presidential homes are properly cared for. Columbia’s dedicated residents understand the importance of this historical presidential home, and the special resource study authorized by this legislation is the next step in the process toward preserving President Polk’s home and belongings and elevating the site to the national treasure it deserves to be.”
Senator Alexander introduced the James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study and evaluate the suitability and feasibility of designating the site as a unit of the National Park System. Once the study is completed, the conclusions and recommendations will be submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the U.S. Senate. Senator Alexander is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
If the study recommends the Polk Home should be included in the National Park System, Congress would then need to pass legislation designating the Polk Home as a new unit of the National Park System.
U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Scott DesJarlais introduced the James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act in the House of Representatives on Jan. 11, 2017.
In 2013, Senator Alexander sent a letter to the director of the National Park Service requesting that the organization conduct a reconnaissance survey of the James K. Polk Home to determine its significance and sustainability as a unit of the National Park System. In April of 2015, the survey found that the James K. Polk Home is nationally significant and could meet the criteria for inclusion in the National Park System.
The James K. Polk Home is the only surviving home of the 11th American president. President Polk is most notably remembered for his help in acquiring 800,000 square miles of territory during his administration and extending our country’s border west to the Pacific Ocean, which today makes up California and much of the Southwestern United States. His last act as president was to sign the bill that created the Department of the Interior, the agency that is home to the National Park Service.
His childhood home is managed by dedicated members of the James K. Polk Memorial Association and contains more than 1,300 artifacts and original items from the president’s years in Tennessee and Washington, D.C, including furniture, White House artifacts and political memorabilia.