Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens
The Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens in
Omaha, Nebraskamarks the location of the house at 3202 Woolworth Avenue where U.S. President Gerald R. Fordlived for a couple of weeks after his birth in July 1913. It was the home of his paternal grandparents, Charles Henry and Martha King.
The King house at 3202 Woolworth Avenue was located on the border of the
Hanscom Parkand Field Club neighborhoods of MidtownOmaha. It was a three-story, fourteen-room Victorian mansion. It was razed after a 1971 fire caused substantial damage.
James M. Paxson, who lived in the neighborhood, purchased the vacant lot for $17,250 after Ford became President in 1974. He planned for it to be used for a memorial. Although Paxson donated the site to the city, officials said they couldn't afford to build a memorial. Paxson then set up the Paxson Foundation to fund the memorial and associated gardens. It includes a portico evoking the north side of the White House and a pagoda that resembles a portion of the original home. ["Omaha Businessman Foots Bill for Ford Birthplace Memorial" - "Nebraska Journal" - May 7, 1976]
Memorial and Ford Conservation Center
The memorial was dedicated in 1977. Ford partnered with Paxson on some fundraising. Ford returned in 1980 for the dedication of a rose garden in honor of
Betty Ford. [ [http://www.nebraskahistory.org/conserve/brthsite.htm Nebraskahistory.org description] ]
Adjoining the site is the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, a regional center of the Nebraska State Historical Society founded in 1995. It provides conservation services for historical relics. The Center also contains a small exhibit of Ford memorabilia.
The two sites are just to the northwest of Hanscom Park, one of the oldest public parks in Omaha. The house site is four blocks west of the Gerald R. Ford Expressway.
The house was owned by the future president's paternal grandparents,
Charles Henry King, a prominent banker, and his wife, the former Martha Alicia Porter. After their son Leslie Lynch King married Dorothy Ayer Gardneron September 7, 1912, the young couple moved into the house with his parents, as was typical of the times. Their first son, named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. was born in July 1913.
Because she had found that King was abusive and had a drinking problem, Dorothy separated from him shortly after the birth, when Leslie, Jr. was only 16 days old. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Ford-Nebraska.html "Nebraska-born, Ford Left State As Infant"] , Associated Press, December 27, 2006, The New York "Times"] After staying briefly with a sister in Illinois, Dorothy took her son with her to her parents and moved in with them in
Grand Rapids, Michigan. That is where the future president grew up. [ [http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/genealog.htm "Gerald R. Ford Genealogical Information"] , University of Texas] ] By the end of 1913 Dorothy's divorce from Leslie King was final. A few years later in 1916, Dorothy married Gerald Rudolff Ford. They renamed Leslie, Jr. after him, as Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Ford-Nebraska.html "Nebraska-born, Ford Left State As Infant"] , Associated Press, December 27, 2006, The New York "Times"]
* [http://www.nebraskahistory.org/conserve/exhibit.htm Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center official site]
* [http://www.ci.omaha.ne.us/parks/Weddings/fordwedding.htm Omaha Parks Official Website]
* [http://www.ford.utexas.edu/avproj/hseries/homes.htm Photos of 3202 Woolworth Avenue, first home of Gerald R. Ford] , University of Texas]
* [http://www.presidentsusa.net/fordbirthsite.html Contemporary photos of 3202 Woolworth Avenue, first home of Gerald R. Ford] , Presidents USA
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