Garfield Tea House

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The Garfield Tea House, in Long Branch, New Jersey, is the only remaining structure directly related to President James A. Garfield's final trip to the Jersey Shore. The Garfield Tea House was built from the railroad ties used to lay the emergency track that transported a dying President Garfield from the nearby Elberon train station to the oceanfront cottage where he died 12 days later.


The Tea House in October 2007

Garfield was a regular visitor to Long Branch. Less than four months after taking office, the president was shot on July 2, 1881 while waiting to board a train from Washington to Long Branch by Charles J. Guiteau, a delusional religious fanatic who was disgruntled by failed efforts to secure a federal post. [1]

In early September 1881, more than half a mile of tracks were laid in less than 24 hours by local residents when they learned that the ailing president was coming to Long Branch from Washington to help him recover from his (ultimately fatal) gunshot wounds. Rather than requiring the president to move by a horse-drawn carriage over rough roads, the tracks enabled Garfield to be brought directly to the door of the oceanfront Franklyn cottage from the local Elberon train station.

After Garfield died 12 days later on September 19, the tracks were torn up and the wooden ties purchased by actor Oliver Byron, who had local carpenter William Presley build the Garfield Tea House with them. It first stood in the yard of Byron's summer cottage. One of the original rails is used as the ridgepole supporting the roof. The original colors of the building were red, white, and blue; today it is red and white. After several moves, including one to the Presley home in North Long Branch, the tea house now rests on the Long Branch Historical Museum grounds.[1]


The Long Branch Historical Museum Association, which owns the structure, has mounted an aggressive effort to restore the Church of the Presidents and its grounds, on which the tea house rests.[2] Restoration of the tea house is part of the four-phase preservation plan to preserve the Church of the Presidents, currently in its second phase of restoration. The Garfield Tea House is located at 1260 Ocean Avenue in Long Branch, just across the street from the Atlantic Ocean.

Preservation of the tea house will require lifting the building above grade, excavating to create a level surface, pouring a six-inch reinforced slab, and lowering the building onto the new foundation. The wood shingle roof must be replaced and the paint stripped from the exterior. Deteriorated railroad ties will be epoxy-consolidated; they will not be replaced.

Once the Church of the Presidents is restored, it and the Garfield Tea House will open to the public, serving as a museum to the presidents and people who vacationed here, and as a center of study of Long Branch and Jersey Shore history, particularly during the Gilded Age and especially of presidential recreation at that time.


  1. ^ a b (2004) Monmouth County Historical Commission Grant-in-Aid
  2. ^

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Coordinates: 40°15′45″N 73°59′25″W / 40.262601°N 73.990383°W / 40.262601; -73.990383