Home Agenda Benjamin Harrison Home’s Big Diary – Indianapolis Monthly

Benjamin Harrison Home’s Big Diary – Indianapolis Monthly


The Benjamin Harrison HousePhoto by Susan Fleck, courtesy of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

THE PREFACE. With the recent $6 million Old Glory, New Vision campaign, the Benjamin Harrison presidential website has undergone significant improvements with more to come. The project includes historically appropriate maintenance and renovations to Harrison’s 1875 Victorian Italianate home, as well as improvements to the grounds focusing on visibility and community connection.

A REAL PAGE TURNER. A separate part of the project is the history book in the site’s new citizenship plaza. The metal book is an effort to honor the nearly 1,500 citizens naturalized at the site over the past 20 years, as well as those who will do so in the future, and features page turning for a tactile experience. “It’s very dynamic, much like the story itself,” says site president and CEO Charles Hyde, noting that pages can be added year after year.

SET THE SCENE. Since 2003, in an annual ceremony in July coinciding with Independence Day, immigrants from around the world have been made naturalized citizens under the site’s century-old oak trees on the South Lawn, through a partnership with the federal court. “It’s our way as a presidential site to honor and recognize how important citizenship is and how central it is to our American system of self-government,” Hyde says.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS. For privacy reasons, the federal court is unable to share the names of previously naturalized individuals on the site. Enter Latoya Botteron. Hailing from the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica, the COO and CFO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership was naturalized at the site in 2013. She is spearheading the effort to spread the word and collect the names of other naturalized here to include in the history book. .

naturalization ceremony on the grounds of the Benjamin Harrison Home

Naturalization ceremonyPhoto by Tony Valainis

REFERENCE SECTION. “It’s an incredible opportunity for me and for those who have become citizens on the site,” says Botteron, who hopes to continue collecting names to add to the book (in future, anyone naturalized here will be asked to be recognized after each ceremony). As the mother of a natural-born citizen, she says the importance of this recognition for her is twofold: to give permanence to her own memory, but also to leave a point of reference in the book of history for her sons and future generations can remember. and create a sense of heritage.

AN ADAPTED POST-SCRIPT. In June, Botteron accepted a seat on the board of directors of the Benjamin Harrison presidential site with honor and enthusiasm. Hyde notes that Botteron’s understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship is central to the site’s mission, adding, “Having truly thoughtful people who can help speak and help inform our work in powerful ways is so much most important.

NEW REVISIONS IN PROGRESS. While parts of the project like the Presidential Commons, Presidential Promenade and Citizenship Plaza are complete, others will be unveiled over the coming months. Inside, the third-floor ballroom is undergoing a full restoration to include Harrison’s presidential library and exhibit space. And outside, the Neighborway bike and pedestrian path is underway to reconnect the property to Pennsylvania Street and downtown proper.

MORE IN THE SERIES. In addition to welcoming more than 30,000 visitors each year through public tours and excursions, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site continues to seek ways to create a more civically engaged community. In addition to annual naturalization ceremonies, it recently became a voting site and hosts year-round nonpartisan programming that includes porch parties, an Independence Day celebration, and a candlelight theater.