Manus Hand

Visiting Martin Van Buren's Grave

Here I am at President Van Buren's grave in Kinderhook Cemetery just outside the village of Kinderhook, New York. The date is September 11, 1991, and my wife and I are working our way up the Hudson valley hunting Dead Presidents. We reached the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, which is at Lindenwald, Van Buren's understated home in Kinderhook, near its closing time. The house is situated on a great lawn, and we basked in the sun of an extremely nice day awaiting the beginning of the final scheduled house-tour of the day.

The house seems only rarely visited; we were the only participants in our tour, and the tour that finished before us was given only to an elderly lady who had lived in Kinderhook all her life and was a friend of the tour guide, but who had only just now gotten around to visiting Lindenwald.

Of all the government-run sites which I've visited in my travels to presidential haunts, Lindenwald was the most enjoyable. The National Park Service personnel there were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, and our personal tour through the lovely home gave us the opportunity to ask many questions. We felt so little rushed that we almost seemed able to dawdle through the mansion, and although we knew that we were staying beyond closing time, the tour guide and guard didn't mind in the least, and they simply shrugged off our apologies for keeping them late.

Lindenwald has a very attractive asymmetry about it, with a bell-tower, installed by the president's son during his father's lifetime, rising from the left side of the mansion. Another remarkable feature of the house is the great hall where Van Buren received his guests. The front door opens not into a room or foyer, but to a wide hall that reaches to the rear of the house; rooms of the house are to either side of the hall. A long dining table would be set up in the hall when dinner was offered by the long-widowed politician to large groups of his followers. The walls of the hall are adorned with the original wallpaper, which is not patterned, but hand-painted, making an impressive and entertaining mural that depicts a fox-hunt. The topography of hunt interacts with the architecture of the house itself, the stairways and corners making for obstacles for the pointing and chasing dogs.

As we were told at the house, Kinderhook Cemetery is just a short drive from Lindenwald. The cemetery is still accepting interments today, and it is very well mowed and groomed. Van Buren's monument and grave is the crown of the cemetery, and it was immediately apparent, front and center, as we entered the gates of the cemetery. The gravesite is very well-tended, and a freshly-placed American flag was in evidence, as you can see in the photograph above. You can also see the president's headstone just behind and to the left of the monument. His wife lies next to him, her headstone hidden in this picture behind me.

Although it was getting late in the day, the sun still shone brightly during our pleasant visit in the cemetery, and a cool breeze met the heat of the sun perfectly. We completely enjoyed our visit to Kinderhook.

...White House Biography of President Van Buren...