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Park Service Restoring William Howard Taft’s Birthplace

September 28, 1986

CINCINNATI (AP) _ The National Park Service is looking for antique furniture and memorabilia to adorn the birthplace of William Howard Taft, the only person to serve as both president and chief justice of the United States.

The agency is renovating the 1840s-era, three-story house and is committed to opening parts of it for Cincinnati’s 1988 bicentennial celebration. The entire project is expected to take at least until the end of the decade.

The Park Service is asking antique dealers and the public to donate or sell furniture of Taft’s era for display in the house. It is also seeking Taft-era books, papers and pictures.

So far, a member of the Taft family has offered a chair Taft used when he served as secretary of war in President Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabinet.

″It’s classical needle in the haystack. We’re getting good response from the people,″ said Ella Rayburn, a Park Service historian. ″If they have something of interest, they’re supposed to contact us. That’s the idea.″

In 1851, Alphonso and Louisa Taft bought the house where William Howard was born in 1857 and it remained in the family until 1899, when the family auctioned off most of the furnishings.

Steven Kesselman, Park Service superintendent at the Taft house, estimated the entire restoration would cost $1.4 million, with another $500,000 needed to buy furnishings and memorabilia.

Congress has so far funded only the first construction phase, and the Park Service has no money for furnishings, he said. But a private group has pledged money to buy furnishings, Ms. Rayburn said.

A Republican, Taft was the nation’s 27th president and served from 1909 to 1913, losing a re-election bid to Woodrow Wilson. He served as chief justice from 1921 to 1930. He resigned in failing health and died a few weeks later.

Taft and John F. Kennedy are the only presidents buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

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