Reenactment of Polk's 1847 Visit to Chapel Hill


Saturday, May 3, 2008 - 6:00am to 12:00pm


Horace Williams House, 610 E. Rosemary Street

Welcome to Chapel Hill President Polk!

The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill will be recreating the 1847 visit of President James K. Polk to Chapel Hill on Saturday, May 3, 2008. The event will be from 10 am to 4 pm at the Horace Williams House at 610 E. Rosemary Street. Costumed reenactors will be preparing for the President’s arrival while Mexican War soldiers drill on the historic lawn of the 1840s Horace Williams House. Children’s games, period music, and demonstrations will also be part of the day’s activities. The event is free and open to the community.

Recreating the visit of one of America’s least known Presidents seems, at first, to be less than thrilling but the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill thinks just the opposite. On May 3, 2008, the Society will host President James K. Polk’s return to Chapel Hill, complete with period decorations, music, and soldiers of the era. The event seems like a pleasant day of living history but why Polk? “I had originally planned the event based on the age of the Horace Williams House” says Preservation Society Director Ernest Dollar, “but the more I learned about Polk’s presidency, the more I realized it eerily mirrored current events.”

Polk took a rare trip away from the Whitehouse in 1847 to visit his alma mater. Polk attended the University of North Carolina in 1816 and became the 11th President of the United States in 1844, only one of three from North Carolina. During his visit to Chapel Hill national issues such as war, immigration, and the economy consumed America. By highlighting the similarities between the 1840s and the first decade of the 21st century, Dollar hopes to make history relevant.

“I was struck by the comparison between the dubious beginnings of the Mexican War and the controversy surrounding the invasion of Iraq,” said Dollar. Another similar issue Dollar highlights as another connection with the American of Polk age is the question of immigration, “then it was the Irish and now it is the Latinos.” The irony of the event is embodied in the comparison Polk’s election in 1844 to George Bush’s in 2000. Polk was the country’s first dark horse candidate and won when a third political party siphoned away votes from the popular candidate Henry Clay. Dollar concluded by adding, “It really makes you consider the old axiom of history repeating itself.”

Dollar is confident the children’s games, period music, and demonstrations slated for the day will be fun for all ages, but in the end, he hopes the public will come away with an increased appreciation for history’s role in our modern lives and how it ultimately shapes the future.



Preservation Society of Chapel Hill

Cute that this is going on at the same time we are being visited by a former (and possibly a future) president ahead of the NC primary.

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