Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur was not born here, though for years this site was thought to be his birthplace.
This large granite monument was installed by the state in 1903. Its dedication was attended by a long list of dignitaries, who had come from far away to this remote spot five miles north of Fairfield, Vermont, near the Canadian border.
Carved in stone are the words “On this spot stood the cottage where was born Chester A. Arthur the twenty-first president of the United States.”
In 1953, that cottage actually appeared, in the form of a replica that was based on an 1880 photograph of the alleged birthplace house.
However, while the photograph likely was of a house that stood on this location, and that house was once occupied by the young future president, his parents didn’t move into it until 1830, a year after he was born.
In 2002, the state put up a new sign at the alleged birthplace site to help clear things up: “…When he was less than a year old his parents moved to a new parsonage built at this site.”
Five miles away, in town, the state put up another new sign, saying: “…Although the exact location is debated, Chester A. Arthur was born on Oct. 5, 1829, in Fairfield.”
The uncertainty about Arthur’s birthplace dates back to at least 1880, when he was on the Republican ticket to be Garfield’s vice president, and the Democrats hired an attorney to dig into his past. He concluded that Chester Arthur was born in Dunham, Quebec, where his parents had met and were married, and published a book, "How a British Subject Became President of the United States." By then Arthur had already been president for three years.
What is more likely, is that in 1828 his parents moved to Fairfield, where his father was hired to be the new minister in a local Baptist church. The congregation had quickly built a temporary parsonage for him, where his son was born, in 1829. A year later, they moved to a new parsonage, where the replica is now.
The birthplace replica, closed to the public most of the time, houses displays that address these uncertainties, which challenge its very reason for existing in the first place. It may be unique as a museum in this regard.
The Arthur family continued a peripatetic existence around Vermont and the upper Hudson Valley, in towns like Hoosick, North Pownal, Ballston Spa, Schaghticoke, and Schenectady. Chester Arthur taught school and studied law, and eventually moved down to New York City, where he accepted a post as Collector of Customs.
After serving in the Civil War, and developing political connections, he moved into a house at 123 Lexington Street. He was living there when he was nominated to be Garfield’s vice president, and also when he was sworn in as president after Garfield finally succumbed to his assassin’s attack, in 1881.
Chester Arthur returned to this house too after his completing his three years as president, and he died there in 1886. The house, which was later owned by William Randolph Hearst, is now a spice shop and apartments.
A bronze historical plaque from 1964 is obscured among the clutter of the façade.
Chester Arthur is buried in the family plot at the Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York.
His own tomb lists his birth date as 1830, not 1829, taking the uncertainties of his birth to his grave.
CLUI logo