HomeOutdoorsParksHistoric Tennessee Home Could Be Added to the National Park System

Historic Tennessee Home Could Be Added to the National Park System

by Jim Casey
Historic Tennessee Home Could Be Added to the National Park System
(photo by Jordan McAlister/Getty)

President James K. Polk’s federal-style home in Columbia, Tennessee (about 40 miles southwest of Nashville), could be added to the National Park System. Polk, who was born in 1795, served as the 11th President of the United States from 1845 to 1849.

James K. Polk lived in the home, owned by his parents, from 1818 to 1824, as his political career was underway. Polk would eventually serve as a Tennessee state legislator, U.S. Representative, Tennessee governor, and U.S. president. The state of Tennessee purchased the Polk Home in 1929, at which time the James K. Polk Memorial Association opened the home to the public. The Polk Home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

National Park Service: Special Resource Study

The National Park Service (NPS) recently released its Special Resource Study (SRS) on Polk’s former residence. The SRS revealed the historic home and property meet three of four criteria for potential inclusion in the National Park System. All four criteria must have positive findings for the SRS to identify a site as eligible for potential inclusion in the National Park System.  

  1. National Significance
  2. Suitability
  3. Feasibility
  4. Need for NPS Management

The Polk home met SRS criteria for national significance, suitability, and feasibility. However, the NPS study team found that the Polk home is adequately managed by the Memorial Association, with support from the state. The Association maintains and operates the home, provides tours, and conducts educational programs. In addition, the Polk Home gets 10,000 to 13,000 annual visitors.

Polk Home Findings

While a SRS represents the evaluation of a site and/or resources against four congressionally established criteria, Congress or the President may decide to take action and establish a new park regardless of the findings of a SRS. Of course, Congress established four criteria to evaluate in the SRS process. One of the four criteria is that the place requires NPS management to be preserved into the future. In addition, the study found that the site is currently being cared for and preserved without NPS care.

However, given that the James K. Polk Memorial Association has expressed interest in partnering with the NPS, and that national significance and suitability criteria have been met, the Polk Home and adjacent property could be further recognized and assisted by the NPS through designation as an affiliated area of the NPS.

Because an SRS is not a decision-making document, it does not identify a preferred course of action. Of course, now it’s up to Congress or President Biden.