Zachary Taylor House
Backstory and Context
In 1784, Colonel Richard Taylor began moving his family from Virginia to Kentucky. It was on the trip from Virginia that Zachary was born (in Montebello, Virginia) on November 24, 1784. A measles outbreak had forced the Taylors to quarantine at Montebello. Zachary, the couple’s third son, was born during this time. The elder Taylor left his family and continued, with his slaves, on to Kentucky in order to construct a home.1
Taylor and his slaves first constructed a log home on the property. Once the large brick house was constructed, the log structure was relocated to a different spot on the farm and were used as slave quarters. Bricks used in the home’s construction all came from the Springfield property. Completed in two phases, the house features two rooms per level. Rooms built during the first phase feature floors made of walnut and ash, while rooms built during the second phase, feature ash flooring.2
Springfield provided young Taylor an opportunity to learn how to ride, shoot, and to hunt. Tutors provided his formal education. Taylor joined the Kentucky State Militia as a teenager.3 Zachary left home in 1808 to pursue a military career. Zachary Taylor was married in Louisville on June 21, 1810 to Margaret Smith. Five of the couple’s six children were born at Springfield.4
Zachary Taylor’s military service first took him to the Northwest Territory. Later he served in various places both in the North and in the South. Taylor served with distinction during the Mexican-American War, leading his troops to victories at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterrey. Taylor had a strained relationship with President James K. Polk, which lead Taylor to resign from the military.5
Pushed into politics by a Whig Party looking for a viable Presidential candidate, Taylor indeed won both the Whig nomination and the general election of 1848. A political independent and slaveholder, Taylor pursued his own policies, especially policies concerning the expansion of slavery. Rather than pushing for the extension of slavery into New Mexico and California, Taylor pushed the people of each to push immediately for statehood. In this way, each territory would determine their own stance without being subject to a compromise solution imposed by congress. California was admitted as a free state and Taylor threatened military action to support the admission when southerners protested.6Taylor became ill during a 4th of July celebration in Washington and died soon after. He and Margaret are buried in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, less than a mile from the home. Springfield is privately owned, though it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.7 Springfield is designed by Historic Marker #1849.8 The address for the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery is: 4701 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY.