HILLSBOROUGH, N.H. -- If Franklin Pierce were an answer on ``Jeopardy!", most American TV viewers probably would not know the question.
That's not surprising, since history gives short shrift to the 14th president, who served an unmemorable term, 1853- 57. But his native state remembers him.
A college, law center, highway, and mountain are among sites bearing Franklin Pierce's name. The capital, Concord, counts a statue, the Manse, and his burial site among its landmarks. (The Manse, where Pierce and his wife, Jane, lived from 1842-48, was saved from demolition and moved in the 1970s.)
The Hillsborough Historical Society also has been keeping Pierce's legacy alive at the Homestead, his boyhood home southwest of Concord. On a recent private tour led by Jim Marvin, the histories of the Pierce family and the Homestead unfolded.
Benjamin Pierce built the Federal-style home as a tavern in 1804 and moved his family there after his son, Franklin, was born on Nov. 23. In the 1990s, the historical society began restoring the home to its 1820s condition, a prosperous and influential time for Benjamin Pierce, a Revolutionary War general who became governor in 1828.
The Homestead is where the elder Pierce -- a soldier, land owner, and politician -- entertained the movers and shakers of the day. Franklin relished the excitement and gravitated to law and politics after graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine in 1824. After studying law, he established his first practice across the street .
The tour start s in an attached red barn that functions as the visitor s center and hall of history with an introductory video, photos, and artifacts. Marvin pointed to a treasure in the open loft: Pierce's one-horse open sleigh.
Inside the house, Marvin set the scene for each room, stressing original details and furnishings and describing changes that transformed the tavern into the Pierces' elegant home. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a college chum who wrote the candidate's biography for his 1852 presidential campaign, was a frequent visitor. An upstairs case displays the small book.
Marvin, who has been involved with the Homestead since settling in the area 21 years ago, showed off the furniture and objects that Pierce or a family member owned. Since many of the furnishings were given away or sold in 1839 after Pierce's parents died, originals have been purchased or donated over the years.
Marvin also explained the strikingly bold colors in some rooms. The kitchen's cheery coral panels and handpainted stencils reflect what restorers found when layers of wallpaper were peeled away. The second-floor ballroom has Christmas stencils. The dining room's 1824 French wallpaper needs expensive restoration because silverfish love the wheat-based paste used then. The Homestead's exterior -- cream clapboards, green shutters -- replaced white clapboards and black shutters because white as a paint was nonexistent in the 19th century.
The state bought the house from descendants in 1925; in the 1950s, the historical society became the overseer for the site, which is now a state park.
Even though Pierce (1804-69) didn't live here after he married in 1834, there are memento s from his campaign and White House days, among them banners and a couch from an Oval Office reception room. The banners proclaim `` True to the Constitution" and ``Preserve the Union," important slogans in those days of debates about slavery and states rights.
Contact Jan Shepherd, a freelance writer in Boston, at email@example.com.