10. John Tyler
Sherwood Forest (October 18, 2006)
John Tyler was, first and foremost, commander-in-chief of the uterus.
Our most fertile leader, Tyler had 15 children. FIFTEEN. His first wife had 8 kids, then died, presumably when her lady parts fell out from exhaustion. But John had to have it, so he saddled up a woman 30 years his junior and seeded her seven times. You just don't see that kind of brazen pipe-laying from our politicians these days, probably because they can't legally own slaves to take care of their ravenous horde. Illegal-immigrant housekeepers, sure; but that's a dicey bet in these modern times.
You can learn all this, and not much else, with a visit to Sherwood Forest Plantation, Tyler's retirement home in Charles City County, Va. You can't learn much because it's still a private residence owned by Harrison Ruffin Tyler, J.T.'s 78-year-old grandson.
So there's no cool house tour by a costumed docent who knows all kinds of great stories about which surfaces kids 9 through 15 were conceived on. If you get together nine of your closest friends and you all are willing to pay $35 each to see the schwag J.T. looted from the White House, a house tour can be arranged. But if you have nine friends with $35 of interest in John Tyler, worry more about getting some new friends. Pronto.
All that's left for the lone traveler is a self-guided walking tour of the property. And may I say, meh. They bill the Tyler home as the country's longest frame house, at 300 feet. That sounds cool on paper, but in practice it means you're looking at your rich uncle's weatherbeaten lake home. They connected a few outbuildings to the main structure via long, narrow rooms, so that's where the length comes in -- it's just sort of slapped together. It doesn't even look all that old, probably since it's been updated for use as a modern residence. You could drop an above-ground pool in the backyard and it wouldn't look out of place. It's seems odd, but in the days before mandatory "Larry King Live" appearances I guess it was OK for ex-presidents to chill out and focus on yardwork and home improvement projects.
The highlight of the grounds is the oldest ginkgo tree in America, so if you have kids and you're reading this, cancel your Disney World plans. You have a new destination. They'll thank you when they're older.
But let's cut the crap and get to what you all came for: FUN TYLER FACTS!
Here's the "wine house." It was originally built to cure tobacco, then it got converted into Tyler's liquor cabinet. If you look closely behind the utility pole to the right, you'll see John Tyler's Range Rover.
And here's Tyler's grave, in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. He wanted to be buried at Sherwood Forest, but the Civil War put a crimp in those plans. Just behind Tyler's grave (in the black metal cage) is James Monroe -- two presidents are buried within spitting distance of each other.