Grouseland: Indiana’s Most Historic Home (And Yes, Seen on ‘Parks & Rec’)
By Mary Giorgio
Fans of the TV sitcom, Parks and Recreation, might recall an episode featuring Grouseland, home of the 9th President of the United States. Located in Vincennes, Indiana, Grouseland played a prominent role in the early history of Indiana. Today, it is a museum honoring the legacy of its first owner, William Henry Harrison.
Harrison was born in Virginia in 1773. He came from a prominent family. Harrison’s father was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
As a young man, Harrison studied medicine. However, rather than becoming a doctor, he decided to join the military. In 1791, Harrison received an officer’s commission to the Army and was assigned to the Northwest Territory. After three years of service, he resigned his commission to become secretary of the territory. He also served as its first representative to Congress.
In 1800, Harrison was appointed governor of the new Indiana Territory. The capital city was established at Vincennes. Harrison moved his family there. He purchased 300 acres of land, which the family aptly named Grouseland after the many birds that frequented the area.
In 1804, the Harrison family moved into their newly constructed Federal-style home. It was the first all-brick home built in Indiana. In addition to housing his family, Harrison used the home to conduct territorial business. He hosted many important meetings in what became known as the “Council Chamber.”
Harrison’s famed meeting with Native American leader Tecumseh took place in this room. Tecumseh had traveled to Vincennes to warn Harrison that he would lead a war against the territorial army if they continued to take land from Native American tribes.
In 1811, Harrison led territorial troops to confront Tecumseh at his encampment in Prophetstown, Indiana. Harrison’s men claimed victory in the battle, which became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe. One year later, Harrison resigned his position as governor to return to military service. He fought in the War of 1812.
At the war’s conclusion, the Harrison family abandoned Grouseland for North Bend, Ohio. Harrison became active in politics, winning seats in the Ohio House and Senate. He later served as a representative to Congress. In 1840, Harrison was tapped by the Whig party to run for president. He campaigned as a war hero, running the first modern presidential campaign in history. Harrison was the first presidential candidate to travel the country meeting voters ahead of the election.
After the Harrison family moved to Ohio, Grouseland slowly fell into disrepair. In 1909, it was saved from demolition by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The women restored the home and eventually turned it into a museum. Today Grouseland is a National Historic Landmark.