LancasterHistory’s 11-acre Campus of History represents half of the acreage of the farm and home President James Buchanan knew as Wheatland. In the 18th century, 400 acres surrounding this property had tenant farmers working the land. In 1828, William Jenkins purchased 156 acres of the farmland, and ordered the construction of the mansion and its farm structures. He named it “The Wheatlands.” In 1836, Wheatland shrank to 22 acres when Jenkins sold it to his son-in-law, Thomas Potter. James Buchanan bought the farm in 1848. What once were open fields were now a mature forest of stately trees in front of the mansion, and at the entrance, a spring-fed pond gurgled out from the earth under the shade of a willow tree. The circular carriage path to the mansion had shade trees lining it. To the rear of the house were the stables, a summerhouse, gardens, and orchards. The adjoining fields all around had crops of wheat swaying in the breeze -- perhaps the origin of the name “Wheatland.”
The Willson family acquired the farm in 1884 from Buchanan’s niece, Harriet Lane Johnston. By 1934, the last owner of the Wheatland farm, Mary Willson Rettew had died and lawyers sold 4 acres to the nonprofit, James Buchanan Foundation. The Foundation preserved the buildings and land as a memorial to President James Buchanan. The remaining 6 acres would later serve as a permanent home for the Lancaster County Historical Society. In 2009, The James Buchanan Foundation merged with the Lancaster County Historical Society, to form the LancasterHistory that you see today, uniting the formerly separate historical places and organizations into one. Today, LancasterHistory continues to make Wheatland accessible to the public through tours and educational programs.