Several presidents of the latter half of the 19th century spent their summers at the New Jersey shore, often attending services at St. James Protestant Episcopal Chapel in Long Branch, aka “Church of the Presidents.”
James A Garfield of Ohio was elected president in 1880 and took office in March 1881; four months later, he was shot in Washington, D.C., during an assassination attempt. As his condition worsened, Garfield was taken to Long Branch in September 1881 in an effort to improve his health. A short railroad spur was built to spare the president an otherwise bumpy horse-drawn carriage ride to his cottage.
Less than two weeks after arriving in Long Branch, President Garfield succumbed to his wounds (more specifically, the subsequent infection) and died on September 19, 1881. The spur was taken apart and then wooden ties were used to construct a small tea house in honor of the president. The tea house had several homes before moving to the grounds of St. James where it stands today.
As of 2017 both the church and the tea house are closed to the public as the sites are undergoing renovation.