William McKinley 25th President, 1897-1901

Birthplace, Niles, Ohio
William McKinley was born on January 9, 1843 in the small town of Niles, Ohio. The home in which he was born no longer stands. He lived there until aged ten, when he moved with his family to nearby Poland, Ohio. His loving family provided William, Jr., the seventh of eight children, with a fun filled childhood that was also carefully guided by his parents. Like most young boys, he spent his boyhood fishing, hunting, ice skating, horseback riding, and swimming. His father owned a small iron foundry and instilled in young William a strong work ethic and a respectful attitude. Nancy Allison McKinley, his devoutly religious mother, taught him the value of prayer, courtesy, and honesty in all dealings.

The McKinley Memorial Library and Museum has started construction on a replica of the home where President McKinley was born. The groundbreaking for the project was held on Sunday, April 28, 2002. The McKinley Birthplace House and Research Center project is slated to be finished by December 2002.

President McKinley was born on South Main Street on January 28, 1843 in Niles, Ohio. The house was moved twice from the original site before it burned down in 1937. The McKinley Memorial Library is rebuilding President McKinley’s birthplace home as tribute to our Twenty-fifth President.

National City Bank in 1994 donated the former McKinley Bank Building and land, which stood on the site of the former McKinley house, to the City of Niles. Through the efforts of State Senator Anthony Latell, Niles received $83,000 from the State of Ohio. The funds from the State of Ohio covered the cost of the demolition of the McKinley Bank Building in 1999.

The former McKinley Bank site property was donated to McKinley Memorial Library by the City of Niles in 2001. The Library also purchased the adjacent Olde Main Ale and Chowder House in 2001 for additional land around the McKinley Birthplace House. The demolition of the Olde Main took place in the fall of 2001.

Olsavsky-Jaminet of Youngstown, Ohio is the architect for the project. DSV Builders of Howland, Ohio was selected as the general contractor for the project.

The questions most frequently asked is what the house will look like. The original house was very small. The house was thirty-three feet across and had a depth of fourteen feet. There were eight rooms in the house. There were four rooms on the first floor and four rooms on the second floor. Attached to the replica house in the back will be a library devoted to materials on President McKinley, a gift shop, a meeting room, and a computer lab.

Birthplace Memorial & Library, Niles, Ohio
The National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Association was incorporated by a special Act of Congress on March 4, 1911. The purpose of the Association was to erect a suitable structure marking the birthplace of President William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States. The result was the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial.

McKinley was born in the city of Niles, Ohio. The city donated the site for the Memorial, which consisted of an entire city square. The architects were McKim, Mead & White of New York and the erection of the Memorial was done by John H. Parker Company, also of New York. Groundbreaking began in 1915 with the corner stone being laid on November 20, 1915. The building was dedicated on October 5, 1917. The cost was more than half a million dollars, all of which was donated by the American public.

The 232 foot by 136 foot by 38 foot monument is constructed of Georgian marble with two lateral wings–one wing houses the public library called the McKinley Memorial Library, and the other wing houses the McKinley Museum and an auditorium. The Museum contains artifacts of the life and presidency of McKinley. In the center of the Memorial is a Court of Honor supported by 28 imposing columns. It features a heroic statue of McKinley sculptured by John Massey-Rhind. Surrounding the statue are busts and tablets dedicated to the members of McKinley’s cabinet and other prominent men who were closely associated with him. These bronze busts, mounted on marble pedestals, weigh between 800 and 1100 pounds each.

Home, Saxton House, Canton, Ohio
The Saxton-McKinley house is a two and three story brick building of irregular massing. It was constructed in two segments, in 1841, and ca. 1865. The earliest portion is at the rear of the structure and was a two-story gable roofed building. This is significant as the only residence with direct historical ties to President William McKinley remaining in his hometown of Canton. It was the family home of McKinley’s wife, Ida, and he and his wife lived in the house between 1878-1891.

The renovated ballroom is, and always has been, located on the third floor of the house. Many parties were held in this ballroom, since the Saxtons were among the most prominent families in Canton. In President McKinley’s study, all of the wallpapers were custom-made by historic merchants to replicate wallpaper depicted in an early photograph of the study taken during his official residence. The photo revealed wallpaper that resembles an intricate quilt of Oriental scenes. This kind of paper spoke of being well traveled and well read, according to Fisher. Fisher traced the wallpaper pattern to Bradbury & Bradbury of California who recreated the hand blocks used to print a similar pattern.

The library and parlor are decorated in the more opulent Italianate style that became popular after the Civil War. In this area there are 23 different wallpaper patterns in subtle shades of tan, grayish green, rose and warm beige. The flow of color and pattern creates an ambiance Fisher describes as “feminine but understated and elegant.” Lace curtains, authentically reproduced from an 1876 pattern, are thrown over rods and pinned in place — just as the Victorians did it. This pattern was seen in a Victorian mansion of the 1870′s in Connecticut. The chrysanthemum pattern of Wilton Carpet was loomed in the same mill that First Lady Dolley Madison ordered some of the carpet for the White House.

On the second floor is Ida Saxton McKinley’s sitting room and adjacent bedroom. The wallpaper for these rooms was hand-screened by Scalamandre to historically represent the wall coverings in favorite rooms at Ida Saxton McKinley’s North Market Avenue residence, according to two original pictures of those rooms.

In the front entry and stair hall, the wallpaper, a dense fruit, flower and foliage design, was recreated from a pattern popularized a century ago by the English Designer William Morris. The freestanding rug for the hallway was woven on the same looms that milled William Morris’ rugs 120 years ago. Freestanding rugs were just becoming popular in the foyer when the McKinley house was decorated. A spiral staircase reconstructed from black walnut winds from the stair hall to the second and third floors of the house. On the exterior, the massive wrap-around porch was recreated through the use of early photographs of the house.

Gravesite, McKinley National Memorial, Canton, Ohio
As the most traveled American president to that time, William McKinley was on the road again on the morning of September 6, 1901. Impeccably dressed in a boiled white shirt with starched collar and cuffs, pin-striped trousers, a black frock coat, and a black satin necktie, he had traveled to Buffalo, New York, where he gave a speech at the Pan-American Exposition. That afternoon, he attended a public reception at the exposition’s Temple of Music. Standing at the head of a moving line of greeters, McKinley shook hands and smiled, enjoying the adulation and the public contact.

At seven minutes past four o’clock, as the McKinley reached for another hand to shake, two sharp cracks broke the hum of human voices. Leon F. Czolgosz, aged twenty-eight, a Detroit resident of Polish heritage and an unemployed mill worker of anarchist sentiments, had fired a concealed 32 Iver Johnson revolver point blank into the President’s chest. McKinley doubled over and fell backward into the arms of his Secret Service escorts. As he lay bleeding from his wounds, he managed to tell his guards not to hurt his assailant. Then he turned to his private secretary and said: “My wife, be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her-oh, be careful.” Rushed to a nearby hospital by ambulance, McKinley lingered near death for the next week. Gangrene had set in around the bullet wounds, and he died on September 14, 1901, just six months after his second inauguration.

His assassin admitted the shooting. He had shot the president because he believed him to have been the “enemy of the people, the good working people.” Czolgosz expressed no sorrow for his actions. He died in the electric chair on October 29, 1901.

The McKinley Tomb sits on a 75-foot high grass-covered hill in West Lawn Cemetery overlooking the city of Canton. The mausoleum is a domed, circular, pink granite structure that rises 96 feet above the ground and measures 79 feet in diameter. A total of 108 stone stairs lead from the parking area past the 13-foot high bronze statue of McKinley to the double-walled tomb.

Memorial, McKinley National Memorial, Canton, Ohio
President William McKinley spent most of his life in Canton, Ohio, with his wife, Ida, and their two daughters. He was elected Stark County prosecuting attorney and also served as the district’s United States Representative and Governor of Ohio before his election as the 25th President of the United States in 1896.

In September of 1901, while serving his second term as president, McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz. The assassination occurred at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where McKinley was a guest speaker. Plans for a memorial to McKinley were initiated by newly inaugurated President Theodore Roosevelt. Ironically, the site chosen for the Memorial was actually selected by McKinley himself for a Stark County soldiers’ memorial. Funds were raised and construction of the memorial began in 1905. President Roosevelt came to Canton for the dedication ceremonies on September 30, 1907.

The design of the Memorial was created by Harold Van Buren Magonigle. Its neo-classic Greek design is a representation of the simplicity and dignity of McKinley’s life. An aerial view of the Memorial and grounds shows how the design represents both the cross of a martyr and the sword of a soldier president. The main steps and the circular drive form the upright portion of the cross and the side steps form the arms. The sword is formed by adding the Long Water* to the cross. The Long Water and the main steps form the blade of the sword and the side steps form the hilt. The mausoleum stands at the junction of the guard and hilt of the sword or at the center of the cross.

Over two million bricks were used in the construction of the double-domed mausoleum. The interior dome measures 50 feet in diameter and is 75 feet high. The exterior dome is 75 feet in diameter and 95 feet high. Both the interior and exterior domes are made of pink Milford granite from Massachusetts.

Dominating the interior of the mausoleum is a double sarcophagi made of Windsor green granite with a base of black Berlin granite. An inscription at the base of the dome is a quotation from McKinley’s last speech in Buffalo. The McKinley children are entombed within the rear wall of the mausoleum.

One hundred and eight steps lead to the entrance of the mausoleum, arranged in four tiers conforming to the terraces on the hill. Two “block houses” at the base of the steps add balance to the design and provide service utility.

A statue of McKinley is located halfway up the steps. It was designed by Charles Henry Niehaus who created it from a photo of the president delivering his last speech. The base of the statue describes fund-raising efforts for the Memorial and the words of Benjamin Ide Wheeler, president of the University of California, conferring upon McKinley the degree of Doctor of Laws.

The Memorial has undergone an extensive restoration and enhancement process. Some of these projects include an access road to the Memorial, additional parking, and an elevator. A new domed shelter behind the Memorial now adds grace and provides a shaded area for visitors to rest.

Original Gravesite, Werts Receiving Vault, Westland Cemetery, Canton, Ohio
In 1893, the Board of the Canton Cemetery Association voted to build a receiving vault for temporary entombments during winter when frozen ground prevented the digging of graves in West Lawn Cemetery. Upon completion of the vault, Mrs. Frank M. Werts offered to pay the construction costs in return for a plaque on the vault memorializing her late husband. The Werts receiving vault was used as a resting place for William McKinley from September 19, 1901 until the McKinley National Memorial was completed in 1907. During those six years, the receiving vault was protected by an honor guard of Federal army sentries. Ida McKinley visited the Werts site daily until her death in May 1907. The Memorial was dedicated on September 30, 1907, and the bodies of William McKinley and Ida Saxton McKinley were removed from the Werts receiving vault and placed in the central sarcophagi of the Memorial on October 10, 1907. On that same date, the McKinley’s daughters, Katie and Ida, who had died as children, were removed from West Lawn Cemetery and placed in the north wall of the Memorial.

Assassination Site, Buffalo, New York
On September 5, 1901, President William McKinley delivered a speech at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. He informed the audience of fairgoers that he was reconsidering his views on tariff policy. Also in attendance that day was Leon Czolgosz, a Detroit-born anarchist of Polish parents, who was prevented by Secret Service agents from approaching the stage where McKinley was speaking.

The following day at 4 p.m., the President appeared at a public reception in the Temple of Music on the Exposition grounds. A large crowd had assembled to shake hands with the president and exchange a few words. Czolgosz stood near the front of the line with his right hand wrapped in a handkerchief to make it appear as if he were protecting an injured hand from infection. When his turn came, Czolgosz extended his left hand toward the president while firing two rapid shots from a .32 caliber revolver concealed behind the covering.

McKinley fell backward, a pool of blood forming on his chest. Secret service agents and police immediately disarmed the assassin and began to inflict a near fatal beating. McKinley was still conscious and pleaded that the assaults on Czolgosz stop. The President also asked that care be taken when informing his chronically ill wife of the event.

McKinley was taken to the Exposition’s emergency hospital where he underwent surgery for his gunshot wounds. Following his surgery, the President was taken by ambulance to the home of John Milburn in Buffalo for further treatment and recuperation. During the eight days following the shooting, the President first seemed to rally but then finally weakened. He died on September 14, 1901.

Memorial, Buffalo, New York
In the center of Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York, stands the city’s memorial to President William McKinley, who was assassinated while attending the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. D. H. Burnham, who was called in to consult on the project, suggested the appropriateness of an obelisk, with fountains at the base and decided where it should be placed.

Carrere and Hasting, the actual designers of the monument, were the architects in charge of the Exposition and had also worked with Burnham at the 1893 Chicago fair, where similar obelisks had been erected. A. Phimister Proctor, a well-known animal sculptor who executed several pieces for the Pan-American Exposition, carved the sleeping lions, symbols of strength, and the turtles, emblematic of eternal life.

Made of Vermont marble, 96 feet tall, the monument was dedicated in 1907 exactly six years after he was mortally shot at the Temple of Music on the Exposition grounds. Its inscription reads: “This shaft was erected by the State of New York to honor the memory of William McKinley, twenty-fifth president of the United States of America. William McKinley died in Buffalo September 14, 1901 victim of a treacherous assassin who shot the president as he was extending to him the hand of courtesy. William McKinley was elected to Congress as a representative from Ohio in 1876, ’78, ’80, ’82, ’84, ’88 was elected governor of Ohio in 1891 and 1893 and president of the United States in 1896 and 1900. William McKinley was born at Niles Ohio Jan 29, 1843 was enlisted in 23rd Ohio Volunteers June 11, 1861 as private; was mustered out July 26, 1865, as major by Brevet for gallantry under fire.”