Buffalo can boast of a connection to the United States presidency in a way few cities can. The city sent two native sons to the White House, looked on in horror at an assassination and witnessed the extraordinary swearing in of the man who would become one of the greatest presidents. Here’s a brief tour of Presidential Buffalo.
Start at the new Buffalo Presidential History Center at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo. The Center’s sizable collection of political artifacts explore Buffalo’s numerous connections to the highest office in the land and set the stage for a day of exploring Presidential history. It is now open to the public during regular operating hours of the library.
Head to North Buffalo and Fordham Drive near the corner of the appropriately named Lincoln Parkway. Here, you’ll find a non-descript stone memorial in the median of the street that marks the spot where President William McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, while visiting the Pan-American Exposition. It’s surprisingly humble, but the area is well cared for by the street’s homeowners.
A few blocks away on Forest Avenue, the Resource Center of the Buffalo History Museum displays the .32 caliber revolver that anarchist Leon Czolgosz used to shoot McKinley as part of its “Spirit of the City” exhibit about the Pan-American Exposition.
You’ll also find a statue of Abraham Lincoln on the rear portico of the Buffalo History Museum on Nottingham Terrace and another of Honest Abe at the entrance to the Delaware Park Rose Garden on Lincoln Parkway.
At nearby Forest Lawn Cemetery, you can visit the grave of Millard Fillmore, a native son of Buffalo and the 13th President of the United States.
You can also see portraits of each of the presidents and first ladies at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum at Elmwood and North Streets in the city’s Allentown neighborhood.
In the heart of downtown Buffalo, you’ll find an appropriately grand tribute to President McKinley in Niagara Square. This 96-foot tall obelisk was dedicated in 1907 to the memory of the slain president and the square surrounding it has served as Buffalo’s principal public gathering place ever since.
On either side of Buffalo City Hall, there are two bronze statues in the likenesses of Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, the one-time mayor of Buffalo and the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as president.
The main event in Buffalo’s connection to the presidency is the former Wilcox Mansion where Teddy Roosevelt took the oath of office on Sept. 14, 1901 – one of the few times in American history the oath was administered outside the capital. The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site honors that day with a series of interpretive exhibits and interactive experiences. Stand where Teddy stood while he swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
Finally, the home of Millard Fillmore is a National Historic Landmark in nearby East Aurora, a short 20-minute drive from downtown Buffalo. Fillmore built the house for his family in 1826 and it served as their residence before they moved to Buffalo in 1830. It is open to the public from June through September.
– Ed Healy