First Ladies National Historic Site

“Being pretty, fashionable, and a leader of the younger set in Canton did not satisfy Ida Saxton, “

saxton-houseWednesday, July 13, 2016, Canton, Ohio

The Wife, knowing she and the Daughter would likely tire of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, looked in some AAA guidebook, and stumbled upon the First Ladies National Historic Site, also in Canton.

There is an Education & Research Center where the museum is housed. But we spent the bulk of our time at The Ida Saxton McKinley Historic Home, which is a “brick Victorian house, built in 1841 and modified in 1865.” It had fallen into private hands for a long while, as a retail store space, and as apartments.

But in the 1990s, the house was restored, furnished in the style of the late 1800s. “Costumed docents provide tours, and exhibits focus on President and Mrs. McKinley, photos of First Ladies, and Victorian decorations.” Here’s a description.

Ida Saxton McKinley was the elder daughter of a socially prominent and well-to-do family. Her father, James A. Saxton, was a banker, who had his two daughters educated them well in local schools before “sending off to Europe on the grand tour.

“Being pretty, fashionable, and a leader of the younger set in Canton did not satisfy Ida, so her broad-minded father suggested that she work in his bank.” She fell in love with “Maj. William McKinley, who had come to Canton in 1867 to establish a law practice.”

Her life turned difficult. She soon suffered from various ailments, including epilepsy and phlebitis. In a short span, her mother, and both her daughters died; one child died in infancy, the other of typhoid fever before she was four. And, of course, her husband was assassinated in 1901.

I admit that I’m very weak when it comes to remembering the 19th century First Ladies. There was Dolley Madison, who saved the Washington portrait, the troubled Mary Todd Lincoln, and “Lemonade” Lucy Hayes, who abhorred liquor.

Naturally, then, we bought a placemat, listing all the first ladies. Both John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson were widowed, then remarried, while President. James Buchanan never married, and his niece served the function of First Lady.

I can imagine going back to First Ladies National Historic Site and studying more history. Though on the National Parks Service list, this venue was not free with my Senior Pass, but we did get in at a reduced rate.

Canton is only about an hour from Cleveland, and the site was anticipating some delegates from the Republican National Convention, taking place a few days later.

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