The Story of Lot #20, President William McKinley's Birthplace

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1834 Platting of lots in Nilestown, later Niles, Ohio.

1834 Platting of lots in Nilestown, later Niles, Ohio. PO1.652

The Story of Lot #20, President Wm. McKinley's Birthplace

Lot #20 has had a long and interesting history. It was platted by James Heaton in 1834 and was 66 x 181.5 ft. At some point in the next eleven years a two-story colonial style structure with lap siding was built on the property, and it was this six-room double house that William McKinley Sr. and Nancy Allison McKinley rented as a home for their growing family. William Jr. and a younger sister, Abigail, were born in the upstairs corner bedroom.

The family moved out of this house and went to Poland, Ohio when William was nine years old in search of higher education. William saw his birthplace only once more when he was the governor of Ohio. He and his mother stopped in Niles and made a short visit to the house. He subsequently spoke to the large crowd that had gathered in front of the building from the small second-story porch.

The house existed on that site until a few years before McKinley’s assassination in 1901. Lot 20 had been divided into Lot 20A and Lot 20 B&C and had gone through several owners. In one photo of the house from 1896, a grocery store occupies part of the building. There were other reliable reports that an ice cream parlor had also rented space on the site. Niles was growing, however and Lot 20 was too valuable an asset to allow an older, smaller residence to take up the space that could be better occupied by a more modern building.


J.S. Benedict General Store

J.S. Benedict General Store
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Sometime before 1875 the house was enlarged and converted into a store owned by J. S. Benedict. In 1890 the land upon which McKinley’s house stood on Main Street, was needed as a site for the City National Bank (later McKinley bank).

It was not known who undertook and financed the project, but McKinley’s house was cut in two and the part in which McKinley had been born was moved to Riverside Park along the Meander Creek, sometime after the park began operating, possibly as a museum attraction. The second half of the house was moved to Franklin Alley and used as a shop where the Harris rotary offset presses were made.


City National Bank building, 1894

City National Bank building, 1894
Photo: Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry

J.S. Benedict General Store

J.S. Benedict General Store
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Close-up view of J.S. Benedict store

Close-up view of J.S. Benedict store
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View of west side of South Main Street

View of west side of South Main Street
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Dollar Bank Building, 1895

Dollar Bank Building, 1895
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The half-house in the picture was the boyhood home of William McKinley; later it served as the Harris Company's first plant.

The half-house in the picture was the boyhood home of William McKinley; later it served as the Harris Company's first plant. PO1.550

Riverside Park, was a pleasure resort located at the intersection of Route 46 and Salt Springs Road

Riverside Park, was a pleasure resort located at the intersection of Route 46 and Salt Springs Road south of town along Meander Creek where it joined the other attractions such as a dance hall and boating area. PO1.1061

Wm. McKinley's birthplace half-house at Riverside Park, 1895

Wm. McKinley's birthplace half-house at Riverside Park, 1895.PO1.708


 

show the condition of McKinley's home when Riverside Park closed in 1901

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The second image shows both parts of McKinley's Home being put back to their original condition as a museum.

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The first image to the left show the condition of McKinley's home when Riverside Park closed in 1901 and this half of the McKinley house became a neglected ruin. With the demise of the amusement park, the McKinley house was occupied by tenants until 1908.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second image shows both parts of McKinley's Home being put back to their original condition as a museum. In 1909, Mrs. Joseph Weiss, nee Lulu Mackey, an attorney, purchased it and had it moved to her 200 acre estate at Tibbets Corners. Here are the two halves of William McKinley's birthplace joined together; the half that had been moved from Franklin Alley is on the left, the other half , which had been moved from Riverside Park, is on the right. The house was then completely restored to its original appearance, both inside and out, and the site was renamed McKinley Heights.

 


The museum house was burned after midnight April 3, 1937.

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For years the house attracted many visitors. There was an admission charge. After the McKinley Memorial was built in downtown Niles in 1915, the home's popularity waned. Mrs. Mackey maintained the McKinley Museum until her death in 1934. The museum house was burned after midnight April 3, 1937. Prowlers were blamed for the fire.

Because of her admiration for McKinley, Miss Mackey had been collecting McKinley relics and souvenirs for years. Pictured below are some of the items on display. Included are photos of McKinley and his family, a cameo medallion of McKinley carved in wood, and the rocking chair favored by McKinley when he conducted the famous "front porch" campaign at his home in Canton, Ohio.


Restored McKinley Museum

Restored McKinley Museum
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Collection of McKinley relics and souvenirs
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Postcard of Museum of Wm. McKinley

Postcard of Museum of Wm. McKinley
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Moving McKinley Homestead March 8, 1909

Moving McKinley Homestead March 8, 1909
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Collection of McKinley relics and souvenirs

Collection of McKinley relics and souvenirs
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During the late 1890's, after McKinley had been elected President, an effort was made to preserve his birthplace.

During the late 1890's, after McKinley had been elected President, an effort was made to preserve his birthplace. PO1.709

All that remained of the McKinley Birthplace in McKinley Heights after the fire on April 3, 1937.

All that remained of the McKinley Birthplace in McKinley Heights after the fire on April 3, 1937. PO1.712


West side of South Main Street, 1894

West side of South Main Street, 1894
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In the meantime, the northern half of Lot 20 became a bank building occupied first by the City National Bank and then by the Dollar Savings Bank until it moved to its present location, at the intersection of South Main Street and East Park Avenue, in 1917 . After that, it became the home of the McKinley Federal Savings Bank and a small plaque commemorating the site of McKinley’s birth was added to the building.

Photograph on the left shows the west side of South Main Street as it appeared at the turn of the century in 1894. Left to right: Benedict building, old City National Bank building, Clingan building, Deither-Carter building, Holton building, Harris house, later the site of the Niles Bank building. (Across Park Avenue) the Swaney building, IOOF building and the Wagstaff building.

Interior view of McKinley Federal Savings Bank, 1935 before renovations.

Interior view of McKinley Federal Savings Bank, 1935 before renovations.
Photo: Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry

Renovated bank early 1950's

Renovated bank early 1950's
Photo: Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry

Bank with demolition for drive-thru, early 60's

Bank with demolition for drive-thru, early 60's
Photo: Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry


Bank with demolition for drive-thru, early 60's

Bank with demolition for drive-thru, early 60's
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Bank with drive-thru completed in 1962.

Bank with drive-thru completed in 1962.
Photo: Youngstown Museum of Labor and Industry

Demolition of bank completed.

Demolition of bank completed.


The McKinley Birthplace Home

The McKinley Birthplace Home
and Research Center

In the 1990s, the McKinley Memorial Library Board of Trustees worked to obtain the land where the original house was located and constructed the McKinley Birthplace Home and Research Center. The McKinley Birthplace Home and Research Center is a reconstruction of the home where President William McKinley, the last President to have served in the Civil War, was born on January 29th, 1843.

The Center is located at 40 South Main Street, Niles, OH 44446.
To contact the Center:

330.652.1774 or http://www.mckinley.lib.oh.us/

 

The McKinley Birthplace Home and Research Center is now open to visitors. Please check Website for information.


 
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