the William McKinley Statue Came to Niles McKinley High School.
The following article was written
by Grace Allison in "Dusting of Cobwebs" book.
On the front lawn of Niles McKinley
High School, a statue of our 25th President William McKinley
reminds our young people of the moral and political character he
possessed through out his lifetime. But few people know how this
bronze statue became a Niles landmark.
In 1902, a sculptor in Berlin, Germany,
announced in a newspaper article that James C. Duke, a
millionaire in the tobacco industry, had commissioned him to sculpt
a bronze monument of William McKinley to be placed in Niles. At
that time, Mayor Boynton advised Niles he knew nothing
about the matter other than what he had read in the newspaper. Boynton
was inclined to discredit the story. Apparently it was a false rumor
for the statue didn't arrive in Niles until 58 years later.
The front entrance limestone lintel
that spanned to original Niles High School , built in 1914 on Church
Street, was placed in front of the William McKinley Statue after
The old Niles McKinley School was
demolished in 2003 and retirement apartments, Edison Place, are
now located on that site. In 1957 the Niles McKinley High School
was dedicated and the old Niles High School was renamed as Edison
Junior High School.
Duke, a close friend of William McKinley, had the statue cast in
Florence, Italy, in 1904 and it stood on the grounds of the Duke
Estate in Hillsborough, N.J., until after his death.
When James Duke's estate was settled,
heiress and daughter Doris Duke donated the statue to the
city of Niles and even agreed to pay for the dismantling, shipping
and reassembling of the statue. The only financial responsibility
Niles would have would be the cost of transporting it from the railroad
station to an erection site.
When the seven-foot tall statue and
its 16-foot high marble and granite base arrived at the Pennsylvania
Railroad Station, the city officials were bewildered as to what
could and should be done. Hence, the statue laid in the railroad
yard for two years before the matter was resolved.
September 1962, an editorial appeared in the Niles Daily Times calling
the public's attention to the situation regarding the McKinley statue
that had been left to deteriorate in the railroad yard. The editorial
appealed to Niles residents for support and contributions to enable
the placing of the statue in a more dignified environment. The editorial
also asked for volunteers: A trucker to haul the statue; a contractor
with a crane to load and unload the statue; an engineer to calculate
the amount and type of materials, needed for the project; a cement
contractor to donate the cement for the foundation; and men to build
the forms and pour the cement.
The following day the newspaper carried
an article entitled, "Is Civic Pride Worth a Dollar?"
To set this suggestion in motion, each of the 12 members of the
Daily Times news staff contributed a dollar. On Friday, September
28, a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the high school. That
same day, former Mayor Thomas R. Smith donated $50.00 to
the project with the comment, "If every family in Niles would
contribute one dollar, the goal could be met easily."
Governor DeSalle, who was
in Niles for a speaking engagement, also donated, to the statue
fund. Schools Superintendent Marcus McEvoy was very enthusiastic
about placing the McKinley statue on the front lawn of the high
school and he assisted Mayor Smith in the fund raising efforts.
The construction and industrial companies
who volunteered equipment, materials and other services for the
erection-of the 20-ton statue included Holly Construction Company,
DeMatthews and Sons Construction Company, Valley
Steel Erectors, Niles Fuel & Supply, Swab
Block & Stone Company and Republic Steel Corp.
Thurman Wilson of Holly Construction,
Ben DeMatthews of DeMatthews & Sons, and Frank
Comparato of Valley Steel Erectors supervised the setting of
At that time, it was estimated it
would take three weeks to complete this project. But thanks to the
strong cooperation of the Niles industries, the project was completed
sooner. On Wednesday, October 3, the world was applauding the multiple-orbit
flight of Wally Schirra. But here in Niles, people were concentrating
on the dedication of the statue of William McKinley.
The plaque on the base of the statue
reads, "Donated to the people of Niles by Doris Duke during
the term of Mayor Thomas R. Smith, 1960-1962." Interestingly,
although residents of the city, the Niles Fire Department and Governor
DeSalle rallied to the cause, the actual dedication ceremony was
not covered by the newspaper until October 18, 1962.