Location: Buffalo, New York
Webpage: National Park
General Description: First constructed in 1839 the Wilcox house was the Buffalo Barracks officer’s quarters. When the post was disbanded in 1845 the house reverted to a private home. Over the years, the owners modified and added to the house until it was given in the late 19th century to Ansley Wilcox from his father-in-law Dexter Ramsey, who also made extensive renovations. On September 5, 1901, President William McKinley gave a short address at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York after just being re-elected to the Presidency. On September 6, he was shaking hands with the public in the Temple of Music when Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot the President twice. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rushed to Buffalo and was told that President McKinley would recover. While in Buffalo he stayed with a friend, Ansley Wilcox, a short distance from the Milburn House that McKinley was recovering at. Since the prognosis was good, Roosevelt continued on his family camping trip in the Adirondacks. However, the President’s wounds turned gangrenous and he quickly on the morning of September 14. The Vice President was quickly located and sent by a special train back to Buffalo. Although reluctant to take the Oath of Office so soon after President McKinley’s death, he knew the country needed a President, so the library in the Wilcox house was used for the brief ceremony instead of the Milburn house. Thus the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt began his term of office in Buffalo instead of Washington D.C. The Wilcox’s continued to live in the house until their deaths in the 1930s when the furnishings were sold at public auction and the house became the Kathryn Lawrence Restaurant. They made a few changes in the house for the restaurant including removing some interior walls and painting all the wood surfaces. The National Park Service obtained the property in 1966 and began restoring the house, as much as possible, back to its condition in 1901.
1) The National Historic site consists of just the Wilcox house which has been restored to its condition in 1901, along with an adjoining Visitor Center on the property.
2) The Visitor Center contains an exhibit about the Pan-American Exposition which includes some of the innovations and inventions highlighted at the exposition. Included are some of the early movies of the time.
3) To see the house itself you have to pay admission for the tours that run every half hour. The tour begins in the dining room which is set up for a typical meal of the era. The main part of the house has been converted into a small theater where they show an excellent multi-visual show about the Exposition, McKinley’s assassination, and Roosevelt’s legacy highlighting the important issues and accomplishments of the time.
4) From photographs taken during the Inauguration, they have completely restored to the library where the ceremony took place.
5) The second floor bedrooms are self-guided and highlight the accomplishments of President Theodore Roosevelt, which includes a very interesting comparison of social issues, such as civil and women rights, from 1901 and today. The highlight is the room set up as President Roosevelt’s Oval Office which includes a camera that can take your picture sitting at the President’s desk and inserting it into the front page of a newspaper along with a headline of your choosing. The completed image is sent to you as an email.