NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – One hundred years ago today, the first-ever presidential museum opened in Niles to commemorate the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley.
On Friday, October 5, 1917, 10,000 people crowded around the new McKinley Memorial downtown for the dedication of the ornate, multi-columned, two-winged structure honoring the Niles native.
“It was built because Joseph Butler, who was a lifelong friend of William McKinley’s, decided that he wanted something more than just a plaque on a building for the birthplace for the town of Niles,” said curator Trish Scarmuzzi.
Construction began in 1915 on Main Street behind what were houses at the time. By the time of the dedication, the houses were gone.
The keynote speaker at the dedication was then former President William Howard Taft. Also in attendance was Senator and future President Warren Harding.
Today, the McKinley Memorial still dominates downtown Niles. There’s a library on one side, a banquet room on the other, and also a museum.
“We actually have artifacts that are here from McKinley or from his family,” Scarmuzzi said.
The large statue of William McKinley is the focal point of the center courtyard — a presence in Niles for 100 years.