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Circus Trip 2018: Mount Washington Tavern and Braddock’s Grave

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit has more than just French and Indian War history. It has the history of a period of colonial expansion and the growth of a young United States that spans over 100 years!

We talked in my last post about General Braddock, who was assigned command in the area after George Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity.  As he commanded troops to gain control over the French in the area, Braddock’s troops worked to extend and widen the road that George Washington had built in the area two years earlier.  Sadly, Braddock was killed in battle in July 1755 during the Battle of the Monongahela.  It was an absolute disaster for the British, with the French and their Native American allies firing on the British from nearly invisible positions in the woods.  900 of the 1400 British troops were killed or wounded (more than half of the 900 were killed).

Braddock was shot through the lung, perhaps by his own troops, and was carried back off the front line by his men.  He knew he was dying, and asked that George Washington oversee his burial; he died four days later on July 13, 1755.  Washington buried Braddock in the road that they had been building, as he feared that the French or Native Americans may steal or mutilate the body if they were to find it.  Almost 50 years later, in 1804, workers repairing the Braddock Road came upon the remains and reburied him a short distance away.  It is now marked by a monument that was erected in 1913, and there is an original section of the road there as well.  The original burial site of Braddock is marked too.

As the road was already established when Congress authorized the construction of the National Road beginning in 1806, it made sense that it would follow this route.  The Mount Washington Tavern was built here in 1830, as a stagecoach stop for travelers along the National Road.  In the evenings when the stage stopped for the night, men could get a drink in the bar room and women and children could relax in the parlor.  Bedrooms upstairs accommodated multiple travelers and were segregated by sex.  This tavern operated as a business until the railroad came through the area and rendered it obsolete.  It was purchased and maintained as a family home for the next 75 years, before being sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and then ultimately the National Park Service to be added to the Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit.

When I visited the tavern was open for self-guided tours, and I was surprised to find myself absolutely alone in the building.  I mean, the rooms were protected by plexiglass, but there was no ranger.

I wandered around a bit, and got the distinct feeling that this place was haunted!  I checked out all of the rooms, but did not linger!  I wonder what this old tavern has seen over the last 190 years!?  It was still so fascinating to see – we certainly take travel for granted these days!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Necessity NB

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The French and Indian War started way back in the winter of 1753 – 1754.  The British colonists had formed the Ohio Company, and had purchased land in the Ohio Country, on the far western wilderness of the colonies.  It’s hard to imagine George Washington as a young man, but he lived and served in the British military back before he became a Revolutionary.  That winter, Washington was sent as an emissary by the British to the southwestern Pennsylvania area (then part of the Virginia Territory) to order the French to withdraw.

Of course, the French had gotten there first, and considered the Ohio River a vital trade link between Canada (then called New France) and Louisiana.  They didn’t really want the British trying to lay claim to land they already thought was claimed…  The French, who had already built a fort there, predictably told Washington to go pound sand.  The British were not deterred, and the next task for the young George Washington, just 21 at the time,  was to build a road that would lead through the wilderness of the Virginia Territory into the Ohio Country, an area west of the land now known as part of Pennsylvania, which was destined to become the new frontier.

Washington was leading a force of colonists and British Army regulars back in the spring of 1754, and he was out there in the wilderness trying to construct the road, and ultimately secure a crossing over the Ohio River, in order to open up the Ohio Country for settlement.  Accounts vary, but the French were getting more and more aggressive, because they didn’t really like the fact that the tribes in the area were trading more and more with the British, as well as these interlopers disrupting their plans to control the Ohio River.  It wound up coming to a head in May 1754, with Washington and his troops, along with a small number of sympathetic Native Americans, ambushing a small group of Canadiens, and killing their commander, Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, in what became the Battle of Jumonville Glen.

The French then sent more troops to regain control of the area, while Washington built a fortification to protect his supplies.  Fort Necessity became the location for the Battle of Fort Necessity, where French troops under the command of Jumonville’s brother, attacked Washington’s troops at the fort.  It was raining, muddy, and Washington’s troops were far outnumbered by the French and their Native American allies.  After a rough day of battle against the 600 French troops and their Native American allies, Washington’s force of less than 300 surrendered, and signed a surrender document.  It was written in French, and unknown to Washington, indicated that he had “assassinated” Jumonville in May.  Once Washington found out that the translation he was given was not accurate, he denied that Jumonville’s death had been an assassination, but the French used this “admission” to malign the British and gain support for their cause.

The Battle of Fort Necessity is said to be Washington’s only defeat, and we all know that he went on to become the General who won the Revolutionary War.  As for the French and Indian War though, it went on for several more years.  The British assigned General Edward Braddock to lead troops in the ensuing attempt to oust the French, until Braddock was killed in battle two years later, in 1755.  He was buried under the partially constructed road, to prevent the enemy from finding and desecrating the grave.  He was found and moved to a grave near the road in 1804.  Eventually the French were defeated and western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country (along with other disputed lands north through the colonies), became part of the colony controlled by the British.

Today, Fort Necessity has been rebuilt, as it was originally burned down by the French after Washington’s surrender.  You can see that while a beautiful grassy meadow, it wasn’t easily defended with the woods and higher ground all around.  The fort was basically designed as a place to protect the supplies, rather than a fort that would accommodate all the men that were with Washington.  They had to settle for the meager protection of the entrenchments that were built around the fort. It was interesting to see.

I did get to watch a musket firing demonstration, which I really enjoyed!  I also heard a Ranger talk about the troops that fought there.  They were a combination of regular army, and ragtag colonists who were poor, not well equipped, and just trying to make a living.

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield also contains the Mount Washington Tavern and General Braddock’s Grave.  I’ll share my visits there next!

Circus Trip 2018: Friendship Hill NHS

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Point Marion, Pennsylvania

Who has heard of Albert Gallatin?  Anyone?  No?  Don’t worry, I hadn’t either…  Get ready for a history lesson!

Albert Gallatin was a Swiss man who immigrated to the United States in 1780; he started out in the U.S. as a surveyor.  He made his way to western Pennsylvania, which at the time was way out west on the frontier.  He purchased property and set about building his home in stages, with the first section being built in 1789.  He established himself as one of the richest men in the area; which apparently wasn’t difficult.  His neighbors were mostly poor farmers, who made whiskey with their surplus grain after the harvest; the whiskey became the local currency in what was essentially a cashless society.  Stick with me here, the whiskey piece is important…

Gallatin played an important role in the Whiskey Rebellion.  You see, after the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States was badly in debt as a result of the war.  The country needed money, and the best way to raise money?  A tax!  Never mind that we just spent years trying to win our independence, largely because of the taxes levied by the British.  Of course, the cashless western Pennsylvanians didn’t have cash to pay the tax, and whiskey was really their only marketable product, so they were a bit resentful of this new tax.  Resentful enough to tar and feather a tax collector or two.  They also resented that if they were accused of evading the tax, the nearest court that was approved to try them was in Philadelphia, over 300 miles away (I didn’t think Pennsylvania was that big of a state, but that’s a blog post for another time…).

Gallatin, being an educated and wealthy man, ended up getting unofficially appointed as the man who would negotiate on behalf of his neighbors; he always lobbied for the peaceful solution, but he wasn’t always successful.  Eventually, he succeeded in getting the Federal government to allow people accused of violations of the whiskey tax to be tried locally, which helped.  Gallatin continued to try to convince his neighbors to submit to the new tax, which became more of a pressing issue after President George Washington mustered up an army to go out to western Pennsylvania to quell the violence against the tax collectors.

Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, thought that Gallatin had been responsible for stirring up the locals and trying to evade the tax.  He tried to dig up evidence to charge Gallatin with treason, but everyone that he interviewed said that Gallatin had been urging his countrymen to pay the tax, and to abandon their violent tactics against the collectors.  Thankfully though, just as things might have erupted into a more widespread insurrection against the army, area men held a vote on whether to submit and pay the tax, and the measure was narrowly passed.  Gallatin, for his trouble, got elected to Congress!

He had clearly caught the eye of George Washington and others in the new United States government, and he served in the House of Representatives between 1795 and 1800.  On January 1, 1801, he was appointed by new President Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.  He served until 1814, under both Jefferson and President Madison, and had two notable accomplishments during his tenure.  One was determining how to finance and pay for the Louisiana Purchase, the huge swath of land that Jefferson bought in 1803, for a cost of 15 million dollars.  After the war, the nation’s debt was $80 million, but even with the additional $15 million, Gallatin was able to reduce the national debt to $45 million by the time he left the cabinet in 1814.

His other achievement was the National Road.  Gallatin was a big believer in improving roads and infrastructure in the young United States, and he delivered a report to Congress recommending that roads and canals be built to increase commerce and travel.  He was able to create a plan that allowed the road to be built without the nation going more deeply into debt.  The National Road, originally known as the National Pike, stretched all the way west to Vandalia, Illinois.  It is now U.S. Route 40, and traverses the entire country, east to west.

If you thought Albert Gallatin is making you feel like a slacker already, there’s more.  He financed the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He served on the Commission that ended the War of 1812.  He also served as a U.S. Ambassador to France, and after he left public life, he founded a wee little bank that is now well known… as JP Morgan Chase…

Visitors to Friendship Hill can tour the home where he lived with two wives; Gallatin and his first wife eloped against the wishes of her mother.  Sadly, they were only married for 5 months before she died of illness in October 1789; she is buried at Friendship Hill, and you can walk out to see Sophie’s gravesite.  Gallatin and his second wife had six children; three of whom died in infancy.  The home was added onto over the years, with additions in 1798, 1823, and 1824.  It is built in the Federal style, and it is quite impressive in its size.  Sections of the home are exposed stone, stuccoed, and timber frame, which gives it a rather eclectic look.  Gallatin sold the home in 1832.  The furniture is not original to the home or the Gallatin family, but gives a representation of what it would have looked like in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I enjoyed wandering around the home on the self-guided tour, and taking a walk of the grounds.  There are nine miles of trails on the site, and I saw a few people taking advantage of the park setting.  The home is high up on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River.  It is so peaceful and quiet out there!  I can’t even imagine how remote it would have been at the time…  Friendship Hill is certainly a less visited National Park site, with estimated annual visitation of a little over 25,000 people.  It was well worth the visit to learn about this now little known man in U.S. history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Pennsylvania Covered Bridges

Day 40, Friday, August 24, 2018

Somerset County, Pennsylvania

I love covered bridges – they are so beautiful!  So I was excited to learn that Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands area is home 10 of them.  After visiting Polymath Park, I went to visit a couple that were near my campground.

The Barronvale Bridge is the first; it is the longest bridge in Somerset County, spanning 162 feet, 3 inches over Laurel Hill Creek, and is 10 feet, 3 inches wide.  There is widely varying information out there on its construction date.  The sign on the bridge says 1830. Other sources say 1845 and 1846.  It was reconstructed in 1902 (however one source says 1907).  It is a double span Burr Truss bridge, which is apparently rare in the covered bridge world.  Near the bridge is this home, which I know nothing about, but it looks old so I liked it!

I also visited the King’s Bridge, another Burr Truss bridge, nearby.  The sign says it was built in 1802, and rebuilt in 1906 and 2008.  Of course, sources on the internet vary on these dates as well, arguing that a 1802 date would put it as the earliest known covered bridge in the area, and they believe it was built later.  After the road was bypassed in the 1930s, it was used as a livestock barn for a period of time before being restored.  No matter when it was built or rebuilt, it is still a beautiful bridge and worth a visit.

It was a nice drive through pretty country roads to find these beauties, and a nice way to wrap up a day of sightseeing.

Do you love seeing covered bridges?

Circus Trip 2018: Polymath Park

Day 40, Friday, August 24, 2018

Acme, Pennsylvania

When I toured Fallingwater, I had the option to add on a second tour of Frank Lloyd Wright homes nearby; Polymath Park.  I hadn’t heard of it, but why not?

Later in life, Wright was having a hard time making the rent, so to speak.  His homes had always been elaborate, time-consuming and costly, plus he was strict with his demands for how his clients could decorate their finished homes, so as a result he never really had all that many commissions.  He decided to design a series of “Usonian” homes; pre-fabricated kit built homes that could give people the prestige of owning a Frank Lloyd Wright home, without the cost of commissioning a project.  And Wright would get a much needed influx of cash.

It is also important to know that Frank Lloyd Wright took on architecture students, teaching them in his image, and ensuring that there were an increasing number of Frank Lloyd Wright “style” homes out in the world.  Polymath Park is the new name for what was originally a retreat for two wealthy Pittsburgh Jewish families, Balter and Baum.  Apprarently, even in the 1960s, the gentleman’s clubs and hunting and fishing camps of the area were not welcoming to Jews, so Balter and Baum decided to create their own.  They commissioned Peter Berndtsen, one of Wright’s more successful students, to build them each a home in the woods of the Laurel Highlands near Fallingwater.

In the early 2000s, the current owners purchased the Balter and Baum homes with the intention of saving them from redevelopment.  They decided they wanted to open them to the public.  This labor of love led to the purchase and move of two additional Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian homes.  One was moved from Illinois, and the other from Minnesota.  And then there were four.  The owners rent these homes out as overnight lodging, and run a restaurant out of their nearby home.  They also give tours, showing the homes, and giving a bit about the history of Frank Lloyd Wright, his students, and these unique pre-fab homes.

Each tour takes you to three of the homes; when I visited the fourth home had been purchased but not yet moved to the site.  You are treated to a blast from the past, with the characteristic Wright style design, but with more utility and cheaper materials.  It was interesting to be surrounded by so much mid-century modern!

Sadly though, as interesting as the history was, I wouldn’t recommend this tour. You only get to go inside one home, and it’s one that they rent out to overnight guests (apparently that’s part of the agreement to stay there – they do the tour right around you).  Awkward!  I felt that was a bit of a bait and switch, because they aren’t clear in their advertising that this is largely an exterior only tour.  You aren’t allowed to take photos inside the home you get to go inside either!  The other two homes were “exterior only” views – brief stops, without even a walk around the outside.  For me, it wasn’t worth it for the price of the tour.  There are enough Frank Lloyd Wright homes that I could look at the outside of for free.

You win some, you lose some!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.

 

Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.

 

The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Flight 93 National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stoystown, Pennsylvania

I was in graduate school when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  I was still asleep, as I didn’t have class until afternoon, and got a phone call letting me know I should turn on the TV.  Seeing that second plane crash on live TV was something I’m sure none of us who saw it will ever forget. Then seeing that another plane hit the Pentagon, and finally a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

 

Seeing the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania was a powerful and emotional experience.  The Visitor’s Center is perched on top of a hill overlooking the crash site; a new, modern building with exhibits that really hit home.  You know it is going to be emotional when you see that they have boxes of Kleenex parked all over the place – take some; you will need them.

You see, the thing about Flight 93 is that it was the last plane to crash that morning.  By then, the passengers and crew knew what had happened to those three other planes.  They knew they were going to die, so they made the heroic decision to fight against their hijackers.  By fighting back, they could at least prevent them from crashing that plane into another occupied building – it wasn’t until later that authorities learned that the likely target was the U.S. Capitol.

The Visitor’s Center has news footage playing of that morning.  You learn that the flights weren’t chosen at random. The hijackers chose long haul flights (more jet fuel to explode) with few passengers (fewer people to interfere with their plans).  The exhibits also include recordings of some of the last phone calls that the passengers made to their loved ones.  You can hear the fear, and the emotion of those goodbyes.  If you are anything like me, you will bawl your eyes out…

One of the exhibits is a note on Best Western Hotel stationary.  It reads, “I was in DC, across from the White House, on the top floor of the tallest building nearby.  The way I figure it, you all gave your life for me.  I won’t waste it.  I promise.  -CH”

You can drive or walk down to the site – I chose to drive since it was getting to be late in the afternoon, and there were only a couple other people there.  I walked out along the path, watching a large, sandstone boulder that has been placed at the impact site and the final resting place of the passengers and crew.  Rays of sun shone down on that stone that afternoon like a message from God.

There were 40 passengers and crew on board that day, along with the 4 hijackers.  The names of those 40 people who lost their lives that day are engraved on a white marble wall; the wall lines up with the final flight path of the plane.  It is a somber tribute to these souls; simple and beautiful.

It may be easier to not confront the pain that this place represents for so many people.  However, it is important to experience, and to never forget.

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Grandview Cemetery

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

I have long enjoyed a historic cemetery.  I get this from my mom, who enjoys taking me to find our departed ancestors and making me pose with the headstones…

This is Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where most of the victims of the Johnstown Flood are buried.  It is a beautiful cemetery, with so many interesting stones.  I wandered around searching for people who died in the flood, and found several.  There was also a beautiful memorial to veterans.  They were certainly fans of obelisks!

 

Do you enjoy historic cemeteries?

2018 Circus Trip: Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

The previous evening, I crossed into Pennsylvania (sorry I wasn’t able to get a pic with a sign!), and discovered that Pennsylvania really LOVES its toll roads.  In the span of about 30 miles, I racked up $17 in tolls!  Ugh!  I was excited to start exploring a new state though!

I first learned about the Johnstown Flood when I read a book about the event by David McCullough about a dozen years ago.  I have always thought that this tragedy could have been avoided, and find the story pretty interesting, so I wanted to see the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

In 1889, the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania was a thriving community built on the banks of the Conemaugh River, just past where the Stonycreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers joined together.  The Cambria Iron Works was a bustling iron and steel mill supporting a town of about 30,000 people.  Above the city was the South Fork Dam, an earthen dam originally built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania between 1838 and 1853 as a part of a cross-state canal system.  Once the railroads took over, Pennsylvania sold off the canal and dam to the railroad, who in turn, sold the dam and its lake to a private interest.

That private interest was the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a membership club for the wealthy elite of nearby Pittsburgh.  The hunt club was built near Johnstown, and members and their families could enjoy a country respite from the dirty, crowded city.  Unfortunately, over several years before the flood, a series of alterations were made to the dam which affected its structural integrity, regular maintenance was lacking, and leaks that sprang up were repaired haphazardly.

Which leads us to May 31, 1889.  During the three days leading up to this fateful Friday, there was rain.  In fact, so much rain that they estimated between 6 and 10 inches fell in the 24 hours before the dam breached.  Colonel Elias Unger, who managed the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, lived above the dam, and recognized that it was in bad shape that morning.  He called in engineers and laborers who tried desperately to clean out the spillway, which had been clogged by debris.  They also tried to dig a new spillway to release water, but stopped when they became convinced that it would just cause the entire dam to give way.  Unger also sent a man to the telegraph station to warn communities down below of the danger, but it is unclear whether the message was received in Johnstown.  Oops.

When the dam finally breached at about 2:50 pm, more than 3.8 billion gallons of water released in a torrent downstream.  It hit several communities along its path, which suffered more or less depending on whether they had enough advance notice to get to higher ground.  One community was wiped away completely; the land where the town had been located was scoured down to bedrock.  Johnstown, about 14 miles from the dam, was hit about an hour after the dam breached, and by that time the river was carrying a huge amount of deadly debris along with it, including trees, logs, houses, locomotives, barbed wire, animals, and human victims.

The horror was unimaginable and people died from drowning, being bludgeoned to death by debris, and even being burned, as a large pile of debris got trapped by a bridge over the river and caught on fire.  Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio, 357 miles away by today’s roads, and as late as 1911.  When it was over, 2209 people had died, including entire families; at the time it was the largest civilian loss of life in U.S. history.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial preserves the site of what remains of the dam and gives visitors a view of the narrow valley where the waters raged, and have continued to flood the towns below periodically (most recently in 1977).  The Visitor’s Center has exhibits on the flood, photos and artifacts that were collected from the flood waters, stories of the people who died and those who survived.  There is also a very powerful (and not suitable for young children) movie on the event; it evokes the fear that you would have felt as that wall of water crashed into town.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial was authorized by Congress on August 31, 1964 and annual visitation of the National Memorial is approximately 112,000.

It was very interesting to see the artifacts and the movie; they also have a list of nearby sites that also relate to the flood, including the Grandview Cemetery (where most of the victims are buried) and the historic structures of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.  I’ll blog about those next!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: McKinley Memorial

Day 37, Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Canton, Ohio

I heard somewhere that this is the largest Presidential tomb in the United States.  I tried to corroborate this with information online, but I came up empty, but having seen it, it seems plausible.  That said, I wasn’t really expecting that, since President William McKinley isn’t exactly the most famous or revered of our Presidents.

The memorial

McKinley lived in Canton, Ohio for the majority of his adult life. He served in the Civil War and participated in several battles an officer in a regiment of the Ohio volunteers; he was the last Civil War veteran president. After the war, he became a lawyer and had a robust civil and political career before being elected President in 1896.

On September 6, 1901, an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shot McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. He died eight days later after developing gangrene. His body was returned to Washington, D.C. to lie in state at the United States Capitol, and then he came home to be interred in Canton.

McKinley’s friends planned a memorial for McKinley and raised over $600,000 to build it in Canton’s Westlawn Cemetery.  Construction started in 1905 and was completed in 1907, the same year that Ida McKinley died.  McKinley, Ida, and their two daughters who died in early childhood were all interred in the memorial building.

And what a memorial it is!  It stands on a grass-covered hill overlooking the city of Canton, and is immense!  It was designed by architect H. Van Buren Magonigle (that’s a name you really have to grow into!) and is a huge domed pink granite building that is 96 feet tall and 79 feet in diameter. To get to the building, you must first climb up 108 stone steps that lead up to the mausoleum.  When I visited, there were quite a few joggers getting their workout in on these imposing steps.  There used to be a long reflecting pool in front of the memorial and steps, but it was replaced in  1951 by a depressed lawn.  About halfway up the steps is a bronze statue of President McKinley delivering his last speech in Buffalo, by artist Charles Henry Niehaus.

You can go inside the mausoleum and see the tomb where the McKinley family is interred, but it was already closed for the day when I visited.  It would have been neat to see!  Instead I took pictures outside, where my hair really shows how windy it was at the top of the hill that day!  The memorial is managed by the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum – one day I’ll visit there too!