A Hidden Treasure
The National First Ladies Library is a great place to visit if you’re going to be near Canton, OH. I’ve lived in the area for almost 20 years now, but I’ve never been until a couple weeks ago. After getting to experience all that the museum has to offer and having such a great time, I feel cheated; I didn’t even know the museum existed until a couple months ago!
The National First Ladies Library offers a guided tour that is not just informative, but interesting as well. The guide even dresses up as Ida McKinley, which adds to the fun! My personal favorite part of the experience was being able to see the architecture of the buildings included in the tour; the buildings are beautiful and getting to see them is an experience all on its own! Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed during the first part of the tour. But the association was nice enough to send me photos from their own collection!
One of a Kind Experience
The National First Ladies Library is the only museum where information on all of the First Ladies, from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, can be found. Everything from letters to clothing to personal items can be found at this museum. Before this museum existed, there was very little information available on the First Ladies.
The tour of the National First Ladies Library starts off in the Education and Research Center, which is located inside of a renovated bank. The architecture of the building is mostly original, and the beautiful cabinets that showcase the collection were created especially for the Library by a local craftsman. Like I said earlier, the architecture alone is a sight to behold!
The Ed Center consists of the exhibit space, a Victorian theatre, and a small library room that holds a collection of rare books. For book lovers like me, the library room is a sight to behold! I was very disappointed that the library was “look, don’t touch.”
When my family and I visited the National First Ladies Library, the museum was promoting their Mom-In-Chief exhibit. This exhibit “focuses on the everyday, private and special events between a mother and her children and how they become front page news while she fulfills her role as First Lady” (from the Mom-In-Chief informational brochure). Visitors have a chance to see how First Ladies experienced the joy of childbirth, the bittersweet moments of weddings, and the sorrow of illness and death of a child while living in the White House.
Once the first part of the tour is complete, visitors are taken over to the Saxton McKinley House. According to the National First Ladies Library’s website, this house is the only Canton residence with direct ties to William McKinley. The house was the family home of Ida McKinley, William McKinley’s wife. As with everything in the museum, the house has a bit of a history: before it was donated as a museum, the house went from family home to anything and everything and was even set to be demolished. Getting to hear about all of the history behind the house makes for an entertaining tour, so I won’t spoil it all for you.
When touring the Saxton House, visitors get to see what the house might have looked like when Ida McKinley would have been staying there. Because the house had been used for just about everything and everything after it was a family home, most of it had to be renovated and restored. The house hosts a collection of furniture and personal items of Ida McKinley.
The third floor of the house hosts a restored ballroom. It’s in the ballroom where images and information on each of the First Ladies is kept. There is a “shrine” to each of the First Ladies, from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama.
Some items that belonged to these First Ladies can also be found in this room, along with more of the McKinley China.
I probably sound like a broken record, but I loved getting to see all of the architecture and hearing the history behind it. I also liked the room that hosted information on all of the First Ladies – it was very informational. Most of the stuff was “look, don’t touch,” as is usual for museums; I believe that the museum is best fitted for groups of mature individuals who like learning. I would not recommend bringing young children.
If you homeschool your kids and are looking for an educational fieldtrip, I would think that the museum would be a good fit for ages ten and up. However, even my sixteen year old brother seemed less than excited about the tour. The good news is that for everyone under 18, tickets only cost $5!
Visiting the National First Ladies Library
Saxton-McKinley House331 S. Market Ave Canton, OH 44702
Education and Research Center205 S. Market Ave Canton, OH 44702
Adult tickets cost $7, children under 18 cost $5, and seniors cost $6. If you happen to have a National Park Pass, admission to the Education and Research Center is free, while tours of the Saxton House are $4.
The National First Ladies Library is closed on Mondays, open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m. It is open Sundays in June, July & August at 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended for all groups, but only required for groups of 6 or more. You can visit their webpage here for more information.