Never in American history has a home been so closely connected to the success of a presidential campaign.
Although many can easily recall Washington’s Mount Vernon or Jefferson’s Monticello, few presidential homes are recognizable by their own right. Even if an American history textbook does not include a photo of William McKinley’s house, it is at least mentioned as the site of the famous “Front Porch Campaign.”
The Front Porch Campaign
The home at 723 North Market Avenue in Canton, Ohio, where the Stark County District Library now stands, did indeed play a significant role in the President’s life. He ran for the highest office in the land, with his wife by his side, campaigning from the home’s front porch.
Every single photo taken during the campaign features the house as a background. The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum’s collection contains dozens of images of groups from all over the country, who came to hear their candidate speak.
Canton bustled with activity leading up to the election as thousands of visitors poured in from every corner of the country.
McKinley Buys the Home
During the Front Porch Campaign, McKinley only rented the home. After the 1896 election, he continued to rent it, using it as a respite from the stress of life in the White House. He finally purchased it for $14,500 in 1899. For the first time, he and Ida had a home of their own.
In 1901, the McKinleys completely remodeled the home. Architects, designers, and gardeners poured over details of the renovation. McKinley’s personal secretary George Cortelyou handled many of the details, writing to local firms on carefully typed stationary from the Executive Mansion. The President was involved in every decision, big or small.
As plans developed, McKinley shared his excitement with Cortelyou. “Now I shall have a home, what I have wanted for so long; a home I can go to. If I have a place like that I can get away any time, and could take you with all the help we need…we could transact all the executive business there.”
After the President’s shocking and tragic death at the hands of an assassin in September 1901, Mrs. McKinley continued to live in the home on North Market. In her final years, she rarely left home, except to visit her husband’s temporary resting place at the Werts Receiving Vault at West Lawn Cemetery. On her almost daily journey there, she would have seen the progress on McKinley’s magnificent mausoleum as it was constructed.
After Ida’s death in May 1907, Rosa Klorer purchased the home and gave it to the Sisters of Charity, who turned it into an 18 bed hospital for the poor. Within a few years, Mercy Hospital outgrew the spacious Victorian residence and a modern four story building was added to the back of the home.
The McKinley Home is Torn Down
As the hospital continued to grow, another expansion was planned. In the late 1920s, a group of concerned citizens detached the home from the hospital and moved it to Meyers Park, with plans to fully restore the home. But after the stock market crash, funds were not available for the project and the home fell into disrepair.
After futile attempts to raise funds to save it, the McKinley Home was razed over the winter of 1934-35. The public was not given the opportunity to purchase pieces of the home. A letter from the Canton Park Commission dated April 16, 1935 reads, “We are using this material in various FERA projects, building shelters, tables, etc. in the various parks of the City of Canton.”
“Thus a presidential home,” said Stark County Historian E.T. Heald, “which should have become a national shrine, passed into oblivion, an irreplaceable loss to Canton.”