Welcome to FILA: The Commitment to Preserving First Ladyship History

Hello everyone! I am Amelia Proweller, a community building intern at First Ladies National Historic Site (FILA) from Cleveland Ohio. I chose to intern at this site because I am interested in exploring underrepresented histories and contributing to amplifying their voice and importance in American social and cultural history. Additionally, I would like to learn more about women’s history, first ladyship, social style, and the socio-political issues they may have championed. Preferring tight-knit collaborative environments, FILA’s small and passionate team attracted me. I appreciate their emphasis on diversity, inclusion, interpretation, conservation, and preservation. I choose FILA, having a background in and passion for community engagement, to serve the greater Canton community, and educate diverse groups of individuals about the site and American history. This will be achieved by giving tours of the Saxton House, implementing interpretive programming, and participating in social outreach efforts. Not to mention, the Victorian exterior and interior of the historic buildings are aesthetically pleasing, warm, and beautiful. 

 

First Ladies National Historic Site (Visitor Center)

The Saxton-McKinley House

The Saxton-McKinley House

FILA encompasses the Saxton House (the Saxton-Mckinley House), the restored historic City National Bank, two parking lots, and the First Ladies’ Garden. The two structures lie down the street from each other, a couple of minutes’ walk between them. Since 2019, it has been operated by the National Park Service (NPS), with a cooperative agreement with the founding non-profit organization, the National First Ladies Library and Museum (NFLLM), which was originally named the National First Ladies Library (established in 1997). The site’s and nonprofit’s headquarters are housed in the historic bank, also known as the visitor center.

The Saxton House was the family home, where the former First Lady Ida Saxton-Mickenly grew up and forever called home. It was built by her grandfather in 1841. It consists of three floors, each with period pieces and artifacts. These include a Navajo carpet, her crocheted slippers, a music box, a piano, and portraits. Her father turned the third floor into a suite for her and her husband, former President William McKinley, upon their marriage so she could remain there. This site was termed the “Campaign home,” where supporters of the Republican’s presidential campaign would gather outside his home, rather than wait for his arrival in their cities. This home is considered a historic resource, operated by the NPS officials. There are daily guided tours of the home, operated by the NPS, at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm, running approximately 45 minutes each, with a capacity for 15 people per tour. They begin at the visitor’s center, then the guide walks them to the Saxton House.

The City National Bank was established in 1895 and remained active until it closed in 1923. It was abandoned until Marshall Belden Jr, the grandson of Mrs. Saxton-Mickenly’s sister rescued it. It was acquired by the National First Ladies Library, which conquered its restoration in 1999. Through the efforts of the founders including educator and Canton native Mary Regula, the historic building was restored to its original layout, maintaining the Victorian style of the period, where each of the seven floors, including the lower level, is dedicated to an Ohio First Lady, as there are seven of them. The first floor hosts the main gallery and front desk, and the library is on the second floor. The third and fourth floors house the offices of the NFLLM staff. The fifth and sixth floors are workplaces for FILA maintenance and interpretation, education, and visitor services. The lower level holds a theater and a small exhibit space. 

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in a pleasant environment, rich in historical significance made possible by the hard work and perseverance of Mary Regula and the National First Ladies Library, Mrs. Saxton’s grand nephew, and women in first ladyship that cultivated a more just, equal, and inclusive society. I can not wait to begin uncovering and interpreting their histories and sharing this knowledge with the greater Canton community, especially as it concerns historically underrepresented identities, including Latine individuals. 

A Selfie of Me

A Selfie Of Me

 

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