First Ladies National Historic Site | PARK AT A GLANCE

Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress on display at First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio

Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress on display at First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio

PARK OVERVIEW

First Ladies National Historic Site is a small park dedicated to the wives of the various presidents of the United States, aka First Ladies. Located in Canton, Ohio, it consists of the Education and Research Center, which serves as the park’s Visitor Center, and the Saxton House, the birth home of Ida Saxton, the 25th First Lady of the United States. Her husband, William McKinley, served as President of the United States from 1897 until he was assassinated on September 14, 1901, six months into his second term. William and Ida lived in the Saxton House full time from 1873 until he was elected to the United States’ congress in 1877. During his two terms as congressman (March 1877 to March 1891), the couple split their time between Canton and Washington. When McKinley became the Governor of Ohio in 1892, he and Ida moved to Columbus.

The Visitor Center at First Ladies National Historic Site is housed in the former City National Bank at 205 Market Avenue South in Canton. The building opened for business in 1895, and the bank operated until 1923. The building was purchased in the early 1980s by local businessman Marshall Beldon, who then donated it in 1999 to the nonprofit National First Ladies’ Library, Inc. (NFLL), the organization that helps manage the park with the National Park Service. The NFLL raised $7.5 million to renovate the building. The National Park Service acquired it in 2011 through donation by the NFLL.

The basement and first floor of the Visitor Center house rotating exhibits pertinent to First Ladies. Expect to see dresses and other items belonging to former First Ladies, as well as exhibits on various topics connected to the life and duties of a First Lady. There is also a theater where a four-part documentary on First Ladies plays on a loop. The NFLL’s research library is located on the second floor and is open by appointment only. (Note that the photo on this page of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress is part of the rotating exhibit and is no longer on display. Exhibits change on a yearly basis.)

A block away from the Visitor Center, at 331 Market Avenue South, is the Saxton House. It is open to the public via guided tours only. There is a fee, and tickets are sold on the first floor of the Visitor Center.

There is a fee-based parking garage right next to the bank building, but First Ladies National Historic Site actually has its own free parking lot located between the parking garage and the Saxton House. Anyone can get in, but to get the gate open when leaving, you must get the code from the Visitor Center. If this lot is full, there is a second free parking lot behind the Saxton House. Turn on 4th Street to access it.

OPERATING HOURS

The Visitor Center for First Ladies National Historic Site is typically open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 AM to 4 PM, starting the first of May and continuing through the end of October. From November through the end of April it is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only, same hours.

Times and days can always change, so be sure to get the current schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for First Ladies National Historic Site.

FEES

There is no fee to visit the Education and Research Center at First Ladies National Historic Site, but there is a fee for the Saxton House tour. Tickets are taken on a first come, first served basis. If you have a standard Annual National Park Pass, there is a discount. There is no charge for National Park Military and Access Pass holders. Get the current ticket prices on the National Park Service’s Fees and Passes web page for the park.

Group tours (8 or more people, including charter bus groups) of the museum exhibits and Saxton House are handled directly by the NFLL. Arrangements must be made at least three weeks in advance. See the NFLL’s Visit the National First Ladies Library and Museum web page for details.

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Visitor Center Museum
allow 30 to 60 minutes

Saxton House Tour
allow 1 hour

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Last updated on May 9, 2024
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