First Ladies National Historic Site | VISITOR CENTER

Visitor Center for First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio

Visitor Center for First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio

LOCATION

The Visitor Center for First Ladies National Historic Site is located at 205 Market Avenue South in Canton, Ohio. It is housed in the former City National Bank building. The National Park Service owns the entire building, but the visitor amenities are on the basement and first floors. The second floor is where the First Ladies research library is located (open by appointment only). The rest of the building is used for offices.

The City National Bank buiding 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.

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 the park.

Interior of the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Interior of the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

AMENITIES

  • Information desk where you can ask questions and pick up a park brochure
  • Purchase tickets for a tour of the Saxton House
  • Museum
  • 4-part documentary shown in the theater on the bottom floor
  • Book and souvenir store
  • Restrooms

Group tours (8 or more people, including charter bus groups) of the museum exhibits and Saxton House are handled directly by the National First Ladies’ Library. 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.

Information desk at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Information desk at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

PARK FILM

Apparently there was an actual theater on the bottom floor of the City National Bank building, and today this is used to show the four-part documentary series, First Ladies Revealed. Each part is 50 minutes long, which goes way beyond the amount of time a typical tourist at a National Park wants to spend watching a movie. I watched a few minutes while waiting for my tour of the Saxton House to begin. For those who would like to watch the show but don’t want to sit for four hours in the basement of the City National Bank doing so, the series is available on a number of streaming services, including YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Smithsonian. Fees may apply, depending on the streaming service you choose.

Theater inside the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Theater inside the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

FIRST LADIES MUSEUM

Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress on display at First Ladies National Historic Site

Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress on display at First Ladies National Historic Site

The first and bottom floors of the Visitor Center are used for the First Ladies National Historic Site’s museum exhibits. These change every year, so photos shown on this page are just examples of what you might see. I can’t image there not being some dresses on display regardless of the exhibit theme, because that’s what women want to see, and I can tell you that it is women who come to this park. I was the only man in the place when I visited. (I do have to admit that the dresses were my favorites too.)

Dresses of First Ladies (L-R) Lucretia Garfield, Frances Cleveland, and Mary Lincoln on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Dresses of First Ladies (L-R) Lucretia Garfield, Frances Cleveland, and Mary Lincoln on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Dresses of Jackie Kennedy on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Dresses of Jackie Kennedy on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Some of the topics are directly related to First Ladies and some are only subtlety linked to First Ladies. For example, when I visited there was an exhibit on clothing designer Frankie Welch, who in addition to designing dresses made scarves for Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter. There was also an exhibit on White House invitations.

Frankie Welch exhibit at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Frankie Welch exhibit at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Fan belonging to Helen Taft on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

Fan belonging to Helen Taft on display at the First Ladies National Historic Site Visitor Center

NATIONAL FIRST LADIES LIBRARY

The only library dedicated to books and articles by and about First Ladies is located on the second floor of the building. This is a research library that is open by appointment only. Call (440) 317-3750 for more information.

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Not counting watching the park film, thirty minutes to an hour should be enough time for most people to browse through the current exhibits at First Ladies National Historic Site.

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Last updated on May 8, 2024
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