It turns out that the statue on the steps of the McKinley National Memorial is standing because he would feel too guilty to sit down. “Wouldn’t you, if you saw all these exercisers walking up and down the steps? I’d feel like a slacker …” he seemed to say on a sunny day recently when he welcomed a stream of fitness buffs.
“Hi.” “Hello there.” “How are you today?” “Thanks for stopping by.” “Looking good.” “Step it up.” “Keep hydrated.”
This bronze McKinley may not speak to everyone who runs up and down the 108 steps leading to the monument that is named for him, but surely some who slow their pace when they get to his pedestal—perhaps to take advantage of the shade in the heat of the summer—hear murmuring from the unmoving figure above.
“Go inside. It’s cooler …”
The fact that the statue’s creator, Ohio native Charles Henry Niehaus, stuck a chair behind him, with a topcoat draped over its back, probably doesn’t help the attitude of a solemn figure that has been standing in front of the furniture since 1907.
“Maybe I could sit and just watch everybody work out if I were wearing a coach’s hat, were holding a stopwatch and had a whistle hanging from my neck …”
McKinley’s metal likeness endures the constant daytime presence of joggers and walkers who ascend and descend the steps. He watches them run or walk on the sidewalk surrounding what used to be the monument’s longwater. Then he sees them sit down in their cars and ride away.
He still stands. This would make McKinley’s statue whine a little.
“My back is killing me from all this standing. After more than a century, things stiffen up.”
Perhaps. But, if McKinley’s statue were honest with us, he would come clean about what happens after dusk, when the gate to the monument’s access road closes and the fitness buffs are home in bed.
“When it’s dark and people can’t see me, I’m in the chair. Sometimes on cold nights I even put on the coat. …”