Amazingly, the beautifully restored building at 331 Market Ave. S once held the Bargain Center Grocery and a barbershop. It even had a faux storefront disguising the former first lady’s childhood residence.
Now home to the National First Ladies’ Library, it is once again fit for American political royalty.
According to Michelle Gullion, the archives director, the 8,300-square-foot house had deteriorated almost beyond repair when it was saved from the wrecking ball by downtown Canton conservationist Marsh Belden Jr. Gullion provided About with a tour of the home, allowing us a look beyond the ropes at the fine antiques and McKinley memorabilia inside the detailed restoration.
The entry hall features wallpaper recreated from a pattern popularized more than a century ago by the English designer William Morris, and a rug woven on the same looms that milled William Morris’ rugs 120 years ago.
Mary Rhodes, who provides tours at the house, said the hall’s ceiling includes a classical reference of acanthus leaves used to create an oval wreath surrounding the ceiling. It is made up of 14 pieced-together patterns of wallpaper with none overlapped, but put together like a jigsaw puzzle, she explained.
A black walnut spiral staircase leads to the second-floor bedrooms and third-floor ballroom of the house. To the right of the center hall is the formal parlor.
Gullion said no old pictures existed of this room, so Sheila Fisher, executive vice president of the library who led the restoration process, decorated the room as a Victorian-era parlor, used for entertaining.
The parlor showcases Ida McKinley’s piano, on long-term loan from the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, as well as her music box. Her portrait, in an ornate antique frame, hangs above a marble fireplace, one of 10 fireplaces in the home.
To the left of the hall is the family living room and library. A portrait of Ida and her younger siblings, Mary and George, hangs in this room, which was re-created with great detail from an old photo.
An interesting feature in this room is an unusual chandelier with fringe hanging from it. According to Rhodes, Fisher found it in a Florida lighting shop and it was determined that it had come from Cleveland.
“It had no fringe, but (it had) the holes where the fringe would be and metal rolls on the top. Since there was no specific provenance we cannot say that it was definitely used by the Barbers or McKinleys, though it very well could have been. It does match the picture of the family parlor chandelier,” Rhodes said.
This sitting area is separated from the formal dining room, breakfast room and kitchen by a library with original bookcases and chairs from the Saxton home.
The dining room features ornate wallpaper that was re-created by a French company that made the same wallpaper pattern for Ida McKinley when she lived in the White House.
The McKinleys’ silverware, engraved with McK, is part of the table settings, along with Theodore Haviland China.
On the second floor, another ornate, wide hallway divides the house, while a second, very narrow hall connects the bedrooms on the left side of the home. A wall separates it from the main hallway.
Rhodes said there probably were five bedrooms, a sewing room and a maid’s room when the McKinleys lived there. Ida Saxton McKinley’s sitting room and adjacent bedroom in this part of the home is where, Gullion said, McKinley spent much of her time.
A photo of McKinley’s daughter, who died at age 3, hangs above the fireplace.
The third floor features the renovated ballroom and William McKinley’s study, where he worked when the couple was in Canton. The wallpaper was custom-made to replicate wallpaper shown in an early photograph of the room.
Gullion said the Saxton House is the only residence with direct historical ties to President William McKinley remaining in Canton. He lived there between 1878 and 1891 when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
331 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH44702
Guided tours available Tuesday through Saturday year-round and Sundays during the summer months.