The second day of our weekend road trip to Canton, Ohio contained planes, Presidents, and First Ladies.
That’s because in addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton and the surrounding towns are home to the MAPS Air Museum, the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, and the First Ladies National Historic Site. (The last one was directly across from the Doubletree in downtown Canton.)
This made for an ideal remainder of the trip, especially since admission was free at the first two museums because of the Canton pass I purchased at the Visitor’s Bureau.
McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton
Given that William McKinley is one of the lesser-known Presidents of the United States, my expectations for this site were low but this excellent museum more than exceeded them. It is literally only minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The museum contained displays of the history of Canton itself, answering many of my questions that arose when I was walking around downtown Canton and wondering what the once-thriving industrial town had been like before times changed. But the crown jewel of the museum is the Street of Shops, a full-size interior replica of an American Main Street at the turn of the previous century.
Plus, there was animatronics! In the full-size recreation of the McKinley living room, McKinley and his wife, Ida Saxton McKinley, welcomed visitors personally. (My son thought the animatronics were a bit creepy but I thought they were a delightful surprise.)
Outside the Museum are the grand steps up to the tomb of the assassinated President, a tomb that predates the museum. While we watched, young kids were actually sliding down the sides of the thing. That’s something I’d have done as a kid. That’s something as a mother that I’d forbid my kids to do.
We considered climbing the steps but bailed as it had already been a long day and we needed sustenance. Also, if you truly want to visit the tomb but not climb the steps, there is a car route around to the back that takes about five minutes to drive.
The First Ladies National Historic Site
Why is there a First Ladies Museum in Canton, Ohio, you ask? Because it was the hometown of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley. It’s located in two buildings: the Education Center (where entry is free) and the Saxton home, a beautiful Victorian-era home that stands alone of its’ type in downtown Canton. Guided tours at the house are paid admission.
We were a bit exhausted that day from our tours and thus only visited the Education Center. However, that was enough to impress me. The center is in an older building and downstairs is a small theater that runs a program about the First Ladies on a loop.
The most eye-opening item for me was Jackie Kennedy’s inaugural dress. Alas, we missed by one week a new exhibit featuring more of Mrs. Kennedy’s dresses, including her wedding dress. If you have time and are in the area, I highly recommend a visit.
The MAPS Air Museum: Where History Takes Flight
We spent over two hours wandering about this combination airport hanger/open-air museum run by volunteers and full of not only historic planes but also interior exhibits detailing the history of local residents as related to flight, especially those that served their country. I loved the local history, especially the full display of the veterans who served, which included women and the Tuskegee Airman.
Touring this museum drives home how much flight changed in such a short period of time. The museum’s prize piece is the Martin Glider, one of the first planes. It did not have an engine but the farmer who designed it pulled it across a field with his horses to gain the wind to flight, and his wife took to the air. Later, his granddaughter, only a child, also fly the glider. (Yes, my parental eyebrows went up reading this.)
Immediately under the glider are World War II-era planes. The Martin Glider flew in 1909 and was the height of technology at the time. Thirty years later, in 1939, fighting aircraft with engines and weapons took to the skies.
Back Home From Canton
Our trip ended with an overnight stay at the Pittsburgh Airport Hyatt Hotel. The next day, before we left, we ended the trip by visiting Franco Harris, he of the Immaculate Reception, at the Landslide terminal before boarding the plane home.
Seemed a perfect way to end the Hall of Fame Weekend.