President Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural National Historic Site

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On a recent trip to Toronto, my family made an unplanned stop in Buffalo, New York for the weekend. More on why we needed to stop in Buffalo and why we’re glad we did in an upcoming post. I always bring my Passport to the National Parks on road trips, and I quickly realized that the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historical Site was close by, in the Allentown area of Buffalo.

Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest president in the history of United States, took office after President McKinley was assassinated at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. At the time, the house was owned by Ansley Wilcox, a prominent local lawyer, and his wife, friends of then vice president Roosevelt.  TR, as he was later referred to, rushed to Buffalo immediately upon hearing the news that McKinley had been shot, and returned to the home a few days later, when McKinley died, to be sworn in as the 26th president of the United States.

The one hour, partially guided tour, has many interactive components. A park ranger will guide you through exhibits on the first floor that explain McKinley’s assassination and Roosevelt’s inauguration, and then bring you upstairs, where you can explore other exhibits at your leisure.  See if your children can “I Spy” our favorite parts:

1. The “Issues Theatre” recreates what TR might have been thinking as he heard of McKinley’s death, and how he would address the shocked and scared nation. There are several photographs and artifacts to help visualize the time period and TR’s constituents. Note:  My husband and I really enjoyed the vocal reenactments, but little ones are likely to be frightened by the gunshot noises throughout the segments (my husband had to take both kids to another room for part of the show).

2. Oral histories and life size charts of issues that TR faced over his 7 ½ years in office, regarding race, immigration, conservation, and business.

3. A narrated tour through various rooms of the home. On display are period era furniture, décor, and a copy of TR’s handwritten inaugural speech.

4. A touch screen that allows visitors to make decisions on important issues the country faced in the early 1900s and see if President Roosevelt agreed with your choices.

5. Well preserved period toys and games for children, including a table with checkers set up. Look out for the authentic 1900 pop gun, and a collection of story books from the early 1900s. 

6. A replica of Roosevelt’s desk in the Oval Office, with a touch screen where visitors can “sign or veto legislation” and have their picture taken behind the desk.

7. Children fill out the junior rangers activity booklet on the tour.  At the end, they can exchange a completed booklet for a junior ranger badge.

The “TR Site” also has many special programs throughout the year. I wished we lived closer to we could attend:

  • Teddy Bear Story Hour: a story, snack, and family friendly tour of the site. Bring a blanket and your teddy bear. Offered once a month.
  • Teddy Bear Picnic: Held once a year in July. Bring a blanket and your favorite bear, the site will provide the games, well bear clinic, story time and a picnic lunch.
  • TRivia Night: test your knowledge on TR and the other 44 presidents during these monthly competitions. You can form your own team or show up and join an existing one; there are drinks, snacks, tours of the site, and prizes for the top 3 teams.
  • Coloring Nights: Adults only time to color and sketch with supplies, drinks, and snacks provided by the site.
  • Victorian Christmas: A whole season of festive lunches, dinners, children’s events at the site which is decorated by a local garden club for the holidays.

Check back soon for a post about other fun things to do in Buffalo, New York.

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