MNiagara Falls and Lockport Attracted Presidential Visits
Abraham Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, came to Lockport and Niagara Falls in 1866 to promote his Reconstruction policies. A ball was held in his honor at the International Hotel in Niagara Falls. Also in attendance was Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War general and future president. In 1880 presidential candidate James Garfield spoke in Lockport at the first Hodge Opera House. He won the election but was shot four months later and died two months after that. His successor, Chester Arthur, had a unique connection to Lockport. In 1884 Arthur’s son, Alan, was engaged to Maud Crowley of that city. Her father, Richard Crowley, was a U.S. Congressman, political powerbroker and a friend to several presidents. Tragically, Maud became ill with consumption (tuberculosis) and broke off the engagement. She died four months later. The Crowley house is now part of the Presbyterian Home. Grover Cleveland, who made his home in Buffalo from 1855 to 1883, undoubtedly visited Niagara County numerous times. His uncle’s summer home was on Grand Island. In the presidential election of 1884, Democrat Grover Cleveland ran against Republican James Blaine. Also running in that election, on the Equal Rights Party ticket, was Royalton native Belva Lockwood. Cleveland won that election, lost the next in 1888 and was elected again in 1892.
President William McKinley came to Niagara Falls in 1897 to break ground for the Pan American Exposition on Cayuga Island in the Niagara River. The Exposition was to have taken place in 1898 but the Spanish-American War delayed the fair for three years. In the meantime another site in Buffalo was chosen for the Exposition. McKinley visited Niagara Falls again on September 6, 1901. He toured the Niagara Falls Power Company and rode the Great Gorge Route. When he returned to Buffalo that afternoon he was shot while attending a public reception at the Temple of Music at the Exposition. He died eight days later. His successor, Theodore Roosevelt had visited the area in 1899 when he was governor of New York and spoke at the Pioneer Picnic in Olcott. In 1904 he made a campaign speech at the second Hodge Opera House in Lockport when running for the presidency in his own right.
In 1932 presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned in Western New York including Niagara Falls. Four years later he returned to the Falls to dedicate the new stadium in Hyde Park. He spoke on the warm relations that were shared by Americans and Canadians. He directed his remarks at the local population: “You who live along the border are in large part responsible for this friendly feeling on both sides of the border. We can thank you people here in Niagara Falls and I think I can even go so far as to thank our Canadian neighbors on the other side of the river for the splendid understanding between this country and Canada, for the example that you are all giving to the rest of the world on behalf of a better understanding and peace between Nations.”
John F. Kennedy spent part of the day in Niagara County on September 28, 1960 while campaigning for the presidency. He spoke in North Tonawanda, then traveled to Niagara Falls and addressed a crowd in front of the Treadway Inn on Buffalo Avenue. He remarked that he hoped that Niagara Falls Mayor Calvin Keller, a Republican, “will not take my key away if I make any unkind remarks about his party.” Kennedy went on to speak at Bell Aircraft and then headed to Lockport where he spoke in front of the Lox Plaza Hotel.
Although other presidents and candidates have made brief stops in Niagara County in the last fifty years, they no longer court our vote the way they did in years gone by.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094