Ansley Wilcox House

The Ansley Wilcox House as it looks on the layout.

Old photo of the Ansley Wilcox House from the Souvenir Historical Book, Buffalo's 125th Anniversary 1832 to 1975

The Ansley Wilcox House which is the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 641 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14202. As it looks today.

   In May of 1901, the Pan American Exposition opened for six months in Buffalo, New York. On September 6th, while visiting the Exposition, President William McKinley was shot and wounded by a would-be assassin. Vice-president Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo the next day and was invited to stay at the home of his friend, Ansley Wilcox. Four days later, with McKinley's condition improving and a full recovery expected, Roosevelt was convinced it was no longer necessary for him to remain in Buffalo. Joining his family in the Adirondacks, Roosevelt planned to spend a few days hiking in the mountains. On Friday, September 13th, after descending Mount Marcy, Roosevelt received an urgent message to return to Buffalo. McKinley's condition had worsened and he was not expected to live through the night. Roosevelt's journey began at 10:30 pm with a six hour carriage ride to the North Creek train station. From there he traveled to Albany and then on to Buffalo, arriving at 1:30 pm, eleven hours after McKinley's death. It was September 14, 1901. After paying his respects to Mrs. McKinley, Roosevelt was inaugurated as our 26th president in the Library of the Ansley Wilcox home. The unusual circumstances surrounding the inauguration resulted in this being the first swearing-in to take place in a city that was not the capital, and had never been the capital, of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt's 1901-09 administration has been deemed the first "modern presidency" due to Roosevelt's progressive and liberal policies towards foreign affairs, labor, conservation, and the underprivileged in society

The Wilcox Library is the primary focus of the tour. Meticulously restored to its 1901 appearance and containing the most original furniture, the Library was the scene of Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration. Located in the original 1840 part of the house, this room combines charm and simplicity. A glass wall (to replace an original wall that was removed in the 1930s to make way for a restaurant) allows visitors to see the entire room. The circumstances surrounding the inauguration are interpreted in this room as well as the lifestyle of an upper class family.

The Dining Room where Theodore Roosevelt would have had his meals and where President Taft also dined, is the most architecturally significant room in the house. A Greek-Georgian Revival style is reflected in the original whitewashed molding, corinthian columns, and a leaded glass fan window. Minimal changes by the restaurant have left this room the most intact in the house. Portraits of the Wilcoxes add a personal touch to the Dining Room which contains very little of the original dining room furniture. Lifestyle and the importance of preservation are interpreted in the Dining Room.

The Victorian Lady's' Bedroom on the second floor is a representation of the era. There are few pieces of Wilcox furniture in the room and only a handful of original photographs. The room is specifically used for interpreting lifestyles of the period. These include lighting and heating of the home, the importance of sewing in a woman's life and the role of servants in the household. The room contains seven different lighting sources ranging from natural light to electricity.

Ansley Wilcox

Ansley Wilcox was born near Augusta, GA in 1856 of a southern mother and northern father. His family moved to Connecticut during the Civil War and he later studied law at Yale. He also attended Oxford University and while in England met Cornelia Rumsey, a young woman from Buffalo on holiday with her family. After leaving Oxford, Wilcox moved to Buffalo, joined a law firm and married Cornelia. She died in childbirth a few years later and he then married her sister, Mary Grace. The home on Delaware Avenue was a wedding present from her father. It was about this time (early 1880s) that Ansley Wilcox and Theodore Roosevelt became acquainted. Both worked closely with New York State Governor Grover Cleveland. Their similar backgrounds also made them natural friends. It was because of this friendship, that Wilcox invited Roosevelt to stay at his home in 1901. He also hosted a visit by President Taft in 1910. Wilcox retired from law in 1917 and passed away in 1930.