The columns of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site are an iconic part of the Delaware Avenue building where Roosevelt took his oath of office. They were draped in black fabric to signify mourning after the assassination of President William McKinley.
On Thursday, the columns were removed — at least temporarily.
Crews took down five of the water-damaged columns in order for them to be restored over the next few months by Northwood Historic Restoration in South Buffalo. A sixth column — the most damaged of the bunch — was already removed last summer in order to be analyzed and ensure it and the other columns could be saved.
Site officials hope all the columns will be restored and reinstalled sometime this spring.
“They’re doing a lot to dry out the columns because unfortunately in Buffalo water damage is a pretty pervasive problem and our columns have especially suffered from that,” said Lindsey Visser, the site’s development and communications manager. “It’s a very extensive process and I know they're doing their best to preserve a lot of the historical integrity of the columns.”
The removal and restoration will cost approximately $350,000, according to Stanton Hudson, the site’s executive director. He added the project is completely funded by the U.S. National Park Service, which owns the building.
Built in 1839 as part of the Buffalo Barracks for the U.S. Army, the building was named a national historic site in 1966 and opened to the public in 1971.
Then-Vice President Roosevelt stayed at the home after McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on Sept. 6, 1901. The home belonged to Roosevelt’s friend, Ansley Wilcox, at the time.
Once McKinley died from his wounds about a week later, it was decided to hold Roosevelt’s inauguration as president at the home.
The building’s columns have been around for even longer. Site officials believe they’ve been with the building since about 1865.
Visser said it’s strange to see the building without them.
“It’s a bit jarring when you’re going down Delaware because it is kind of an iconic view,” she said. “We’re excited to have them back. ... I definitely think part of the experience is being able to see the house exactly as it was in 1901.”
The building will remain open as usual throughout the restoration. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays; and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tours are given every hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. on weekdays and 12:30 p.m. on weekends.