They keep watch over Buffalo from the steps of City Hall. They are Grover Cleveland and Millard Fillmore, the two men who made it from Buffalo all the way to the White House.
Few are the cities that can claim one president. Our town can claim two. Their names are everywhere. Cleveland can claim elegant Cleveland Avenue in Buffalo, well-traveled Cleveland Drive in Cheektowaga and, in Amherst, the Grover Cleveland Golf Course. Millard Fillmore has Fillmore Avenue, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and Millard Fillmore College.
Otherwise, though, Fillmore and Cleveland linger mostly as kind of a joke. They could be called the presidents of the obscure presidents’ society.
Maybe we should take a closer look at them.
Why is it, after all, that some presidents are remembered, while others are not? The presidents whose names survive enjoy that distinction because of challenges they faced. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson ... we can recite the first few presidents because of the miracle they pulled off of getting the nation on its feet. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant were tied to the Civil War.
Presidents can be forgotten simply because their administrations were peaceful and prosperous. William McKinley, a card-carrying member of the obscure presidents’ society, was popular and presided over a time of rapid economic growth. As a result, he is remembered only for his assassination in Buffalo. Other presidents fell off the merry-go-round of history because no one can any longer name anything that happened on their watch. Events that once loomed large are lost to time.
Back to the gentlemen whose statues stand at the doors of City Hall. They have an air of mystery. They are always looking at us. It is time we stopped for a moment and gazed back at them.
Presidents Day – it’s no longer about just Washington and Lincoln. This Presidents Day, let’s make it about ours.
Every year, a delegation from Hawaii arrives at City Hall . They are here to see Grover Cleveland.
They come because Cleveland, who served as Erie County sheriff, mayor of Buffalo, governor of New York, and finally the nation’s president, is a hero to Hawaiians. In 1893, while he was in the White House, Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown by the proponents of a Republic of Hawaii. Cleveland, a friend of the queen, tried to save the monarchy.
Buffalo’s mid-19th century bigwig Millard Fillmore has his name on a street, hospital and high school in spite of his zeal for hunting down runaway slaves. He’s the sort of past president who gets ignored in favor of more glamorous, obviously heroic ones.
As this President’s Day weekend approaches, the 13th president’s local legacy has been getting some new, amused and bemused attention: To report a story set to air on the “CBS News Sunday Morning,” comedian journalist and “Daily Show” veteran Mo Rocca found humor, contradiction and oddities.