Center would explore Buffalo’s presidential links
As yet without a home, facility would house local memorabilia from White House history
By Chrissie Thompson
Updated: 06/15/07 8:06 AM
Mark Evans has 10,000 items in his collection of presidential memorabilia, but he has no hesitation in picking his favorite.
No one quite knows the purpose of the two-inch mother-of-pearl tool — maybe as a manicure tool or a sewing pick. Shaped like a nail file, the artifact displays sepia-toned portraits of Grover and Frances Folsom Cleveland, and it lies on a bed of pink cotton in its original box.
Soon, Evans’ tool may join other pieces in his collection of 500 Clevelandrelated items for a stay in the Western New York Center for the Presidency and Vice Presidency. The center has not secured a building, but the Association for the Buffalo Presidential Center has a growing number of promises of artifacts for display when its doors do open.
The association, in existence since 2003, is getting ready to open exhibits about America’s four Buffalo-linked presidents. Grover Cleveland served as Erie County sheriff, mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York. Millard Fillmore worked as an attorney here before seeking state office. William McKinley was assassinated here; his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, was sworn in here.
The association is planning two “virtual museums. at local historical sites that will briefly display collections and host programs about the presidents.
One virtual museum will appear in August at the Fillmore House in East Aurora, while Evans’ collection will join a virtual museum making a September visit to Riverlea, the Grand Island house formerly owned by Cleveland’s uncle, Lewis F. Allen.
Three community outreach receptions held in recent months helped court promises of artifacts from Evans, an Avon resident, and Williamsville collector Bren Price Sr.
“There isn’t another city in the country that can boast having at least two presidents so closely aligned to it, . Price said. “We are like thousands of curators who are in possession of these cultural artifacts right now . . . We love to share our things.”
Price, 62, has amassed a collection of a couple of thousand presidential items since he began building it 35 years ago.
The presidential center will likely take interest in one of his favorite items: the invitation — complete with its original addressed envelope — of Fillmore’s wife, Abigail, to the 1849 Inaugural Ball for President Zachary Taylor. Vice President Fillmore became president upon Taylor’s death in 1850.
Evans, 55, has the largest known collection of items related to Cleveland’s wife, surpassing even the Smithsonian Institution. He has collected about 10,000 items, mostly related to presidential campaigns. Evans’ fascination started as a thirdgrader when he, of his own initiative, campaigned for Sen. John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign.
Evans and Price are members of the American Political Items Collectors association and said their relationships with other collectors will open other doors for artifacts for the new center.
Maryann Saccomando Freedman, an attorney and a member of the association, said she has spoken with officials from Erie County’s Surrogate Court about the court’s possession of Fillmore’s and Cleveland’s wills, and she hopes the court eventually will lend the wills to the center for display.
Freedman said the association has not begun discussions with possible museum sites for a permanent location but hopes to consider the H.H. Richardson complex at Buffalo Psychiatric Center. After the center has a site, Freedman hopes it can open within six months.