(WETM) – Over the 246-year history of the United States, many—if not all—46 presidents have visited New York. However, many have more local connections to both Upstate and Downstate regions, with several making an impact in Buffalo.
Presidents’ Day of course falls on the birthday of George Washington, the first American President and the Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and it has come to celebrate the lives of all presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday also falls in February.
But several presidents have been born right here in New York State, some hailing from Buffalo.
The 8th President of the United States was the first to be born in New York. Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, a town in Columbia County southeast of Albany along the Hudson River.
He led the “Albany Regency” (a local political organization) when he was a lawyer before being elected New York Governor and later to the United States Senate.
Fillmore served as the 13th President, starting in 1850. He was born in Summerhill, a town in what is now Cayuga County in the Finger Lakes, just northeast of Ithaca.
Fillmore moved his law practice to Buffalo in 1830 and was a founder of the University of Buffalo. He also served as UB Chancellor from 1846 to 1874.
He was also the first recorded president to visit the Southern Tier in 1851 for the opening of the Erie Railroad. Fillmore visited Corning, Painted Post, Addison, Hornell, Arkport, and Almond.
Both the 22nd and the 24th President, Grover Cleveland is the only Commander in Chief to hold two non-consecutive terms in the office. He was actually born in New Jersey, but was raised in Upstate New York.
Beginning an illustrious political career in 1870, Cleveland successfully ran for Erie County Sheriff at age 33. He later became the Mayor of Buffalo, Governor of New York, and ultimately, President of the United States.
His former hunting cabin is now popular burger joint Grover’s Bar & Grill in East Amherst.
McKinley was the 25th President, from 1897 until 1901 when he was assassinated. He was the third of four presidents to be assassinated.
McKinley wasn’t born in New York, but was killed in Western New York. While standing in the receiving line at the Buffalo-Pan American Exposition, a “deranged anarchist shot him twice”, according to the White House. He died a week later, leading to the inauguration of the next New York President.
Theodore Roosevelt, an avid lover of nature and known for his phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick”, was born in New York City. He served on the New York State Assembly and even campaigned to be New York City Mayor.
During his successful campaign for New York Governor, Roosevelt visited Steuben County many times because of the railroads.
Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign train stopped at Cameron Mills, he spotted the milk station manager with his nine children on the loading dock. “This is the most prosperous place I have been to yet,” TR quippedSteuben County Historical Society
When McKinley was shot, Roosevelt was in the North Country and was later inaugurated as the 26th President in Buffalo. The house of his inauguration still stands in the City of Buffalo and is a National Historic Site.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only President to be elected for four consecutive terms before term limits were put in place, was the 32nd man to hold the office. FDR wasn’t born in New York City, but in Dutchess County in the town of Hyde Park.
First serving on the New York State Senate in 1910, Roosevelt later served as New York Governor. And like his fifth cousin Teddy, FDR even visited the Southern Tier, making campaign stops in Elmira, Corning, Bath, and Hornell during his long political career as a Governor and President. He also visited the Reconstruction Home in Elmira for children afflicted by polio, a disease he also suffered from.
FDR is famous for helping to guide the country out of the Depression and leading it through the Second World War. He’s also known for his progressive reform policies, many of which came to be known as the collective “New Deal”.
Donald Trump, the 45th President, was born in Queens and followed in the footsteps of his father to become heavily involved in the real estate industry. In the early 2000s, he started the popular TV show, “The Apprentice” which ran until 2015, a year before his election.
Trump defeated many other Republican politicians to win the nomination in 2016, and won the election that November. In the final months of his term, Trump oversaw the beginnings of the United State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.