Albany’s ties to presidential history run deep. Read on the learn more about how some of our past presidents are connected to New York State’s capital city!
Unlike other presidents, when Millard Fillmore left office in 1853, he was not independently wealthy and did not have an estate to return to. He needed to earn a living. While president, Fillmore was friendly with the wife of Alexander Hamilton, Albany’s own Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler. After his presidency, Fillmore met Caroline Carmichael, a wealthy widow of Ezekiel McIntosh. The McIntosh’s were the third owners of the Schuyler Mansion, and when Ezekiel passed in 1855, he left his considerable wealth and the Mansion to Caroline. On February 10th, 1858, Caroline and Fillmore were married in the very same parlor that Alexander and Eliza Hamilton were married in at the Schuyler Mansion.
After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865, a special funeral train retraced most of the route the president-elect made on the way to his inauguration - including a stop in Albany. His body laid in state in the original New York State Capitol Building on State Street. If you explore the current New York State Capitol on a free tour today, you might just catch a glimpse of Lincoln! He is one of the hundreds of faces carved into the Million Dollar Staircase. The tour also includes a stop at the Assembly Chamber, where an old clock sits. This clock was present when Lincoln spoke in the original Chamber. The building has quite a story to tell, and taking one of the free guided tours is a great way to discover part of Albany’s storied past!
Chester Arthur was the 21st president of the United States. Arthur was born in Vermont but spent most of his life in New York. After serving as both vice president and president, Arthur left office in 1885 and died in 1886 at the age of 57. Arthur was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, just a few miles north of Downtown Albany. Every year on Arthur’s birthday, Albany Rural honors the president by placing a wreath sent by the White House on his grave.
Theodore Roosevelt was the 33rd governor of New York State and then went on to become the 26th president of the United States. When Theodore Roosevelt was governor, he exercised by running up and down the Capitol's 77 front steps. It’s rumored that if newspaper reporters wanted an interview with Roosevelt, they would simply have to beat him to the top of the stairs. Roosevelt also attended regular church services while in Albany. Roosevelt’s family pew is still marked in the First Church of Albany on North Pearl Street.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt's legendary political career began in Albany as a New York State Senator. After gaining early experience in the State legislature, he would eventually become New York State’s 44th governor. He went on to serve four terms as US president from 1933-1945. Roosevelt suffered from polio at the age of 39, which partially paralyzed him. As a result, Roosevelt relied on leg braces and a wheelchair for mobility. Great care was taken to conceal his mobility challenges from the public. When Roosevelt became governor, the NYS Capitol had to undergo changes to make the building handicap accessible, while also maintaining the governor’s privacy. One change they made was removing a bookcase from the Press Secretary’s office and creating a secret door to the governor’s formal office. This secret entrance helped Roosevelt maneuver into his office from his wheelchair.
Sources: Malette, Matt, and Mike Allen. “Albany Archives: FDR's Secret Elevator.” Spectrumlocalnews.com, 2 Dec. 2017, https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/capital-region/top-stories/2017/12/02/albany-archives--fdr-s-secret-elevator.