World’s Oldest William McKinley Statue (plus a Buster Keaton Tribute Statue)

Hello, road warriors, world travelers, and armchair explorers!

In the midwest and looking for some historical roadside attractions? Want to impress your friends with obscure information? Be sure to stop by Muskegon, Michigan! Muskegon is a town on the shore of Lake Michigan with several points of interest to those traveling through and staying in the area.

My first stop: WORLD’S OLDEST WILLIAM MCKINLEY STATUE- 349 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon, MI

The story goes that after beloved president William McKinley’s assassination in 1901, there was a rush to memorialize him. The first memorial to the man went up in Minnesota within a couple months of his death, though the first actual statue of the man was commissioned by Charles Hackley (Muskegon’s biggest philanthropist) for the city of Muskegon.

Random side note: McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a man born in…of all places… Michigan! I can’t imagine how, but surely there is a conspiracy theory in here somewhere!

Moving on… Hackley had sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus craft the life-size statue and told him to get a move on it. Within a year, the statue was unveiled. Due to the rush, however, Niehaus did not take the time to improve on the man’s appearance as many sculptors tended to do (pre-Photoshop, remember, folks). The result is a statue that is probably the most true-to-life rendition of William McKinley towards the end of his life and, therefore, considered the least flattering statue of McKinley ever rendered.

The infamous statue is on  West Webster across from Hackley Park (where, by the way, there are some fun Civil War tribute statues, such as Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, some other guy I didn’t recognize, and this centerpiece in the park).


In front of the Board of Education building is the pudgy McKinley.



This angle shows a little more the roundness of the man.


Clearly, he doesn’t look THAT bad, but perhaps it was considered respectful at the time to give him lipo and a chin tuck.

My next stop: BUSTER KEATON STATUE- 425 W. Webster Ave, Muskegon, MI

I drove a few blocks away onto West Western (redundant much?), in front of the Frauenthal Theatre, to see a statue of Buster Keaton. Back at the beginning of the 20th century, Muskegon was a popular summer vacation spot for vaudevillian actors and the like, the most famous of which was silent film star Joe “Buster” Keaton. Keaton was captivated by the area and returned annually. He, along with other vaudevillian friends, started an artist’s colony in the area that was unfortunately deserted a couple decades later when the film industry in California began to grow. Muskegon expresses its pride in this artistic history with a rendition of Buster Keaton on West Webster near the traffic circle at 3rd Street.

20160415_154217 (a not-so-great angle of Buster Keaton, but it has a creepy face in the background and a reflection of my travel sidekick, Bonnie Blue Butler)

If you find yourself in the Muskegon area in your adventures, be sure to take a few minutes to sidetrack to these pieces of history.

Until next time, dahlings…

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