Creation of the Nation’s First
Presidential Library and Museum:
A Study in Cooperation

By Thomas A. Smith

On Decoration Day, May 30, 1916, national, state, and local dignitaries gathered at Spiegel Grove, the home of Rutherford B. Hayes, to honor the memory of the nineteenth President of the United States. The occasion, described as "grand and glorious" and "pre-eminently the greatest day in all the history of . . . Fremont," was the dedication of the nation’s first presidential library and museum.1 The notable and distinguished guests present for the ceremonies included: Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, representing the President of the United States; Ohio Senator Atlee Pomerene; Frank B. Willis, Governor of Ohio; Charles Richard Williams, President Hayes’s biographer and chief orator of the day; officers and trustees of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society,2 including former governor James E. Campbell; and Webb C. Hayes and other members of the Hayes family.

Although the appearance of a sudden afternoon shower abruptly ended the "eloquent program of prayer and speech, song and music," citizens by the thousands heartily endorsed the work of those individuals responsible for the erection of the memorial building honoring one of Ohio’s most illustrious sons. According to the Fremont Messenger, "fully 10,000 persons passed in and out of Spiegel Grove during the day, and easily 5,000 surrounded the speakers’ stand in the afternoon."3 The memorial building, which was decidedly classic in design and constructed from light grey Ohio sandstone, was the result of many years of untiring efforts by Webb C. Hayes and representatives of the Ohio Historical Society (OHS).

Webb C. Hayes (1856-1934), the second son of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, was particularly instrumental in establishing a memorial dedicated to the lives and achievements of his parents. A successful businessman by profession and formerly his father’s personal secretary during Rutherford’s third term as governor and his presidency, Webb was the chief instigator and architect of the plan to create the country’s first presidential library and museum.4 The idea of creating such a unique institution was a logical outgrowth of Rutherford B. Hayes’s love of books and anything historical, and Webb’s own desire to accumulate things. As early as March 5, 1878, the artist Albert Bierstadt wrote the younger Hayes, "Do not fail to see Prof. [Ferdinand Vandiveer] Hayden again and get him to aid you in securing all sorts of fine things for your library and museum . . . You have a golden opportunity, and I hope you will improve it. A few letters from you to our Consuls in all parts of the World would bring things which are of no great value to them but would be a great acquisition to your museum."5

Several years later President Hayes, writing from Spiegel Grove to Lucy Cook, a relative, stated, "The Library is done and the books are on the shelves. I am writing at my table in their midst. The Smithsonian has been moved up garrett and Lucy [Hayes] is happy. In its place, on one side book cases are turned into our Museum. The attic over the new part of the house is cleaned up and the inferior books, and curiosities are stored there."6 Throughout their lives, both father and son appreciated history and recognized its importance. The two men were members of numerous historical organizations, and Rutherford at the time of his death in January 1893 was president of the Ohio Historical Society.

The concept of a presidential library and museum, quite commonplace by today’s standards, was a radical departure from the accepted practices of the day. As of the 1890's only the homes of five former presidents had been preserved, those of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, and Lincoln. In all five cases, private societies administered the sites, and many of the historical effects of these presidents had disappeared from the public scene.7 It was not until 1938, with the founding of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York, that the nation accepted the idea of establishing special library/museum facilities to provide historians and the general public access to presidential material.

The idea of turning Spiegel Grove into a library and museum appeared in print as early as March 1893, just weeks after the death of President Hayes. In an article reprinted in the March 9, 1893, issue of the Fremont Daily News, the Columbus School Journal advocated that "the state . . . purchase the house and grounds for a state memorial building to be used as a library, musuem, and park."8 It was not until five years later, on April 2, 1898, that Webb Hayes and his three brothers, Birchard, Rutherford, and Scott, and sister Fanny offered their father’s estate to the Ohio Historical Society. The gift, which included the Hayes homestead and adjoining property, was contingent upon the Society’s ability to raise at least $25,000 by July 1, 1898. The income derived from the $25,000 endowment would provide for the preservation and care of Spiegel Grove. The family further agreed to donate their father’s valuable collection of personal papers, books (the "library Americana"), and curios in the event that the state erected a fireproof building on the premises sometime in the future. The Hayeses also stipulated that they had the right to occupy the house so long as any of them were alive, and offered "to form a new corporation kindred to or affiliated with your society which should have the immediate charge of Spiegel Grove."9 On responding to Webb’s offer, General Roeliff Brinkerhoff, president of the Ohio Historical Society, wrote "your proposition in regard to Spiegel Grove is certainly very liberal, and I am quite sure we will be able to meet its requirements in due time."10

To help raise the needed funds, E. O. Randall, the Society’s secretary, issued a confidential circular to the friends of the Ohio Historical Society. Webb, wanting a speedy resolution of the matter, wrote Randall on April 25 from the White House urging the secretary to "get the confidential circular out as promptly as possible so that there may be no trouble owing to expiration of the option on July 1st." Hayes further exhorted Randall to "write General Brinkerhoff and suggest that he push the matter as rapidly as possible."11 The circular underscored the significance of Spiegel Grove and its valuable collections stating, "Spiegel Grove is now in a perfect state of preservation, and all of the valuable historical effects of President Hayes remain there intact. Unquestionably this is the largest and most complete and perhaps most valuable collection of documents, papers, and books, ever left by any of our Presidents." Appealing to Ohioans, friends of President Hayes, scholars, and students, Randall noted, "It is certainly a rare opportunity, such as seldom comes to any state or organization. [You] cannot afford to do otherwise than endorse and assist in this project . . ."12

Even though the Hayes family was to receive no monetary compensation for the property and two prominent Ohioans, President William McKinley and Secretary of State John Sherman, endorsed the project, the Ohio Historical Society was unable to raise the required endowment. Hoping to give the Society additional time, Webb and his brothers and sister on September 19, 1898, extended by a year, July 1, 1898 to July 1, 1899, the period in which the Ohio Historical Society could collect the $25,000.13 Even with the extension, the Society experienced difficulty in raising the money despite efforts to solicit funds from members of other organizations such as the Ohio Society of New York.14

Having exhausted all other avenues, General Brinkerhoff in June 1899, made arrangements with H. C. Hedges, John Sherman’s confidential friend and advisor for more than 40 years, to present the Spiegel Grove matter before the ailing senator and former Secretary of State.15 Brinkerhoff thought that Sherman’s support was critical for the project to be successful. By July, Brinkerhoff apprised Webb of the elder statesman’s condition. He somberly noted, "John Sherman has not been in condition to receive visitors for some weeks past . . . his physician told me he was still quite feeble . . . Mr. Hedges will have a talk with him whenever his condition will permit. Without his [Sherman’s] active interest, & backing financially, I fear we cannot consummate our Spiegel Grove enterprise."16

Because of the Ohio Historical Society’s inability to raise the endowment monies, the family withdrew its offer. In March and April of 1899, Webb had trust agreements prepared deeding all Spiegel Grove, including the library and collections, to him.17 To get the other heirs to deed him the property, Webb agreed to advance the sum of $45,000 to the estate. Birchard A. Hayes in writing Fanny about the matter remarked, "since his financial good fortune Webb is getting somewhat reckless in money matters and has in the past few weeks been paying off debts of the Hayes estate; up to this time he has advanced $45000 and as security desires that we deed him the estate property in Fremont and Toledo . . . ."18 The declaration of trust signed by the Hayes heirs stipulated that they could convey "Spiegel Grove and said personal property for some similar public purpose."19 Webb Hayes’s vision of creating a permanent memorial perpetuating the memory of his mother and father had to wait another ten years. His involvement in the Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion, and Russo-Japanese War occupied much of his time until March 1909.

Between March 30, 1909, and March 12, 1910, Webb C. Hayes deeded twenty acres of Spiegel Grove to the State of Ohio "for the use and benefit of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society and its successors." The first deed, dated March 30, 1909, conveyed ten acres known as the "Harrison Military Trail of the War of 1812" of the state for use as a park. A second deed of March 10, 1910, transferred yet another ten acres of his father’s estate to the state. Both deeds specified that the twenty acres "be maintained and used as a state park" and that the grantor had "the right to transfer the remains of Rutherford B. Hayes and Lucy Webb Hayes to the knoll in . . . Spiegel Grove." The March 10, 1910, deed also provided that in the event a normal school was located in Fremont, "the officers, teachers and students of said school shall have full access to Spiegel Grove and to the library and museum building . . . under suitable rules and regulations to be prepared by the grantee."20 In addition, the second deed called for the erection of a fireproof building "to be situated approximately opposite the Jefferson Street entrance". The building was to "be in the form of a reference library and museum . . . for the purpose of preservation and forever keeping in Spiegel Grove all papers, books, and manuscripts left by the late Rutherford B. Hayes . . ." If the state failed to use or care for the grounds as a park or meet any of the afore-mentioned conditions, Spiegel Grove was to revert to Webb, his heir, or assigns.21

Two days later, March 12, 1910, Webb Hayes consummated a trust deed to insure the eventual transfer of Spiegel Grove as a memorial to his parents. The deed stipulated that the Ohio Historical Society had to "provide for the erection of . . . [a] fire-proof building within a period of three (3) years, from the date of this instrument . . . [The] building shall be in the form of a branch reference library and museum of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, and the construction and decoration . . .shall be in the nature of a memorial . . .and forever remain open to the public . . ." The deed also allowed members of the Hayes family and their heirs to occupy the residence.22

The Hayes children executed a fourth and final deed, which provided for the preservation of the home "as a typical American home of the last half of the nineteenth century . . ." on November 27, 1914. This deed conveyed the Hayes homestead and remaining five acres comprising Spiegel Grove to the state. This final gift was made only after the state legislature had appropriated $50,000 for the construction of the Hayes Commemorative Library and Museum, and after construction was well under way.

In 1911, prior to the state’s $50,000 appropriation the parties advanced a plan to get Andrew Carnegie to contribute funds for the building of the memorial library and museum. Initially referred to as the "county or city library scheme", the plan called for the Spiegel Grove library to become Sandusky County’s principal public library. Birchard Library, the county’s existing public library, was to become a branch of the system.23 In January 1911, G. Frederick Wright, president of the Ohio Historical Society, Myron T. Herrick, a former Ohio governor, and Webb Hayes went to New York to meet with Mr. Carnegie. The three men, acting on behalf of the Society and its Spiegel Grove committee, received a promise of support from the industrialist.24 By April, Herrick recommended to Wright that he submit a "clear outline of the plan" believing it "would be all that is necessary." Wright along with Herrick submitted such a plan to Carnegie on April 22.25

James Bertram, Carnegie’s personal secretary, found the letter filled with complications. Writing two weeks later, Betram explained, "The Library matter is badly explained. It would be better to rewrite your letter and make it clear. Distinguish between a Library of , meaning books, and a Library meaning a bilding[sic], etc.26

From the very beginning, James Bertram was unsympathetic to the Wright/Herrick proposal. He was forever finding fault with each letter that Wright sent. As the matter languished into the fall, E. O. Randall wrote Webb, "I was very much surprised at your statement that you are going to continue your assaults on him [Carnegie]. I thought the matter was all settled by the appropriation from the Legislature. Just what are you going to attempt to do with Mr. Carnegie?"27 Hayes, still very hopeful about Carnegie’s promise of support, was growing increasingly impatient with Bertram’s constant interference and his treatment of Wright. Signs of Webb’s frustrations over the whole matter were quite apparent in his November 30 letter to Myron T. Herrick. In his letter to the former governor, he complained about receiving the "fourth or fifth outrageously insulting letter from Bertram to dear Old Professor Wright." He implored the governor to "settle Bertram’s meddling in this case and criticism of the Professor who is sweetness personified, however it may effect [sic.] the promised Carnegie contribution in his personal letter to you of January 16th last (of which Bertram knew nothing until we sent him a copy) ‘to become a contributor should a fund be raised to build a library specially and with proper funds to maintain it in operation to house the library of President Hayes’."28

Webb Hayes’s physical condition began to deteriorate, further straining his patience. Since Thanksgiving, specialists from Johns Hopkins University had administered a series of tests to uncover a possible heart disorder. Writing to Mrs. Herrick from the United States Naval Academy, Hayes remarked, "It seems that my engine or pump has been overworked at some time and that the discharge hose or ‘Aorta’ through excessive stretching has been worn thin and ‘bulged’ out, and if it should burst there would be trouble or rather the trouble would be ‘all over.’" Dr. L. F. Baker, "the crack of Johns Hopkins", diagnosed Webb’s condition as an "Aneurism of the Aorta" and provided Webb with a list of unpalatable "don’ts." Webb quipped, "I don’t like the prescription - Dont get fatigued, Dont worry, . . . Dont get up but six hours a day Dont-Dont-Dont-Dont go to Cuba or Panama or Tripole or China Dont visit Asia, Africa, Australia or Polynesia but lie still on your back lest you burst the inner tube of my Reo of an Aorta."29

The Carnegie matter also was creating problems for the Ohio Historical Society and the committee established to oversee the building of the Hayes memorial library and museum. On August 4, the committee came to Fremont to meet with James R. Merriam of the Columbus firm of Howard & Merriam, architects for the Spiegel Grove project, and the Improvement Committee of the Fremont City Council. The meeting was preparatory to the architectural firm’s drawing up plans for the proposed building. The committee, composed of Wright, Randall, Schaus, Mills, Merriam, and Webb Hayes, also sought the cooperation of the City of Fremont in the paving of the streets around Spiegel Grove.30 Although the state had appropriated $50,000 for the project, only $40,000 of the funds could be spent for the erection and outfitting of the Hayes memorial. The remaining $10,000 was "for the improvement of drives, roads and the State’s proportion of the cost of improvement by paving of the streets . . ."31 Webb Hayes was hopeful that the "Laird of Skibo Castle" would contribute additional funds for the enhancement of the library and museum building.

The Society and its Spiegel Grove Committee faced a dilemma. Webb’s expectations were greater than the $40,000 appropriated for the project. Although the committee authorized James Merriam to prepare plans for a $40,000 building, Webb wanted the architects to design a structure costing far more. At first, the Society was sympathetic to Webb’s plan as seen in Randall’s November 8 letter to Hayes, when he stated, "I heartily approve of your scheme to ‘pull’ Carnegie for $25,000 more for the Memorial Building feature, with the understanding that it is for that purpose only and not for any [county] library scheme. I am quite sure . . . that with the help of Governor Herrick and Professor Wright you will pull through all right. We really ought to have more money for that building and Carnegie ought to ‘come down’ and no doubt will."32 By December, however, Mills was writing, "Don’t you believe that it would be wise for the architects to proceed under the plans laid out by the Committee . . .a word from you will cause the architects to go forward with their work."33

Contrary to the opinion of other committee members, Webb Hayes kept pushing Herrick to get Andrew Carnegie to commit to his January 1911 promise. "Many, many thanks for your kind letter, especially the paragraph expressing confidence in the outcome of your letter or interview about the Library in the near future . . .", Hayes wrote the former Ohio governor from Annapolis, Maryland on Christmas Eve.34 Early in January 1912, Herrick wrote to E. O. Randall informing the secretary that "he had ‘secured from Mr. Carnegie a gift of $60,000, when the Legislature intervened and altered the whole situation," but that he was unsure of the present situation. After receiving Governor Herrick’s letter, Randall promptly wrote Hayes imploring, "Please write me at once what you understand the situation to be."35 Five days later he stated the matter more bluntly. The building committee was in a quandary over instructing the architects to go forward with the plans for a more expensive building without knowing for sure if the additional money would be forthcoming. If the architects drew up plans for a larger building and the money failed to come as promised, Randall feared "the plans [would] have to be re-drawn, entailing the additional cost for plans and uncertain delay as to time." Instead, he thought it best that the committee wait until the matter was finally settled, stating, "I think our Building Committee will remain in status quo."36

Fortunately for Randall and the Ohio Historical Society the wait was not very long. Governor Herrick had finally managed to get a definite answer from Andrew Carnegie. Meeting on or about January 13 and again on January 19, 1912, the industrialist refused to give any financial assistance to the Hayes project. In apprising his friends of the situation, Herrick wrote Webb that "Bertram was very persistent in sticking to the library idea, claiming that they never could establish a precedent by departing from it." Apologetically, he concluded his remarks by saying, "I am awfully sorry to make so bad a report, but I have done my best. I think Bertram has been determined to upset this from the first and has finally been successful, as Carnegie’s memory was all out of gear yesterday. He could not even remember promising the $60,000 until I showed him his letter."37

Although disappointed by Carnegie’s declination, Webb Hayes was happy the year-long ordeal was finally over. Thanking the Governor for his "many efforts", Webb confided to his friend of more that thirty years, "Personally I am a bit relieved as the Memorial will now be a purely personal one from myself and a few personal friends of my father and mother and from his native state . . . It will be a disappointment to the Arch. Trustees and especially to dear old Professor Wright who banked on your success to the limit and I think rather enjoyed the prospect of getting ahead of Brother Bertram for the second time." Putting the Carnegie matter behind him, Hayes instructed Randall "to push the Architect for the plans on the smaller basis so that the building could be started in the early spring . . ." Webb also decided that nine weeks of being "quiet and good" was more than enough time to recuperate from his heart ailment.38  His attention now became focused on the construction of the library and museum building at Spiegel Grove and renewing his membership in the "Uttermost parts of the Earth Club" by taking his long awaited voyage to Cuba and Panama.

According to early published reports, the memorial building was to be forty-five by ninety feet, and sit approximately one hundred feet from Hayes Avenue at the Jefferson Street entrance. Originally, G. F. Wright favored constructing the building out of broken stone, similar to the Carnegie library in the nearby village of Clyde.39 By February 1912, the plans had been refined, calling for the construction of a fireproof building eighty-eight feet long, forty-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. The center portion of the structure would stand eleven to twelve feet higher than the remainder of the building. Instead of broken stone, the main construction material would be sandstone. The first floor contained a rotunda and two adjoining rooms. The basement would provide additional storage space as would one side of the upper story. In explaining the revised plans to Webb, William Mills wrote, "The rotunda will be purely memorial and in fact the entire first floor will be used for your father’s library and relic rooms." The building committee also saw fit to include space for Webb’s own "relics", which he had managed to accumulate in his many travels in the military and as a private citizen. Mills noted, "Your own relics I think should be kept separate as you suggest, but I have planned for one basement room to be used for your heavy specimens, such as cannon, etc., etc. I have also planned that one side of the upper story could also be used for your belongings and I am sure that you have enough to fill this and some to spare."40

The building committee appears to have taken great pains to design the memorial building according to Webb’s wishes. As the Society’s curator and librarian, Mills felt that the "building should be exactly as . . .[Webb] want[ed] it." He was especially glad that Hayes strongly agreed that the structure would be "a purely memorial building." I, personally, could never have gotten away from it", Mills wrote in February 1912, "because by making it purely memorial it also includes the entire family and you will have enough to fill the building and make it what people expect."41 He also thought that Webb should determine how to display the collections.

Throughout the early months of 1912, both Mills and Wright kept Hayes, who was traveling in Cuba, apprised of the progress - or lack thereof- on the memorial building. The improvement of the roadways around Spiegel Grove and getting the architects to present their plans were particularly vexing matters. Writing to Webb in Santiago, Cuba, W. C. Mills wrote, "I feel assured, Colonel, that everything will be well now. Mr. Schaus and I visited the architects yesterday and told them that we were afraid that if the plans were not forthcoming that something would happen in Cuba, but you know now a new promise from them that they will have them ready by the fifteenth of March."42 By March 23, Professor Wright reported, "The plans for Spiegel Grove were nearly completed, and they seem to us very satisfactory. We should hardly care to go forward in a final acceptance of the plans until you have seen them."43

On April 17, the Spiegel Grove Committee met in Columbus to review the plans of the memorial building. In an April 9 letter to Webb, who had returned from Cuba and was staying in Annapolis, Mills implored, "I do hope that you will be here; make every effort to get here as I am quite desirous for you to see the plans before they are accepted by the committee."44 Apparently, the meeting was successful. "I am greatly pleased with it but to hurry it along have agreed to return from here [Indianapolis] to Columbus for a meeting next Monday to formally adopt the plans . . .," Webb wrote to his fiancee, Mary Otis Brinkerhoff, on April 18, 1912.45

Hayes had traveled to Indianapolis to meet with Charles Richard Williams, who was writing a book on the life of Rutherford B. Hayes. Besides reading William’s manuscript, being romantically involved with Mary, and arranging for improvements at the Spiegel Grove residence, Webb Hayes had to tend to matters regarding the memorial building. Somewhat apologetic, he wrote Mary on April 20 from Indianapolis, "I return to Columbus tomorrow afternoon and will attend the meeting to pass on the plans of the Memorial Building Monday afternoon and perhaps be able to get home in time to see you late Monday night but if not will surely do so Tuesday. With the exception of the few days absence at Santiago this is the first time that I have failed to see you morning noon and night for over two months and I do so long for you."46

At the April 22 meeting, the committee voted to accept the plans as submitted by the firm of Howard & Merriam. According to the Fremont Daily News, the Society would accept bids in May with the actual work to start in June. They also optimistically reported plans to complete the building by the end of the summer.47 Unfortunately for the Ohio Historical Society and Webb C. Hayes, it took another four long years to complete the project.

Among other things, the paving of the streets around Spiegel Grove proved particularly troublesome. As early as August 1911, the Society sought the cooperation of the city of Fremont and county commissioners in the improvement of Hayes, Buckland, and Cleveland Avenues.48 The plan also called for the installation of sewers and water mains. To accomplish these improvements, the Society planned to use $10,000 of the $50,000, which the state had appropriated for the project, "in constructing a brick pavement twelve feet in width all around the three sides of the State Park." In exchange, Fremont officials were to authorize the paving of Hayes Avenue by private contract and the commissioners would see that Cleveland Avenue, the western boundary of the park, was graded and drained. To create a total pavement twenty-four feet wide along Hayes Avenue, the city would be responsible for assessing property owners "the cost of a 12 foot [brick] pavement . . . , engineering, etc."49 Fremont officials, who seemed favorably disposed to the proposal, also planned to extend the pavement of Birchard Avenue to Jefferson Street and then south on Jefferson to Hayes Avenue.

From the very beginning, the paving projects progressed more slowly than anticipated. Neither the city, county, nor Ballville Township wanted to bear the cost of these improvements. There also was a great deal of confusion over whether the Society could use any of the funds remaining from improving Hayes Avenue for the other two roadways. In January 1912, Ohio Attorney General Timothy S. Hogan resolved this matter when his issued an opinion stating that the $10,000 "appropriation is to be used to pay the State’s proportion of the cost of paving all three streets."50 The situation which proved irksome for the Society and Hayes, dragged on for months until June when OHS agreed to turn over to the city all that remained of the $10,000 after the completion of the Hayes Avenue paving project. City officials estimated the cost of paving Hayes Avenue at $4,000. The city planned to use the remaining funds to pave Buckland Avenue.

The decision pleased property owners along "Buckland Hill" since estimates indicated that improvements were in the neighborhood of $5,000.51 Regarding Cleveland Avenue, the state, county, and property owners would share the expenses of constructing a twelve-foot-wide brick pavement. The commissioners agreed to a plan whereby the state portion amounted to fifty percent of the cost, while the county and property owners would pay twenty-five percent each. By early August, County Engineer Harmon Wensinger was busy readying plans for the State Highway Department.52

Problems associated with paving the streets in and around Spiegel Grove were not the only troubles delaying the building of the Hayes library and museum. State inspectors continually impeded the progress of the architects in preparing the final plans.53 In addition, the failure of the Society and Webb Hayes to provide the Auditor of State with an abstract of title to the Spiegel Grove property created a bureaucratic nightmare, and scuttled his grandiose plans for the laying of the cornerstone on August 2. Webb, who in May had received President William Howard Taft’s promise to be present at the ceremonies, had not reckoned with the intricacies of state government. In apprising Hayes of the oversight, E. O. Randall inquired,

Aren’t you a little previous about that arrangement? As matters are growing now, it will be very much later than that before the cornerstone can be laid. It will be almost six weeks from now before work can be commenced even for the excavation, and it will be probably a month after the excavation is commenced before the foundation can be commenced, certainly before the cornerstone would be placed, and that will be at least September 1st.54

Contrary to published reports that work on the memorial would start in June, the title matter proved both frustrating and discouraging to Society officials and Webb Hayes. Such entanglements prompted W. C. Mills to confide to Webb, "We are scarcely able to get a thing done although a few of us may work at it all the time. I cannot quite understand the policy of the State Officials but perhaps by and by we may become somewhat enlightened." He further lamented, "I do not blame you for feeling discouraged in this matter . . . I am very, very often discouraged and feel something ought to be done to relieve the situation."55 E. O. Randall, the Society’s secretary, proved invaluable in handling the matter. Serving as the point person, Professor Randall got the Attorney General to approve the new deed, the State Auditor to remove the Spiegel Grove property from the Sandusky County tax duplicate, the Secretary of State to approve the plans, and the Governor to sign the plans and estimates for the memorial building. As late as June 21, he wrote Webb, "We are banging the thing through and you will yet see the dirt fly at Spiegel Grove."56

After months of countless delays and disappointments, William C. Mills issued the advertisements calling for bids. Issued from Columbus, Ohio, on July 12, 1912, the announcements stated, "Sealed proposals will be received . . . until noon of August 10, 1912 for furnishing the materials and performing the labor for the erection of a Hayes Memorial Museum and Library building, Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio . . ."57 G. F. Wright hoped that the cornerstone would be "laid before snow flies", while Professor Mills expressed concern that they might have to let bids again if local Fremont contractors did not see the plans in time.58 Of the three contractors who submitted bids, Carl Steinle of Fremont was the lowest with a bid of $39,800.59 Steinle’s contract price was $200 less than the $40,000 appropriated for the construction of the memorial building.

By late August, the Attorney General and Auditor had given their approval to the contract. A much relieved William Mills wrote Hayes, "The contractor can commence operations at his very earliest convenience." Mills also suggested that "a photograph [be] taken of the act of throwing the first shovel of full dirt." He recommended that Webb "be the laborer in this act," and that the ceremony included T. A. Dean, the area’s state senator, Steinle, and other "notables" that Hayes saw fit to invite.60 Webb, who was a bit of a showman, seized the opportunity and rescheduled the cornerstone ceremonies for October 4, the ninetieth anniversary of his father’s birth. He also extended invitations to President Taft and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic nominee for president. Wilson was a good friend of Charles Richard Williams, the biographer of Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ohio’s two gubernatorial candidates.

Although a citizens’ committee had been organized to work out the extensive arrangements for the October 4 ceremonies, there was some concern on the part of OHS that the building site would not be ready for the cornerstone.61 In September, the contractor and Webb Hayes were still unable to agree on which trees they wanted removed from the construction area. Hayes directed Steinle to change the location of the building to save an oak tree, which prompted the contractor to contact William C. Mills, secretary of the building committee, about the Colonel’s meddling. In writing Webb about the matter, Mills forthrightly gave notice that "the Architect . . . made it quite plain . . . that the architectural effect of the Building would be greatly impaired if the Building was not properly set and that meant as much to the Building as anything else . . . and that saving a tree did not meet with this approval neither do I think that it meets with the approval of the Building Committee. They argue that the Building is to be permanently located, that it will last many years after the tree is gone."62

By September 21, the Fremont Daily News reported that the cornerstone laying ceremonies had been postponed. Webb C. Hayes attributed the postponement to the "general indifference displayed in connection with getting the Hayes Memorial under way . . ." Rumors also suggested that local politics played an important part in derailing the festivities. Apparently, some politicians associated with the project intentionally caused a work delay. They wanted to scrub the celebration to prevent Governor Wilson from visiting Fremont.63

The general indifference reported in September continued throughout the month of October. In a November 4 letter to Professor Mills, Webb Hayes remarked, "There was nothing done at all on the memorial building during the six beautiful days of last week. Howard [the architect] has not been here, and now sends word that he will be here Wednesday. Please stir him up and get some action."64 Webb’s impatience was somewhat mollified by the fact that by mid-November the foundation was under way and he could now "supervise" the work. Besides overseeing the construction of the building, Hayes busied himself with matters relating to the interior of the memorial. Lewis P. Sachaus, chairman of the building committee, urged Webb to restore some of the "alternates" that were omitted because of a lack of funds when the contract was let. Among the items under consideration were: the marble wainscoting, steps, and floors in the rotunda; plaster cartouches in the ceiling of the dome; the columns in the rotunda; the bronze front door; and the two bronze doors for the rooms on either side of the rotunda. Schaus felt that with such touches, "the building would be complete as a Memorial to the memory of [Webb’s ] father."65 Professor Mills also agreed that deleting the alternates would "be a very great detriment to the Building." "I am perfectly satisfied that if we had the additional Six Thousand Twelve Dollars ($6012.00)," he wrote Webb on November 7, "the building could be erected according to plans and specifications first drawn up by the architect, and we could have a building complete, fireproof, and perfect in every detail."66 Webb concurred whole-heartedly with Schaus and Mills that the building would not be complete unless the "extras" were put back in the architect’s plan. He felt so strongly about the matter that before sailing for Cuba in late December he offered "to stand good for such portion of the $6200 which we were obliged to cut out in order to get within the appropriation for the building of the Hayes Memorial at Fremont, Ohio"67

As construction of the memorial continued, some thought began to be given about providing for the care of the collections once the building was completed. Because the Society had to submit its budget request to the Auditor by December 1, William C. Mills inquired of Webb, "Is it your idea to have some local person in charge and administer the affairs at Spiegel Grove, or shall it be done from headquarters here and the party in charge be accountable to the directory in charge here [?]"68 A week later G. F. Wright informed Colonel Hayes that the Society was asking the legislature for a $1,000 a year appropriation for maintenance of the Spiegel Grove property. They also requested funds to move the library and museum collections into the new structure and for a librarian’s position. They included $8,000 to cover the expense of restoring the "alternates" to the architect’s plan.69

Although Webb Hayes thought that the workers would finish the building by June, 1913, reports emanating from the Ohio Historical Society were not very encouraging. Reporting on his March visit to Fremont to inspect the construction site, Lewis Schaus noted "that work had not progressed very much during the winter, except in the cutting of stone."70 By mid-May, Webb reported that the "Southeast and West walls are very slowly creeping up . . ." He was particularly concerned over what he thought was "some very careless work in the beautiful stone facings of the memorial building." Hayes was of the opinion that the contractor was "bullheaded" and that is was necessary to carefully inspect his work. In fact, he even went so far as to instruct the foreman to have any inspector who showed up on the job to report directly to him.71

Paul R. Murray, a state inspector, documented Webb’s concerns regarding faulty workmanship when he visited the site in early February 1914. During his inspection of the building, Murray found evidence of "improper materials" and that the contractor had failed to protect portions of the unfinished structure from the elements. Citing improper supervision as the cause of his findings, he recorded in his report to A. V. Donahey, Auditor of State, "Exposure to the action of the elements, by reason of the lack of such protection, has resulted in damage to various parts of the work . . ." Inspector Murray further stated, "it will be necessary . . . to take down and rebuild such portions before the structure can be satisfactorily completed." He recommended that the architects pay more attention to the building during the construction phase of the work.72

Although Murray’s report was anything but damning, a small controversy ensued as stories about the incident appeared in the local papers. The February 26 issue of the Fremont Daily News focused attention on loose construction methods, while a follow-up story a day later reported the construction flaws as not serious.73 The contractor, Carl F. Steinle, responded to the allegations. He published a letter in the March 3 issue of the Fremont Daily News. In this letter he contended "that no building will show a finer class of material or workmanship . . ." He even offered to hire, at his own expense, any engineer that the OHS trustees would choose to have examine the building.74

Despite Steinle’s claims about the fine quality of his materials and workmanship, work progressed slowly on the building. The long series of delays, which characterized the project from its inception, were undoubtedly attributable to a number of factors, including the contractor, Webb’s incessant meddling, bureaucratic entanglements, and the attention that OHS was giving to the construction of its own building in Columbus. According to Auditor Donahey, the contractor was responsible for the lack of progress. In a letter addressed to Steinle Construction, he pointed out that the contractor had done very little work since Murray’s February inspection. Representing the State of Ohio, he forthrightly stated, "I earnestly urge that work be started on this building . . . The fact that the building was supposed to be completed July 1, 1913, should urge your company to make every effort to complete this contract."75

The architects, Howard & Merriam, on the other hand, had to contend with Webb Hayes. On more than one occasion, the good Colonel ordered changes in the construction. These changes not only hindered the work of the contractor, but also created untold problems for the architects, prompting letters like the one Oscar Howard wrote on July 7, 1914, to W. C. Mills. Professor Mills and other members of the building committee constantly had to serve as brokers or referees between Colonel Hayes and all other interested parties. Reacting to Webb’s suggestions about the heating system and several fireproof doors, Howard implored, "it is not our desire to be arbitrary on any of these matters, but you can readily understand that in order to place ourselves in the correct light with the state authorities, we must receive from your Board instructions regarding omissions and changes."76

Construction on the memorial building continued to drag on through the remainder of 1914 and 1915. When Herbert Edwards, superintendent for architects Howard & Merriam, visited the construction site on February 15, 1915, he found that there was nobody from the construction company on the premises. He further noted in this inspection report that "None of the other work reported as incomplete in [the] report has been done."77 Nine months later Webb Hayes was still lobbying for certain changes involving the heating plant. These changes, according to Webb, would free up additional space in the basement of the building for museum purposes. Although the Committee on Spiegel Grove approved the changes at a special meeting in Cleveland on November 15, the matter was further evidence that the protracted nature of the Spiegel Grove project was beginning to adversely affect the relationship between Webb C. Hayes and the Ohio Historical Society. Writing to Francis W. Treadway, one of the members present at the Cleveland meeting, Professor William Mills quipped, "Colonel Hayes has no more jurisdiction over this property than you or I; he is only a member and I feel that all matters involving a change in the building, etc. should be subjected to the board of Trustees for their action. . ."78

Despite all the troubles that plagued the project, the memorial building neared completion by the end of the year. With the construction and outfitting of the memorial building nearly complete, both Webb and his OHS colleagues began focusing their attention on the dedicatory ceremonies set for May 30, 1916. The ceremonies were to mark the completion of the Hayes Memorial Library and Museum and the transfer of Spiegel Grove, including the residence, to the state under the custodianship of the Ohio Historical Society. Hoping to secure President Woodrow Wilson for the occasion, the society enlisted the help of Ohio Senator Atlee Pomerene. Senator Pomerene, together with Colonel Hayes and Representative Arthur W. Overmeyer, visited the President in early December. Although the delegation failed to receive a firm commitment, Wilson instructed Senator Pomerene that "I would be very much obliged if I might be reminded of it a little later."79

By May, it had become apparent that President Wilson would be unable to attend the dedication ceremonies. Citing the uncertainness of foreign affairs as the reason he could not come to Fremont, the President extended his regrets to Webb, stating "I find that disappointments of this sort are coming thick and fast now, because it is so absolutely necessary for me to stick close to my duties here in these times of uncertainty."80 In his place, Wilson named Ohioan and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker as his official representative.

With the dawning of May 30, 1916, the nation’s first presidential library and museum was about to open its doors. Ohio, who would send seven of its native sons to the White House, had given birth to a unique concept, the forerunner of the modern presidential library system. On that special Decoration Day, it was quite appropriate that Webb C. Hayes, the library’s founder, and officials from the Ohio Historical Society shared the spotlight. Their untiring efforts and vision were responsible for making accessible to the American public one of the largest and most complete presidential collections known at that time. Twenty-one years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt, exploring the possibility of establishing his own presidential library, wrote:

The work of many historians and other experts who specialize in particular periods of our history has, in times past, been greatly handicapped by lack of proper library facilities and access to original source materials.

It seems to me that the extraordinary resources of the Hayes Memorial Library at Spiegel Grove State Park ought to make comparatively easy the task of scholars looking for material covering the Administration of President Hayes and the post Civil War period. I think it is particularly fitting that this comprehensive collection should include;[sic] besides President Hayes’ own library, his correspondence and other papers associated with his public life - a veritable gold mine for historical scholars.81

Such is the legacy of Webb C. Hayes and the dedicated men of the Ohio Historical Society who established "a veritable gold mine for historical scholars" and the American public.

go to top of page


End Notes

1 Fremont Messenger, May 30, 1916.  go back

2 Hereafter referred to as the Ohio Historical Society or OHS.  go back

3 Fremont Messenger, May 30, 1916. go back

4 For additional information see: Thomas A. Smith, "Carte de Viste: Webb C. Hayes," Hayes Historical Journal, IX, 2 (Winter, 1991), 30-32. go back

5 Albert Bierstadt to Webb C. Hayes [hereafter cited as WCH], March 5, 1878. WCH Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center [hereafter cited as HPC]. go back

6 Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Cook, June 10, 1881. Rutherford B. Hayes Papers, HPC. go back

7 The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, "Confidential Circular," [April, 1898], 4 pp. go back

8 Fremont Daily News, March 9, 1893.  go back

9 "Confidential Circular," [April, 1898].  go back

10 Roeliff Brinkerhoff to WCH, April 5, 1898. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

11 WCH to E. O. Randall [hereafter cited as EOR], April 25, 1898. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

12 "Confidential Circular," [April, 1898].  go back

13 Birchard A. Hayes, WCH, Rutherford P. Hayes, Scott R. Hayes, and Fanny Hayes Smith to Roeliff Brinkerhoff, September 18, 1898. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

14 EOR to WCH, April 1, 1899. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

15 Roeliff Brinkerhoff to WCH, June 12, 1899. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

16 Roeliff Brinkerhoff to WCH, July 5, 1899. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

17 WCH, "Declarations of Trust," [April, 1899], 1p. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

18 Birchard A. Hayes to Fanny Hayes Smith, April 5, 1899. Fanny Hayes Papers, HPC.  go back

19 "Declaration of Trust," [April, 1899].  go back

20 Because Fremont was judged to have too many saloons, the state decided to locate the normal school targeted for northwest Ohio in Bowling Green. The school later became Bowling Green State University.  go back

21 Charles Richard Williams, ed., Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, IV (Columbus: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1926), 275-280.  go back

22 Ibid., 281-285.  go back

23 C.B. Galbreath to WCH, April 8, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

24 The Spiegel Grove Committee consisted of Oberlin theologian and geologist George Frederick Wright, chairman of the committee, E. O. Randall, committee secretary, L. P. Schaus, OHS trustee from Newark, Professor William C. Mills, the Society’s curator and librarian, and Webb C. Hayes. James R. Merriam, from the Columbus architectural firm of Howard & Merriam, architects for the Spiegel Grove project, was later added to the committee. The Society also established a separate building committee with Schaus as president and Mills as secretary. William J. Morrison to Watt P. Marchman, June 16, 1972. HPC Archives, HPC.  go back

25 Myron T. Herrick [hereafter cited as MTH] and G. Frederick Wright [hereafter cited as GFW] to Andrew Carnegie, April 22, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

26 James Bertram to GFW, May 9, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

27 EOR to WCH, October 25, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

28 WCH to MTH, November 30, 1911. Myron t. Herrick Papers, Western Reserve Historical Society [hereafter cited as WRHS].  go back

29 WCH to Mrs. Myron T. Herrick, December 12, 1911. Herrick Papers, WRHS.  go back

30 Fremont Daily News, August 5, 1911.  go back

31 EOR to P. J. Rock. August 2, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC  go back

32 EOR to WCH, November 8, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC  go back

33 William C. Mills [hereafter cited as WCM] to WCH, December 21, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

34 WCH to MTH, December 24, 1911. Herrick Papers, WRHS.  go back

35 EOR to WCH, January 5, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

36 EOR to WCH, January 10, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

37 MTH to WCH, January 20, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

38 WCH to MTH, January 27, 1912. Herrick Papers, WRHS.  go back

39 Fremont Daily News, August 5, 1911.  go back

40 WCM to WCH, February 5, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

41 Ibid.  go back

42 WCM to WCH, February 24, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

43 GFW to WCH, March 23, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

44 WCM to WCH, April 9, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

45 WCH to Mary Otis Brinkerhoff, April 18, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC. Webb Hayes and Mary Otis Miller Brinkerhoff were married at Spiegel Grove on September 30, 1912.  go back

46 WCH to Mary Otis Brinkerhoff, April 20, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

47 Fremont Daily News, April 24 and May 2, 1912.  go back

48 Fremont Daily News, August 5, 1911.  go back

49 EOR to P. J. Rock, August 2, 1911. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

50 Timothy S. Hogan to EOR, January 2, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

51 Fremont Daily News, June 14, 1912.  go back

52 Fremont Daily News, August 6, 1912.  go back

53 WCM to WCH, March 24, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

54 EOR to WCH, May 24, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

55 WCM to WCH, June 11, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

56 EOR to WCH, June 21, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

57 EOR to WCH, July 10, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

58 GFW to WCH, July 12, 1912 and WCM to WCH, July 15, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

59 Fremont Daily News, August 10, 1912.  go back

60 WCM to WCH, August 24, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

61 Fremont Daily News, September 6, 16, and 20, 1912.  go back

62 WCM to WCH, September 11, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

63 Fremont Daily News, September 21, 1916.  go back

64 WCH to WCM, November 4, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

65 Lewis P. Schaus to WCH, November 5, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

66 WCM to WCH, November 7, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

67 WCH to L. P. Schaus, December 28, 1912. WCH.  go back

68 WCM to WCH, November 30, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

69 GFW to WCH, November 26, 1916. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

70 L. P. Schaus to WCH, April 2, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC. Webb C. Hayes spent the first three months of 1912 touring South America and the Caribbean.  go back

71 WCH to WCM, May 13, 1912. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

72 Paul R. Murray, "Report of Examination of The Hayes Memorial Library and Museum Building at Fremont," February 4, 1914. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

73 Fremont Daily News, February 26 and 27, 1914. Paul Murray in a separate report also criticized Steinle for his handling of the normal school project at Bowling Green. In both cases, Murray reported that lax methods were employed in the construction work.  go back

74 Fremont Daily News, March 3, 1914.  go back

75 A.V. Donahey to The Steinle Construction Company, June 4, 1914. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

76 Oscar D. Howard to WCH, July 7, 1914. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

77 Herbert Edwards, "Report of Inspection at Fremont Memorial Bldg. Made February 20, 1915." WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

78 Francis W. Treadway [hereafter cited as FWT] to Daniel J. Ryjan, November 12, 1915; WCM to FWT, November 15, 1915; and FWT to WCH, November 16, 1915. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

79 Woodrow Wilson to Atlee Pomerene, December 13, 1915. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

80 Woodrow Wilson to WCH, May 10, 1916. WCH Papers, HPC.  go back

81 Franklin D. Roosevelt to Webb C. Hayes II, October 21, 1937. Webb C. Hayes II Papers, HPC.  go back

go to top of page

go back to Hayes Historical Journal - Volume X No. 2