by Richard Senate
Over the decades many American Presidents have passed through Ventura. Some visited before they were in office, like Ronald Reagan as Governor of California and Herbert Hoover after he left office. Some even say that John Kennedy and his new wife passed though on their Honeymoon in Santa Barbara.
But the first sitting president to come calling had the most impact on Ventura. It was President William McKinley who came here at the invitation of Senator Thomas R. Bard on May 10th 1901. When his train came into the station it was greeted by a brass band and the whole town was decked out with welcoming signs and flowers. A decorated horse drawn open carriage was waiting to give him and his party a tour of the town.
They made there way up Front Street to Main, still an unpaved dirt roadway, to the cheers of the residents, all the way to the Old Mission San Buenaventura. Parishioners, some Chumash Tribesmen, were in the bell tower, at all the historic bells and rang them in a musical tribute to the President and first lady.
Father Grogan, the priest at the Mission and a historian in his own right, was on the steps of the Mission to give the party a tour of the ancient chapel. They were shown the Mission treasures and the Native Daughters of the Golden West Presented President McKinley with a large silver plate inscribed with the image of the Mission. After the tour, the presidential party were driven on Poli Street to view the Pacific Ocean and community before returning to the train station. Here, from the train, President McKinley gave a patriotic speech before heading north to Santa Barbara on his tour of California.
Sadly, in just a few months, he was assassinated. His successor; Teddy Roosevelt, would also visit Ventura and be given the same royal treatment. But, the visit by McKinley left the biggest impact on the young city of Ventura.