This summer New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni wrote: “NBC recently announced plans for a mini-series about Hillary Clinton, whose current exaltation seems bound to end with her visage on Mount Rushmore. The network would do as well to consider a docudrama devoted to Weiner.”
While there is no doubt that her presidential campaign train has left the station (soon to approach warp speed), his mention of Mount Rushmore got me thinking. The well-known dictum: “If you build it they will come” is the goal of visitor centers at all tourist sites. But where would you build it? Where should her presidential library be?
Typically, presidential libraries are associated with the home of the president. For example, New Yorker Franklin Delano Roosevelt who started the process, built his presidential library not only in his home state, not only in his home county, not only in his home town, but on the grounds of his home. FDR was so involved in his home he was even a local historian. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington opened September 27 as a private library at Mount Vernon. But suppose you have no such home or roots, then where would you build a library? Consider the possibilities.
This seems like an unlikely choice. Like so many people in upstate New York, once she left home for college she returned only for brief visits. She hasn’t lived in Illinois for decades. One presumes that Barack Obama will construct his library in the state of Illinois and city of Chicago where he lived, worked, began his political career, had his presidential campaign headquarters, started a new political organization for his post-presidential career, and will return when he leaves the White House.
Early Career State
It’s not unusual to begin a career in the boonies. One has to start somewhere and the path to a corporate headquarters may begin in a backwater. I doubt if anyone considers Arkansas to be her home state. Even the president who was born there, and has a library there, doesn’t live there anymore – he lives in New York.
In many ways Washington, DC is the most appropriate place. It is the only place she ever wanted to live, and she has been focused like a laser on living there. Even while living in Arkansas she visited the nation’s capital frequently. It makes sense that the library would be in the city where she dedicated her life. However, for an ex-president to build a library in the nation’s capital might seem unseemly, to have crossed a line, to have crossed the Rubicon and violated the nation’s common turf.
That leaves New York, her current base of operations. Staff have been relocated from the nation’s capital to the Big Apple.
So given this narrow window from 2013-2016 when she would live in New York, where in New York would you build her library? Libraries frequently are associated with colleges. Right now Columbia University/Barnard College for Women and NYU are growing like gangbusters. So while space can be expropriated (even in Manhattan), that space is already allocated, making finding additional room on campus for a library problematic. Cornell University in upstate New York is continuing its expansion in New York City by creating a technology center for the 21st century on Roosevelt Island. Again the space is allocated. A library with a college affiliation and located on campus in New York City seems unlikely.
Other parcels of land may no longer be available. The Ground Zero area has been rebuilt. The development plans for Governors Island, an Army post whose mission was to prevent the British from capturing New York as they had in the American Revolution and where Confederates were held prisoner, have been moving full speed ahead. That window of opportunity has closed. Even the bitterly contested six-acre Seward Park urban renewal project in the Lower East Side finally is moving forward. This leaves the 6.4 acre former Con Ed site just south of the UN and along the East River as the best prospect. It provides an excellent location and setting with room for a second presidential library if needed.
The backup location is Westchester. The former Readers Digest site in Chappaqua has been a source of contention for years and visitor traffic would overwhelm the hamlet’s infrastructure. There are other office parks along I-287 with easy access and there are private estates on smaller roads which also could be considered.
Returning now to Bruni’s comment on Mount Rushmore, that seems inappropriate. The Mount is too small, too crowded, and too full of dead white men. She is entitled to her own mount and New York can fulfill that need.
I believe, that no single act can do more to generate massive sustainable tourism in Upstate New York that carving the face of Hillary Clinton on her own mountain.
If you can think of one act that would do more, please let me know, please let the New York History Blog readers know, please let the Governor know (as he is desperate to jump-start tourism upstate). Even a return of the Winter Olympics would only be for one season, although some of the same infrastructure considerations would be involved. In fact, it probably would be easier than getting the Olympics to return. The New York Times Sunday travel section had a big article about the Presidential mountains in New Hampshire. Why not do it in New York?
It should be noted that the chief carver at Mount Rushmore was Luigi Del Bianco from the village of Port Chester in the Town of Rye, Westchester County (where I live). His grandson Lou does a re-enactment of his grandfather’s life. So there already is a New York connection to Mount Rushmore.
So what began as a presumed tongue-in-cheek comment by a member of the media can lead to the revitalization of the upstate New York. Truly it may be said, “If we carve it, they will come.”
22 thoughts on “The Hillary Clinton Presidential Library:Where Would You Build It?”
Peter. I suppose you had your tongue firmly in cheek when you wrote this. However, if there is ever going to be a Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Library (HRCPL I would like to see it in my adopted hometown, Ossining, NY. We have several parcels of land on our Hudson River waterfront that could easily accommodate it and it certainly would boost our economy much more that the condos that are supposed to go there someday. Moreover I think our residents would be amenable to renaming our village, “Hillary” Clearly this would positively rebrand our Village which has struggled mightily but without much success to overcome its gritty river town image. The sites I have in mind are very close to our Metro North Commuter RR Station making the HRCPL easily accessible by rail. The ferry from Haverstraw across the Hudson would bring in people from Rockland county and points West. A shuttle bus service could bring people in from White Plains Airport with intermediate stops in the Sleepy Hollow for those who want to stop off to see Kykuit, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery etc. In fact this shuttle could be incorporated into a Paths Thru History thing. One fly in the ointment is that Ossining…err Hilary, does not have a hotel. Nonetheless half of Sing Sing prison is empty and I bet that tourists would l pay top dollar to spend a night in one of the cells. I mean… think of the stories they could tell when they get back to Peoria or even Paris. I am sure the Willie Sutton Suite would be in high demand. Apple Pie Ala File and Pears Prisonaire will be favorites on the dining rooms menu. The possibilities are endless I urge everyone within sight of this blog to join the HRCPL and the Hudson Palace Hotel bandwagon.
My tongue only seems to be firmly in check because while you are a temporally challenged person restricted to 2013, I am a being of the fourth dimension free to roam the space-time continuum. From my vantage pint, I see a person who from 1993-2013 and 2017-2025 lived in the nation’s capital and when not there worked hard so she could be there. During her presidential years she almost abandoned New York except to hobnob in the Hamptons with the rich and famous. Naturally she will want her library to be in the one city to which she devoted her entire life to living. Also her library in the nation’s capital will be a dominating presence for all future presidents to recognize even more so than the Lincoln Memorial.
Therefor it is essential for New York to act now if we are to reap the benefits of her having used us so she can go to Washington. Andy may be stuck in New York but he can demand a quid pro quo for appointing Chelsea: build the library here.
No offense, but a town of mad men and convicts sent up the river is not a suitable home for the library of America’s greatest president despite the valiant and constructive changes you propose. Her library belongs in New York City.
If half of Sing Sing is now empty, the obvious answer is to empty the entire place out and put the library there. The view from Sing Sing is one of the most glorious along the entire glorious Hudson–when I lived in Westchester, I took every visiting tourist there and everyone was blown away by the beauty of the site.
Of course the site is already owned by the government, which has the duty of getting top dollar for the land if it’s sold. But we learned from Whitewater that Hillary and Bill are first-rate fundraisers when it comes to their own interests–they ought to be able to tap some of their rich pals and come up with the multi-millions needed.
I totally object to changing Ossining’s name, though. Ossining (and Sing Sing) are both old, historic names. “Hillary” sounds like a suburban housing development, and another of the great things about Ossining is that it’s an organic community that was built along its creeks a house at a time.
As you may know we in Ossining have been trying to get away from the prison town image for years. In 1901 we ditched Sing Sing for Ossining but the pointy-headed bureaucrats in Albany changed the name of the prison to the Ossining State Prison and we were stuck once more. In the 80s we once had “The Jericho Committee whose mission was to “blow the walls down” and Ram Horn/Shofar making became a cottage industry for a while. Another group, the “Gorbacheff Gang” had posted signs that invited the president of the then USSR to “tear down this wall.” Anyway , the Chamber of Commerce and realtors association is now on board to rebrand our fair community as: “Hillary, The Village that Sits on a Hill.” However the Historical Society favors De Tocqueville as he was here for several days back in 1834 or 5. Yes, it is a French name and Americans love to hate France but hey, they did help us out back in 1779-81. Anyway, I just like the sound of : The Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Library at De Tocqueville, NY. Now that is rebranding if you ask me.
I think the “Bowels of Hell” would be absolutely perfect!
Put her on The Gunks. They have cachet downstate where they are considered “upstate”. They have excellent visibility and exposure which the Clintons love, and they are recognized around the world like a Secretary of State.
That is a very intriguing idea. I presume your are talking about her carving and not the library. It would be closer to New York so is more accessible but do you really want to deny the rock climbers one of their prized sites? Determining exactly where to put Mount Saint Hillary will lead to many possibilities and communities vying for the honor.
Not the Gunks! Don’t crowd them with non-climbers. If there’s one place outside NYC that people around the world recognize, it’s Niagara Falls. Already jammed with tourists.
As you can see from my reply to that suggestion, I opposed defiling the Gunks by taking away perfectly good climbing rocks to carve the face of America’s greatest president. While Niagara Falls has been a tourist destination for centuries, I still maintain that the most advantageous place to locate Mount Saint Hillary and generate new tourism is in the North Country.
What about Rhinebeck? It’s historic, and her daughter DID get married here. It’s a convenient location. Somewhere off River Road, perhaps??
Rhinebeck certainly is a scenic site on the river and it has an Amtrak stop. And as you point out it already was selected once. I think it more likely that it will become one of the pilgrimage stops including the library in New York, the second home in Chappaqua, the marriage site in Rhinebeck and Mount Saint Hillary in the North Country. There will need to be extensive coordination among the various train lines and buses to make this work and probably a need for a high speed rail at least from New York to Albany with a stop at Rhinebeck. Fortunately as president she will be able to authorize the construction of the line.
How about Seneca Falls where other women’s firsts are memorialized?
At first glance, Seneca Falls does seem appropriate as the location for the library of the first female president. However the women’s movement was about female achievement. Would you celebrate Ma Ferguson when she became governor of Texas after her husband had been impeached and convicted or Lurleen Wallace when she became governor of Alabama when her husband was constitutionally prohibited from seeking another term? Barack Obama made it on his own; shouldn’t the first woman president do so also? It would be more appropriate for Seneca Falls to honor Elizabeth Warren as the first woman president if the country wants a woman president who made it on her own.
Presidential Library? First, Hilliary was NOT the President. Bill CLinton was. He should start it. Hilliary has a lot of nerve even thinking of such a thing! She has done nothing worthwhile or noteworthy in any of her careers to deserve, much less warrent, a library named after her. But then, money speaks loud. The only thing I would put her name on is a dog park!
As of 2013 you are of course exactly right. So far she has not been elected president; I am thinking ahead. You are right that when her supporters are asked what she did they answer with the jobs she has had and not any actions she has taken or original ideas she has had. You also are right about the money. But naming a dog park after is uncalled for; dogs are our best friends helping to rescue people and providing comfort to many. There is no need to disrespect dogs just because you disrespect her.
Boy you got that right Peter. Dogs, as a vast majority, are our friends and often rescuers. Hillary is neither, so it would be a horrid insult to dogs to connect her to them in anyway!
How about Wellesley, MA where Hillary learned how to be a leader for the 21st Century as a member of the great class of 1969 at Wellesley College?
Wellesley certainly was a pivotal point in her life and as I mentioned presidential libraries often are affiliated with libraries. You are right to point out that Massachusetts has as much right to claim her as New York. I wonder if anyone there back then seeing what she had accomplished on her own as an undergraduate would have predicted that instead of becoming a leader as she definitely was then she would turn out to have become the person she is today as an adult.
yes, as the first female president I bet she’ll opt for Wellesley, Mass — my alma mater as well.
I was also going to suggest Wellesley. Hillary has spoken of how useful and formative it was to go to a women’s-only college. Locating the library there would underscore a point she believes it’s important to make.
I like the Ossining idea. Hillary could showcase all she will have done to eliminate “the new Jim Crow.” That’s the disproportionate number of young African Americans being store-housed in our Big Houses. Sing Sing is legendary, and the juxtaposition of Hillary with James Cagney’s “I’m sittin’ on top of the world, Ma!” lends an educational opportunity worthy of Progressives’ accolades.
I know! Elmira! Prior to being elected as a senator from New York, Hillary went on a “listening tour” around the state. I seem to recall that she said, early on, that she had happy memories of Elmira, having visited it on vacation as a child. I also recall that her feeble attempt to be palsy-walsy with New Yorkers was greeted by the media with hoots and scorn. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1999-07-30/news/9907300052_1_elmira-hillary-rodham-clinton The southern tier could also use a tourism boost.
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