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Letchworth and Fillmore

This original oil portrait of Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, hangs in the hallway of the Glen Iris Inn in Letchworth State Park located in a shady bluff overlooking the Upper Falls of the Genesee River Gorge. The Glen Iris is the former home of William Pryor Letchworth, who was a wealthy Buffalo businessman, philanthropist and a good friend of Millard Fillmore. Why Fillmore in Letchworth State Park?


William Pryor Letchworth had a life-long interest in history. He and Fillmore were two of the founders of today’s Buffalo History Museum. When he purchased 1000 acres of forest surrounding the Genesee River Gorge near Portageville, NY and then developed his Glen Iris Estate, he became fascinated by the native heritage of the Genesee Valley. After reading about the Old Seneca Council House, which was built on a reservation nearby before the Revolutionary War, Letchworth purchased and moved it to his estate, where it was carefully reconstructed on the site of the original Council Grounds.

He hired John Shanks, one of Mary Jemison's Seneca grandsons, to carry out the reconstruction work. It was completed by the fall of 1872, when Letchworth invited the descendants of the Iroquois leaders AND former President Fillmore for a "Last" Council Fire on the Genesee.


The Council Fire was held on October 1, 1872 with speeches and the rededication of the Council House. Before they left, the Iroquois and other guests planted memorial trees and signed their names in a special guest register. The former President helped plant a black walnut tree near the Council House, and that is why his portrait hangs in the Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth State Park.

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