The Panhandle is a park that forms a panhandle with Golden Gate Park. The Panhandle is near the geographic center of the city, and forms the southern boundary of the Western Addition neighborhood and the northern boundary of the Haight Ashbury.
The McKinley statue stands at the beginning of the Panhandle as you enter into Golden Gate Park. William McKinley was the 25th President who died on September 14, 1901 after being shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. Just four months prior to his being shot he had a successful visit to San Francisco. When it was decided to create a monument, nine sculptors were invited to compete, and this competition was called the Spring Exhibition of the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. The contest was won by Robert Ingersoll Aitken.
Born in San Francisco, California, Aitken studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art with Douglas Tilden. From 1901 until 1904 he was an instructor at the Institute. In 1904 he moved to Paris where he continued his studies. He returned to New York City after his sojourn in Paris and was employed as an instructor at the Art Students League.
Originally intended for the intersection of Van Ness and Market, the citizens of San Francisco were stuck with the moving bill of $30,000, when it was brought to the Panhandle outside of Golden Gate Park. Ironically, all of the presidents honored in the park are from Ohio, Garfield and Grant are the other two.
Ground for this statue was broken by Theodore Roosevelt. The spade that Roosevelt used to break ground for the monument was a copy that McKinley had used to break ground for the Dewey Monument in Union Square.
As a side note, this visit to San Francisco by Roosevelt included a four day camping trip with John Muir in Yosemite. This resulted in his expansion of federal protection for extraordinary land areas such as Yosemite.