Northwest Ohio has a rich history, boasting battle sites, canal connections, and a role in the Underground Railroad. And that’s not to mention things like Toledo’s ties to Prohibition-era crime rings or a 1920s vaudeville star.
There’s no one-stop shopping for those who want to appreciate that history, whether they’re casually curious or in the midst of serious research. Numerous sites in and around Toledo offer visitors pieces of a vast historical puzzle.
Some, like Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio, invite visitors to place themselves in the story. Costumed interpreters and hands-on demonstrations recreate life as it was in the region in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Others use static or interactive displays to dive into historical niches: The Toledo Firefighters Museum, for example, zeroes in on the history of the Toledo Fire Department with a catalog of equipment that stretches back to the city’s first hand-drawn fire engine.
If you’re interested in local history, here are 10 places to check out:
Employee Judy Dietrich waves to a group of visitors who are taking a horse and buggy tour of Sauder Village.
Location: 22611 State Rt. 2, Archbold, Ohio
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 29.
Admission: $17 for adults, $11 for students ages 6 to 16, and free for members and children 5 and younger. Children 16 and younger are admitted free on Sundays.
More information: saudervillage.org
What you’ll find there: Sauder Village draws on costumed interpreters, hands-on demonstrations, and curated exhibits to recreate day-to-day life for Ohioans between 1803 and 1928. Visitors can take a chronological walk through history as they tour numerous homes and shops that comprise the village. Actors stand ready to tell a first-person story or rope in visitors to helping with the chores of the day.
Toledo Police Museum
Location: 2201 Kenwood Blvd.
Hours: 10 to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
More information: toledopolicemuseum.com
What you’ll find there: A gun that Thomas "Yonnie" Licavoli fired against a fellow bootlegger while his family was running Prohibition-era criminal operations in Toledo and Detroit is just one of the items on display at the Toledo Police Museum, which chronicles law enforcement in the city from the 1830s on. Also at the museum is a call box that officers once used to contact the station while walking their beats. Law enforcement has come a long way.
The sun sets over the National Museum of the Great Lakes and Toledo.
National Museum of the Great Lakes
Location: 1701 Front St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker open through October
Admission: $11 for adults, museum only, or $15 for museum and ship; $10 for seniors, museum only, or $14 for museum and ship; $8 for children 6 to 17, museum only, or $12 for museum and ship; free for members and children 5 and younger.
More information: inlandseas.org
What you’ll find there: Stories about the history of Lake Erie are just part of what’s on tap at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. Its interactive exhibits cover the glacial formation of the Great Lakes to today and include prominent shipwrecks and a “Toledo Trail” that speaks specifically to local maritime history. The accompanying SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker, docked on the Maumee River, offers a peek into the lives of its sailors in 1911.
Toledo History Museum
Location: 2001 Collingwood Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
More information: toledohistory.com
What you’ll find there: The displays at this second-floor museum are Toledo-specific, including a sash from Toledoan and Civil War Gen. James Steedman. Exhibits are often shaped by community donations. But museum operators like to step outside the historical Milmine-Stewart House, too, organizing paid behind-the-scenes tours of local sites including Camp Miakonda in September. An upcoming “Unholy Toledo Tour” will roll past one-time hot spots for gangsters and gamblers. Register for tours online.
An October morning at restored Miami Erie canal at Providence Metropark.
Canal Experience at Providence Metropark
Location: Providence Metropark, 13827 S. River Rd., Grand Rapids, Ohio
Hours: Hours vary through October for Canal Experience and Isaac Ludwig Mill; check online for details. Heritage Center is open during park hours, 7 a.m. to dark.
Admission: Canal Experience is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and Metroparks members, $4 for children 3 to 12, and free for children 2 and younger. Mill and Heritage Center are free.
More information: metroparkstoledo.com/features-and-rentals/canal-experience
What you’ll find there: An hour-long boat ride takes visitors along a portion of the Miami and Erie Canal, including navigation of an original 19th-century limestone lock. A costumed interpreter shares canal history by treating passengers as if they were travelers in 1876. A trip to the nearby Heritage Center and Isaac Ludwig Mill rounds out the experience. The latter is a functioning water-powered saw and gristmill where, during listed hours, visitors can also interact with a costumed volunteer.
Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
Location: 325 Michigan St.
Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; 9 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 to 5:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
More information: toledolibrary.org/local-history
What you’ll find there: You won’t find guided tours at the library, but there’s plenty for a history buff to peruse on the third floor of the downtown branch. That’s where librarians tend a local history collection that includes local newspapers on microfilm dating to 1837. Visitors can also find years’ worth of local high school yearbooks and a manuscript collection that covers letters, diaries, receipts, and more. The perhaps more daunting rare book collection requires an appointment and offers some local connections, too, including a Native American muster roll dated 1813. (Department materials cannot be checked out.)
Location: 29100 W. River Road, Perrysburg
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; fort open through October
Admission: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for students and free for children 5 and younger
More information: fortmeigs.org
What you’ll find there: The War of 1812 arrived in Perrysburg in 1813, when American soldiers fought off British troops from their position in Fort Meigs. The fort has been reconstructed on its original site to recall the experiences of the soldiers and camp followers who stayed there. Today, their stories are told in accounts by costumed interpreters. The museum offers additional context on the battle, and the days when Ohio represented the frontier, through artifacts such as uniform coats and weaponry, some of which were unearthed during the fort’s reconstruction.
Sylvania Historical Village
Location: 5717 Main St., Sylvania.
Hours: Heritage Center Museum open 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through mid-December; Sylvania Historical Village open 1 to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of each month through October, Lathrop House open 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through mid-November
More information: sylvaniahistoricalvillage.org
What you’ll find there: Through its living history village, its museum, and its historic Lathrop House, which sheltered slaves en route to freedom through the Underground Railroad, the Sylvania Historical Village covers regional history from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Its Heritage Center Museum is set up as it would have been for its original owner, Dr. Uriah A. Cooke, in the late 1800s and early 1900s.Rotating exhibits include a current one that touches on local vaudeville star Hazel Black.
Toledo Firefighters Museum
Location: 918 W. Sylvania Ave.
Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays
More information: toledofirefightersmuseum.org
What you’ll find there: Like its law enforcement counterpart, the Toledo Firefighters Museum details the city’s fire safety efforts from the 1800s to the present day. It’s home to Toledo’s first engine, which was pulled by hand in 1837, as well as a later horse-drawn model. A replica dispatch center speaks to the evolution of operations inside the station, recalling days when telegraphs trumped telephones. The museum itself is inside an old fire station, with an interactive fire training room occupying part of the second floor.
Students tour the Nickel Plate Road car at the Wolcott Heritage Center & Grounds in Maumee.
Wolcott Heritage Center
Location: 1035 River Road, Maumee
Hours: Guided tours noon and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; free self-guided tours noon to 5 p.m. Fridays in September
Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, and $3 students
More information: sites.google.com/view/maumeevalleyhistoricalsociety/home
What you’ll find there: The collection of historic buildings at the Wolcott Heritage Center, including its namesake Wolcott House, offers a glimpse of life in the Maumee Valley between 1827 and 1901. Visitors can step back in time through rooms arranged with original furnishings; displays of farm equipment and period clothing also speak to the era. Rotating exhibits add depth to the experience, including a current exhibit on local ties to World War I.
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