Don t listen to people who say history is boring. Forget the old notion that there s nothing interesting to see or do close to home. Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are home to a variety of historical sites and museums that are inexpensive, educational, and entertaining to boot.
There s always this tendency of people to overlook what is right in their own hometown, said Patricia Smith, director of the Allen County Museum in Lima.
Consider this a perfect time to check out the sites you ve heard about or maybe haven t heard about that just might teach you something new about where you live. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Hayes and Buckland avenues, Fremont, Ohio. Spiegel Grove, the sprawling, 25-acre estate of President Rutherford B. Hayes, welcomes visitors to tour the 31-room mansion and adjacent museum and library, which opened in 1916 as the first presidential library/museum in the United States. Every summer, Spiegel Grove is home to a series of free concerts, and it offers horse-drawn sleigh and carriage rides during the Christmas holidays and President s Day weekend. Information: rbhayes.org; 419-332-2081.
Grosvenor House Museum, 211 Maumee St., Jonesville, Mich. Not too far away in Hillsdale County, you can see an example of noted American architect Elijah Myers work. Mr. Myers designed the 32-room Victorian Italianate home of E.O. Grosvenor, a one-time lieutenant governor of Michigan who headed up the commission in charge of building the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.
It was Mr. Myers who designed the Michigan Capitol and other noted state and county government buildings, including courthouses in Ohio s Seneca and Lorain counties. Information: hillsdalecounty.info/history0004.asp; (517) 849-9596.
nPRovidence Metropark and the Canal Experience, 13827 U.S. 24, Grand Rapids, Ohio. Part of the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Providence is a bright spot along the Maumee River where the term living history rings especially true. Visitors can take a 45-minute trip on a canal boat that passes through an original lock of the Miami & Erie Canal, hear stories about life in the mid-1800s, and visit the Isaac Ludwig Mill where logs are sawed and grain is ground the old-fashioned way.
Providence holds special lantern tours and an annual mill festival in July as well as weekly programs for families in the summer that feature old-time crafts. Information: metroparkstoledo.com/metroparks/providence; 419-407-9700.
Wolcott House Museum Complex, 1031 River Rd., Maumee. An exhibit on Ohio s First Ladies opened the new season this spring at the Wolcott House Museum Complex home of the Maumee Valley Historical Society and an ever-growing number of historic buildings. Visitors can tour the Federal-style home of the site s namesake, James Wolcott, a prosperous businessman who helped develop the city of Maumee. While the house is the only structure that s original to the site, the rest were moved from nearby locations, including an 1850s log cabin and an 1880 train depot both moved from Sophia Street. Information: 419-893-9602.
Sauder Village, 22611 State Rt. 2, Archbold, Ohio. Considered Ohio s largest living-history destination, Sauder Village has been showing and telling people about life in northwest Ohio in the 1800s for more than 30 years. Nearly 100,000 people per year visit the village, which allows guests to experience an old-fashioned way of life as they stroll through community shops, historic homes, a Native American area, and a farm and gardens. Information: saudervillage.org; 1-800-590-9755.
Fort Meigs State Memorial, 29100 West River Rd., Perrysburg. Situated on its original location along the Maumee River, the 10-acre battlefield and fort built during the War of 1812 by Gen. William Henry Harrison was reconstructed by the Ohio Historical Society in the 1960s and opened in 1974. Visitors can check out blockhouses, artillery batteries, and earthworks as they learn about the life of a soldier, the construction of the fort, and the two sieges against Fort Meigs in 1813.
Inside the visitor center is a store, classrooms, and a museum with exhibits that focus on Ohio s role in the War of 1812. A number of events throughout the year bring history to life. Information: fortmeigs.org; 1-800-283-8916.
Glacial Grooves, north side of Kelleys Island, Ohio. With free admission and open year-round, the grooves showcase a bit of geological history for visitors to this Lake Erie island, which can be reached by ferry from Marblehead or Sandusky. According to the Ohio Historical Society, the Glacial Grooves are the largest, easily accessible formation of their kind in the world.
They were scoured into solid limestone bedrock about 18,000 years ago by the great ice sheet which covered part of North America, according to the historical society s Web site. For more information on Kelleys Island, go to kelleysisland.com
Monroe County Historical Museum, 126 South Monroe St., Monroe, Mich. Although cavalry officer George A. Custer was born near Cadiz, Ohio, the city of Monroe has become known as his home. He and his wife, Monroe native Elizabeth Bacon, made their home in the city. The historical museum features a permanent exhibit about Custer. The museum also has an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century artifacts related to the history of southeast Michigan. It oversees the River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center as well as the Navarre Anderson Trading Post, an original 1789 French trading post. Information: historicmonroe.org/museum; 734-240-7780.
Allen County Museum, 620 West Market St., Lima, Ohio. Local history museums are chock full of fascinating stories and relics from the past, and the Allen County Museum the only county museum in Ohio to be accredited by the American Association of Museums is tops among them. Last year, the museum opened a 6,000-square-foot, hands-on Children s Discovery Center aimed at the 12-and-under crowd. For visitors of all ages, there s an original Allen County log cabin, the well-appointed Victorian MacDonell house, and a museum heavy on local railroad and manufacturing artifacts. Information: allencountymuseum.org; 419-222-9426.
Perry s Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Built between 1912 and 1915 on South Bass Island just five miles from the longest undefended border in the world, the memorial stands as a tribute to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and all those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.
It also was built as a symbol of the long-lasting peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States. Visitors can get a panoramic view of western Lake Erie from the observation gallery situated 317 feet above the ground. Information: nps.gov/pevi; 419-285-2184.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-353-5972.