Since its founding in 1998, the Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc. has been dedicated to preserving, and educating others about, the rich history of the railroad in Northwest Ohio. The center's sprawling gift shop and museum, which features two model-train layouts, explore the role of trains in American life in the past and the present. Outside, quarter-scale deisel and steam trains chug across a field crossed with railroad tracks with dozens of gleeful passengers in tow. As part of its celebration of all things railroad, Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc. also curates seasonal events, such as train rides brimming with holiday festivities.
Every time the Darke County Historical Society unearths a new finding, there’s a good chance that the public’s first look at it will come in the exhibition halls of Greenville’s Garst Museum. More than 300,000 American artifacts fill the museum's six wings, many of which were discovered—or rediscovered, as the case may be—over the course of the society's archeological digs, genealogical research, and historic preservation activities.
Among the century-spanning exhibits, the softer side of sharpshooter Annie Oakley unfolds in the Coppock Wing, and antique cannonballs and Humvees speak of the wartime exploits of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Down on the first floor, a painting of Chief Tarhe, Grand Sachem of the Wyandots, presides over a collection that focuses on America during the 1700s but leaves room for anachronistic elements such as mastodon bones. The newest exhibit, "Diversity in Darke County: The Story of Longtown," celebrates local history with its visual chronicle of a tri-racial settlement in Greenville.
Aside from the main two-story brick Colonial home—which was built as an inn in 1852, according to Touring Ohio—the society and the museum maintain several properties of historic note. A free, self-guided tour of Bear's Mill and its 800-foot water channel can be capped with a cup of gourmet coffee, and the Lowell Thomas house provides insights into the childhood of the broadcaster and adventurer who once famously dined with the Prince of Wales inside an actual whale.
Science Central teaches all ages about scientific methods with hands-on exhibits and activities. An admission-granting membership, which provides free admission to two adults and six children under 18, opens the learning shutters so parents and children can discover how to think scientifically. Permanent exhibition schedules rotate on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and feature a tidal pool, giant slide, moonwalk, the Mind's Eye Gallery of interactive puzzles, and the Prediction Gallery, which lets kids be pretend-meteorologists pretending to predict pretend weather. The current temporary exhibit area will be filled with Me–The Medical Marvel, 1,500 feet worth of brain kernels about blood, old-timey medical devices, nutrition, AIDS, and the relationship between height and the ability to spell, for the duration of 2010. Preview a virtual museum here.
Madeleines Bakehouse takes its inspiration from the French treat known as a madeleine—a shell-shaped cake with a buttery crust and sponge-like texture. Originating in the city of Commercy in the 18th century, madeleines earned their name when a girl named Madeleine baked a batch that made it to the mouth of Louis XV's wife, who shared them with a loveable stray who would later win the world's heart by starring in Homeward Bound. This deal gets you a dozen of these majestic pastries, superb for dunking into an afternoon tea or submerging into your backyard pool of chocolate. Madeleines Bakehouse uses local and organic eggs in all of its recipes—including banana bread, coffee cake, and chocolate bouchon—ensuring high levels of vitamins and a soft richness.
Opened in February of 2000, the African/African-American Historical Museum aims to educate and promote understanding of the African Diaspora and its impact on American history and culture. Spanning two floors of the historic John Dixie building, the museum chronicles African-American progress from the early days of slavery to the continuing milestones of today. Along the way, all ages, colors, creeds, and extraterrestrial tourists will be treated to fascinating stories of the Underground Railroad, important inventors, civil rights activists, and local pioneers such as William E. Warfield, who published the first black newspaper in the area called the Fort Wayne Weekly Vindicator. Even more priceless are Warfield's voluminous diaries, which detail daily events in Fort Wayne from 1909 through 1936. Meanwhile, the sports archive on the second floor is designed with a miniature football field and basketball court, with pictures, artifacts, and trophies of local sports legends.
Between the stately walls of engine house #3, generations of firefighters stood guard around the clock from 1893 to 1972. Currently, the museum hosts exhibits, artifacts, and a fire-safety learning center. The garage has a variety of classic fire trucks, including the 1848 Button Hand Pumper, which served loyally for the better part of four decades, and the 1942 International Engine, which has been beautifully restored for parades and occasional Slip 'n Slide parties. Aside from gazing at the old-fangled firefighter tools of yesteryear and gleaning historical nuggets, you and your guests will also gather tips and tricks for preventing fires, controlling fires, fighting fires, and helping fires with marital problems.