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Ohio’s Famous Faces

The Buckeye State has raised more than its fair share of dreamers. Eight presidents lived in the state, among them Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding and William McKinley. Other Ohio natives aspired to reach for the stars, such as astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. The state also produced one of the country’s best-known abolitionists: Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Groups can learn how history forever changed because of some of Ohio’s most famous faces at these significant attractions.

Ohio’s Presidential Sites

Fremont, Point Pleasant, Georgetown, Marion and Canton

Ohio’s impressive list of former presidents makes for fascinating attractions throughout the state. The Ohio History Connection runs many of the presidential sites that welcome groups.

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum in Fremont remembers the 19th president with tours of his 31-room mansion, two-story Victorian home and burial site. Groups can see original furniture and even the bed in which Hayes died. Abraham Lincoln’s slippers are among the interesting artifacts Hayes collected during his life. A typical tour includes stories about the president, accompanied by music, chocolate and toasts.

Two sites commemorate the Civil War hero and 18th president Ulysses S. Grant: The U.S. Grant Birthplace in Point Pleasant and the U.S. Grant Boyhood Home and Schoolhouse in Georgetown. Both sites are restored to their historic period for tours.

“The boyhood home has some of the original furniture, which is really incredible because that was so long ago,” said Emily Schofield, marketing coordinator for the Ohio History Connection. “The home has a high-quality animatronic Grant that talks about his life growing up. The sites both give a lot of information on how Grant influenced the country. That’s the cool thing about our presidents. They are part of Ohio’s history, but they also fit into the larger American history.”

The Warren G. Harding Home in Marion is now closed for restoration. The site is adding a presidential museum and restoring the home to when it was best known as the site of Harding’s 1920 Front Porch Campaign. Hourlong guided tours will showcase original furnishings and the final resting place of the 29th president.

One presidential site owned and operated by the Stark County Historical Society is the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton. Artifacts from McKinley’s birth to his death by assassination reveal his interesting life. The museum also boasts a science center with wildlife, fossils and a planetarium.

Armstrong Air and Space Museum

Wapakoneta

Visitors love to sample astronaut ice cream at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta. The museum not only chronicles Armstrong’s 1969 moon walk but also explains the larger history of spaceflight.

“The museum has simulators where you can practice landing a space shuttle,” said Schofield. “It is not a static museum. It is interactive. Groups can do a self-guided tour. Both experiences allow time for people to explore the museum themselves.”

Run by the Ohio History Connection, the museum chronicles events that led to Armstrong’s walk on the moon. Guests can see two full-size aircrafts flown by Armstrong, the Gemini VII space capsules, a moon rock and other artifacts from Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission.

The museum runs a short documentary on the Apollo 11 mission. Other exhibits detail other Ohio aviators, such as the Wright brothers and astronaut Glenn. The museum opened just three years after the historic moon landing as a monument to the achievements of not only Armstrong but also “all Ohioans who have attempted to defy gravity.”

The unusual earth mounded design of the museum makes the building appear to be underground. The museum’s striking multimedia dome theater presents documentaries and other multimedia programming.

Ernest Warther Museum and Gardens

Dover

Ernest Warther started adulthood with only a second-grade education. By the time his life ended, he was known as a genius, self-taught master carver. Groups can see his hand-carved Great Events in American Railroad History, which consists of solid ivory renditions of landmark trains, such as the first train that traversed the transcontinental railroad.

“One of our most famous pieces is Lincoln’s funeral train,” said Kristen Moreland, assistant director of the Ernest Warther Museum. “It is seven feet long. All the carvings are scaled to the actual engine, and all of them are done completely by hand. Despite no tools and no glue, the replica is perfect. The Smithsonian Institute has deemed our collection priceless.”

Though Warther continued work outside of his carving hobby, he spent an average of four hours a day working on his carvings. He created a “tree” of 511 pliers that could be folded back re-creating the block of wood from which they were fashioned.

“It is a great American story,” said Moreland. “He never sold any of his work but was offered money for it. One unique thing about our museum is that his entire artistic collection, his home and his studio are here. There are only a handful of museums that can say that.”

The museum offers several group amenities, such as a private space for hosted meals and group workshops.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Cincinnati

Harriet Beecher Stowe moved to Cincinnati in 1832 when the city was an abolitionist haven. Her 20 years in the home on the banks of the Ohio River inspired her to write the best-selling book of its time, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The fictionalized account of slavery and the Underground Railroad made Stowe a household name.

“Stowe’s book was one of the earliest that discussed the problem of slavery,” said Schofield. “The home focuses on her and the Underground Railroad. Then it connects that history to the present. You can get a sense of what life was like back then and what influenced her to write the book.”

Groups can tour the Ohio History Connection home to learn about Stowe’s time in Cincinnati and her remarkable family, which included a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, a founder of colleges for women and the first Civil War general who commanded African American troops in the Union Army.

The site also offers walking tours of the surrounding Walnut Hills neighborhood. The area has been home to Olympic gold medalists, women’s rights leaders and Underground Railroad conductors.

Because the Beecher family assisted freedom seekers while living at the Cincinnati home, the house is a recognized site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

John and Annie Glenn Museum

New Concord

Visiting groups can receive a warm welcome from John Glenn’s mother, father, sister or son when they arrive at the John and Annie Glenn Museum in New Concord. Far from your typical space-themed museum, the site gives guests a living-history tour experience.

“The John and Annie Glenn Museum is a fun museum,” said Schofield. “They have costumed reenactors guide you through it while depicting people from John’s life. That really brings the house to life.”

Glenn moved to the home at age 2 and stayed there until he enlisted as a Marine in 1943. In 1962, he rode into space and piloted the Friendship 7 spacecraft around the globe, making him the first American to orbit the earth. Glenn landed an American hero.

The museum displays exhibits on this exciting time, his subsequent years as a senator and his 1998 spaceflight as the oldest person to travel to space. While learning these stories, guests can see a model of the Friendship 7 space capsule, Glenn’s jumpsuit and his military uniforms. A 20-minute award-winning movie about Glenn begins the tour.

Groups can incorporate lunch or dinner with their tour. The site is now offering boxed lunches for a quick meal at the site. Though closed for the season, the museum plans to reopen in May.

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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