Until a few weeks ago, it had been years since I visited the Milan Museum near Sandusky, Ohio. My kids were fairly young and I’d organized a field trip and tour for my homeschool support group. I remember being fascinated by the tour. However, it was pretty lengthy and my kids were a tad more interested in visiting with friends than learning about the canal that played such an important role in Milan’s history.
With the construction of the Milan Canal that connected the Huron River near Milan to Lake Erie, Milan became the 2nd largest grain exporter in the world, second only to Odessa, Russia. The fame didn’t last, as the railroads became widespread, and canals became a less desirable way to travel. Milan remained on the map and in the history books because of what happened in 1847. Inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born and spent his early years in a small brick Milan home.
The Birthplace of Thomas A. Edison is not part of The Milan Museums, but it is open for tours and is a stop I’ve enjoyed in the past. Milan is a charming village with such a cute downtown. I love the architecture, the antique stores, and the friendly people I encountered. I can’t wait for a return trip to Milan to explore further.
What You’ll find at the Milan Museum
I may have enjoyed my tour of the Milan Museum all those years ago when I visited with my children, but this time blew my socks off. I’m not sure if I enjoy visiting museums more now or if I prefer to visit on my own, not when I’ve organized a field trip. The Milan Historical Museum is not a single building. The complex is actually made up of seven separate buildings and galleries, plus a Gift Shop, Four Seasons Statue Garden, and Administrative Offices.
I found parking on the street and made my way through the wrought iron “Entrance” gate towards the General Store and Gift Shop in the back to purchase a ticket (on this trip, my ticket was actually provided, but I needed to find my contact and let them know I’d arrived).
The friendly staff and guides at the Milan Museum share the rich history of Milan through stories as you visit each of the buildings in the complex to learn about the rich history of the community.
The Lockwood Smith & Co. General Store looks untouched and gives visitors a glimpse back in time. The hub of the community, the General Store was where villagers could pick up their mail, order supplies, and gossip with the other patrons. Consider the General Store the news hub of the past.
The Sisty Blacksmith Shop and Hoover Innovation Gallery displays the ingenious Hoover Potato Picker, invented in Milan. You’ll also find a horse waiting to be shod with the smithy tools on display.
The Four Seasons Statue Garden shows four full-length statues that represent the four seasons in the courtyard between the museum properties.
The Sayles Victorian Home was once the home of Captain George M. Kline who sailed out of the Milan Canal. The home represents the simple elegance of the Victorian era. The Sayles Home features a formal parlor with horsehair furniture. It was a private residence owned by the Sayles family until the late 1960’s when it was given to the Milan Historical Museum.
The Coulton Doll Gallery houses over 350 china, bisque, wax, paper-mache, and composition dolls- a must-see for a doll collector.
I learned a thing or two at each of those exhibits and buildings, but what really got my attention was the newly improved Galpin Galleries which feature model ships, detailing the rise and fall of the Milan Canal. The museum also includes a Folk Art Gallery and a new and improved Art Class Gallery.
I remembered the Galpin Gallery as dark from our last visit many years ago. I was very impressed with the changes that have taken place. The gallery is now well-lit and easy to walk around. The Folk Art Gallery was bright and gorgeous, but the gem of the gallery is the Robert Mowry glass collection. It was hard for me to imagine that this new collection was the same collection I barely remember from years ago. The collection is stunning.
The new display is arranged beautifully and well-lit. As someone particularly fond of glassware, it was no surprise to learn that this collection is considered to be one of the top ten collections in the United States.
Next door to the Galpin Collection is the Newton Arts Gallery- another of my favorite galleries. One that I did not see on the field trip with my kids.
The Newton Arts Gallery looks like a home from the outside, but when you enter the door, it’s clear that it was never a home. This property was built to honor the memory of Edna Roe Newton by her husband. When Mrs. Newton passed away, her husband wanted to honor her memory by building a showplace to display the treasures that he and his wife collected on their travels. Mrs. Newton was also very talented and created some needlepoint furniture and other pieces that are on display in the gallery.
My husband didn’t accompany me to this museum either, but he enjoyed seeing the photos from my day and has expressed interest in visiting in the future.
The Milan Museum is part of the National Trust Distinctive Destinations, a network of diverse historic sites across the country that educate the public and keep the American story alive. These sites allow educational opportunities for families and take travelers off-the-beaten-path to house museums and working farms.
Things to Know Before You Visit the Milan Museum:
1. The Milan Museum is not one single building. The complex is actually made up of seven separate buildings and galleries, plus a Gift Shop, Four Seasons Statue Garden, and Administrative Offices.
2. Plan to spend a minimum of 1 1/2 hours to visit the complex, but to visit each of the museums you could really use an entire morning or afternoon.
3. This complex is best suited to school-age children, or younger children who are well-behaved and have the attention span to warrant spending several hours at the museum.
4. There is a courtyard where little ones can run off some energy between buildings. During warmer months, they can play chess with the giant chess pieces.
5. The Milan Museum is closed during the month of January.
6. The Milan Museum is located within walking distance to the Birthplace of Thomas Edison. Tours are offered of this property as well, and you can purchase a joint ticket that includes admission to both sites.
Visit the Milan Museum Complex
Address: 10 N. Edison Drive Milan, Ohio 44846
Visit the Website for current hours and pricing: http://milanhistory.org/
Other Attractions in and near Sandusky
Visiting Sandusky, Ohio (Ideas to help you plan your trip)
The Merry-Go-Round Museum
The Maritime Museum of Sandusky
Sawmill Creek Resort
Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark
Cedar Point Amusement Park
Cooke-Dorn Historic House
The Follett House
Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve
Toft’s Dairy Ice Cream
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
If you enjoy visiting quirky museums when you travel, be sure to check out the first KFC in Kentucky.
Thanks to Lake Erie Islands & Shores for arranging my visit to the Milan Museum Complex.
© 2014 – 2020, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.