Allen County Museum

Admission to the Allen County Museum is free.

  • Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. (It opens at 10:00 a.m. from Tuesdays – Saturdays during June, July and August)
  • Location: (Map It) 620 West Market St. in Lima, Ohio
  • Phone: 419-222-9426
  • Web: Click here

Allen County Museum in Lima, Ohio:  One of the feature attractions of this popular museum is the John Dillinger/Sheriff Sarber exhibit. The Dillinger/Sarber collection includes Dillinger’s jail cell and Sarber’s desk, wax figure replicas and a video documentary. The main museum covers everything from A to Z. Also on the premises are a Children’s Museum and Children’s Garden where kids have the opportunity to do some hands-on learning. And there’s an 1893 Victorian home and out-cabin open for tours as well as a railroad collection containing old timetables, pictures, books, magazines and other materials. Inside the main museum, visitors will have two floors of discovery. The main floor features sections depicting pioneer and 19th century life, Noah’s Ark exhibit, transportation displays, opera-house music, archives room, auditorium and library. The ground-level floor provides various sections and exhibits like the Sarber/Dillinger, old general store, firefighting, military and firearms, minerals and fossils, arts and pottery, multicultural, agricultural, woodworking and engraving, and Native American items.

Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler by Frank R. Satullo

FACTS STRANGER THAN FICTION

This isn’t your ordinary county museum. It has the infamous gangster Dillinger locked up, rare birds riding a Ferris wheel and a display showcasing the things locals choked on over the years.

Oddities aside, The Allen County Museum in Lima, Ohio is serious about history. So much so, it has the distinct honor of being the only county museum in Ohio accredited by The American Association of Museums. This year, the museum itself will celebrate its 100-year history. But its content explores a past as old as rocks.

The main building features 42,000 square feet of fascinating exhibits. It took an entire room to display the model built by a local couple depicting George Washington’s plantation – Mount Vernon.  The exhibition galleries feature the area’s history of geology, Native Americans, canals, Civil War, locomotives, and Lima’s oil fields; once the largest known in the world. The museum is kid-friendly too. Many of the exhibits have that “cool factor” that prompts the inevitable, “Wow! Check this out.” One such visual is the full-body iron lung encasement.

The main building also lets kids be kids while not only learning history, but re-creating it at the new Children’s Discover Center. They can sit around the fire in the Indian mud huts, stare in wonder over the huge model train display illustrating and demonstrating railroad town culture and even stop in the one-room school for a quick lesson. If anyone acts up, there’s a tall pointed Dunce Cap on a stool in the corner.

The Allen County Museum grounds have much more to explore than the many treasures inside the main complex. The MacDonell House is a Victorian mansion open for tours depicting the high life on what used to be known as Lima’s “Golden Block.” The nearby Log House interprets pioneer living in 1848. Yet another structure portrays The Shay Locomotive Shelter, which even houses a narrow-gauge, geared locomotive built in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works. Don’t forget the troops at The Military Annex/Transportation Building, which includes military items and vehicles. And again with children in mind, there’s the Children’s Garden offering hands-on horticultural experiences.

Although this museum is in a historic small Ohio town, it is widely recognized to offer more than many of its “big-city” counterparts. Its diverse and extensive collection has more than 250,000 archival and material items putting it in the league of some of the finest museums in the United States.

It is highlighted by its:

  • Comprehensive prehistoric and historic Native American collection.
  • Extensive pioneer life exhibit and collections.
  • Outstanding mineral and fossil specimens, including Ohio’s state fossil – the 600 million-year-old trilobite.
  • Fully functional 1944 M-4 Sherman tank and extensive military collection.
  • “The finest opera house between Boston and Denver,” Lima’s grandest building – the 1882 Faurot Opera House replicated in a fine display.
  • One of the nation’s largest steam and electric railroad collections.
  • Full-size replicas of a county store, doctor’s office and barber shop that stood more than 100 years ago. Plus 1830 Constenoga wagon, street car, horse-drawn hearse, carriages and sleighs and even a “Boneshaker” velocipede.

Perhaps the most memorable story and exhibit is the distinction Lima has by holding captive the outlaw John Dillinger in 1933. He was jailed in Lima for robbing a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. But before he could be tried for his crime, Dillinger’s gang members busted him out of the Allen County Jail. In the process, they shot and killed Sheriff Jess Sarber. They even locked the sheriff’s wife and deputy in the jail cell. The scene is replicated in the museum with Sarber sitting at his desk and Dillinger peering through the cell block bars at him.

Whether you visit for the peculiar tales or extraordinary historic specimens and documentation, The Allen County Museum has been recognized by national media in addition to regional media for its achievements and offerings. The Allen County Historical Society creates special events and educational opportunities year-round for both children and adult levels of interest. In addition, some of the most passionate and interesting tour guides gifted with the art of story-telling are available to provide your group a guided tour.

Visit The Allen County Museum and help move the past forward. It invites anyone to visit for free Tuesday through Friday from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday  from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (closed Mondays and  holidays). Located at 620 West Market Street in Lima, Ohio; you may plan your visit or learn more about the museum by calling 419-222-9426 or visiting www.allencountymuseum.org.

By Frank R. Satullo, OhioTraveler