As I mentioned before, DeDe and Denny are avid blog readers, and the last couple of times we have visited they have put together some very special days. I’d love to say I had visited every place in Central Ohio, but as I have discovered hanging out with them that is simply not true. What makes it so special is not only do they plan the days, but they go to great pains to pick things that they know would interest us and make great blog posts.
Well, they certainly outdid themselves on Wednesday with an adventure that was jam packed with cool museums and several “world’s biggest thing.” If you know me at all by this point, you know I love, love giant anything. Biggest chair, biggest iron, largest wind chime etc…I am there. So when we were on our way tour first stop, Denny made a slight detour so I could see the world’s biggest basket.
Longaberger is a local company that in it’s heyday was the maker of some amazing handcrafted baskets. They had so much success that their corporate office was built like a giant basket. Nope, not making that up…see for yourself.
The company also owns a large campus that used to have shops and beautiful gardens and was a popular tourist destination at Christmas time. This campus, according to Roadside America, held the World’s largest basket of apples, and since it was pretty close by we also decided to stop there. Technically it wasn’t open, but we drove in anyway and wandered about a bit taking pictures. The facility is obviously being used for something (trash bags in cans and a few potted mums) but it had definitely seen better days.
After seeing the apples we stopped at a gas station for “fry pies”. These are made in Berlin, Ohio which has a thriving Amish community and are so much better than the standard fruit pies you see in stores. These were more like a fruit filled donut and really yummy, but very sweet.
Despite the side trips we eventually made it to the Warther Museum and Garden. Neither one of us had ever heard of this small museum, but DeDe and Denny had been a couple of times. Ernest “Mooney”Warther led an extremely interesting life. At the age of 5 his father died and all of the children had to go to work. Mooney’s job was herding neighbor’s cows for which he was paid 1 penny a day. When he was 6 years old he came across a carving knife in a field and started whittling. As the story goes, one day he met a man at a train station and the man taught him to carve wooden pliers. Without any instruction, Moody duplicated the effort and spent years carving the wooden pliers.
Eventually he stopped his “whittling phase” and started carving trains. The first few weren’t very good of course, but even the early works showed a high level of talent. He started working in a steel mill at 16, got married, had 5 kids and eventually built a small house and work shop. Despite having a regular job and family he never stopped carving and as his access to more expensive materials became possible he added ebony and ivory to his carvings. He also started using blueprints and learned to carve to scale starting at 2:30am and carving until he had to go to work in the morning. This was his hobby and despite numerous offers he never sold a train, and in 1963 the Warther museum was built to house the collection.
The museum itself costs $13, which initially I thought was high although I felt it was justified after seeing the train collection. The grounds themselves are free and that included touring his home and the little button house he built for his wife. Frieda, who was born in Switzerland (Mooney was second generation with Swiss born parents) started her own hobby after they were married. She collected so many buttons that he eventually built her a place to put them all. He also used the button material when money was tight for his trains and I loved the idea that she found her own hobby and passion in their marriage.
After touring the grounds we entered the museum, which started with his earliest works. One of the most interesting ting for me was that as his carving got more intricate he needed better knives to work with. Eventually he created his own knife, with multiple interchangeable blades. This carving tool was revolutionary and is actually not available for sale. Only family members know how to make these blades. More importantly learning to make these knives led to him making a carving knife for his wife, which was so admired by the neighbors that the Warther knife business was born and the family still runs a knife business in a workshop attached to the building.
But really it’s all about the trains and I know I am taking forever to get there, but there was alot going on in this museum. There were three rooms of trains and they were all beautifully displayed. Out tour guide was excellent, sharing lots of personal informaton about his process and although I am not really a train person I loved the craftsmanship.
My absolute favorite piece though was a recreation of the steel mill he worked in. The piece is incredibly detailed and many of the pieces move, powered by a motor that he made using an old washing machine motor. He created this device completely on his own and it’s clear what a creative genuis he was. He only had a second grade education, but he was an avid reader and his mind never stopped. We took some pictures and Lee took some video, which is really the only way to really understand how wondrous it was.
Really amazing museum, but we weren’t done yet. We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s and headed to Berlin to see the museum of ships started by David’s grandson. We found time on the way to stop at the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and this may have been my favorite part of the day. The clock performs on the hour and on the half hour and through sheer luck we only had to wait 8 minutes to watch it chime. Very cool and we all enjoyed watching the free show in the town square of Sugar Creek.
The second museum is the David Warther Carvings and Museum and inspired by his grandfather he started carving ships as a small child. His museum is $10 to enter, although they gave us each a $2 discount when we showed a coupon from the other museum. David is still a working carver and when we joined the tour in progress he was actually explaining how he makes ivory thread for the masts on the ships. He couldn’t find what he needed so he and a friend invented a block of steel which he rubbed the ivory in to create very tiny threads.
The ships were beautiful and almost all in ivory, but I have to say I liked the trains better. Lee though, who loves ships, was fascinated. He started with the oldest ancient ships and works his way up to ships from the 1800’s. One of the things I did like was every ship had a magnifying glass in the case so you could see some of the detail.
The detail is even more amazing when you realize that to create the black line he scratches the ivory lightly then blots the piece with ink. The ink wipes off the polished ivory but stays in the scored material creating the thin detail lines you see above.
After the ship museum we headed into Berlin to eat some dinner at Mrs Yoder’s one of our favorite Amish restaurants. But we had to stop at a couple of places first. We saw the World’s Largest Amish Buggy first inside the Wendell August Forge and we stopped at DeDe’s favorite gift shop The Village Barn.
By the time we drove back it was almost a 13 hour day and I was pooped. It was a truly lovely day and incredibly thoughtful of them to plan it. Loved that we saw so many cool things, but I definitely needed a good nights sleep!
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