Holiday items on display at Ward-Thomas Museum

Historical society will host themed open house

NILES — With the new year starting, the Niles Historical Society will showcase holiday and winter-themed decorations its monthly open house 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Ward-Thomas Museum, 503 Brown St.

The open house is held the first Sunday of each month but was rescheduled in January due to New Year’s Day holiday.

A Christmas salt and pepper shaker collection from resident Annette Batovsky, miniature Christmas villages and vintage White House ornaments will be on display at the museum.

Mannequins placed throughout the museum are dressed in life-sized replicas of the White House first ladies’ gowns displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Also to be showcased is a banner that tells the history of the Ward-Thomas family and home. The banner recently was displayed at the community booth at the Eastwood Mall Complex, where the historical society was showing and selling items in December.

The banners are a collaboration with the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber with plans for five additional banners in the future.

The society also is selling calendars featuring historical photographs from the city’s earliest days. The 2017 calendar has photos from the late 19th century and early 20th century. The calendar will be available at upcoming open houses.

Last month, the society partnered with the McKinley Memorial Library and McKinley Birthplace Home and Research Center to celebrate the fourth annual “A McKinley Christmas.”

Built in 1862, the Ward-Thomas Museum was the home of two prominent Niles industrial families. James Ward, who built the house, was a pioneer in the iron industry in the Mahoning Valley. He built Falcon Nail and Iron Co. and the Russia mill for manufacturing steel.

The second owners were John and Margaret Thomas who came to this country from Wales. The Thomas family founded the Niles Firebrick Co. and later, Mahoning Valley Steel. The Thomas family occupied the house until 1969, when the property was deeded to the city.

Through the efforts of Clare Westenfield, a local attorney, the house became the home of the Niles Historical Society.

The house is now a museum, consisting of 14 rooms, many furnished in the style of the period, some with furniture owned by the Thomas family and donated to the museum. The museum collection has more than 5,000 items, including many from the two families.

Also on the five-acre property are a recently restored barn and a 1925 green house as well a various gardens and 56 varieties of trees in the arboretum. Care of the house and gardens is done by volunteers and the house is decorated appropriately for each season.

Historical society members will have a regular meeting 10 a.m. Jan. 14 in the Westenfield meeting room.

The museum is open 2 to 5 p.m. the first Sunday of each month, but additional guided tours may be arranged by contacting the Niles Historical Society at 330-544-2143.