Niles visitors explore heritage

By ANDY GRAY

The Niles Times

NILES — Moving the event from Sunday brought out a large crowd for the Niles Historical Society’s annual Niles Heritage Day on Saturday.

Visitors toured the Ward-Thomas House, a 14-room Victorian mansion at 503 Brown St., and other displays on the grounds.

Melissa Bender of Niles remembered touring the house with her class when she was in Niles schools.

“I enjoyed seeing it set up at Christmas,” she said. “It was fascinating to see the dresses and the things they kept that are original.”

Mason St. Clair, 15, of Niles, represented the next generation of historians with his collection of presidential memorabilia.

St. Clair, who will be a sophomore at Niles-McKinley High School, said the collection started three years ago when his mother gave him a Ross Perot campaign button.

“My grandfather always liked history, and I always liked antiques,” he said.

He now has more than 4,000 items with the oldest dating back to the 1840 Presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison.

St. Clair said his favorite items are anything to do with Niles-born William McKinley, the 25th President, and Jimmy Carter, who is his favorite president. St. Clair got to meet Carter last month when his family attended services at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., where Carter still teaches a Sunday school class.

Donna Claar of Niles was visiting the Ward-Thomas House for the first time and was impressed by St. Clair’s collection and the Niles Historical Society’s permanent displays.

“There’s so much here that you don’t realize,” Claar said.

Kyla Jenkins of Niles was checking out the Civil War artifacts Hugh Mullen had on display, taking aim with a 19th Century pistol.

“You can see how we’ve advanced in technology since then,” Jenkins said.

This year’s Heritage Day also included art and food vendors, a DJ and caricatures by artist Rick Muccio, whose editorial cartoons appear in the Tribune Chronicle.