Niles celebrates Heritage Day

NILES — Niles Historical Society President Anna Marie Beagle said she is amazed how many people — even Niles residents — have never seen the Ward Thomas House and grounds in the city.

That changed Sunday when hundreds of visitors stopped to see the historic home for the annual summer Heritage Day, which this year combined with the Wild Wheels Car Show of 88 cars on the grounds off Brown Street.

“The car show really helped us this year bringing a lot more people here. There were a lot of people who told me they have never been here before and, after seeing the cars, walked over to see the Ward Thomas House, the greenhouse, Westenfield Room and the barn,” Beagle said.

Beagle said Niles has a rich history of famous people that many residents do not know about including President William McKinley.

Beagle said she and other historical society members served as tour guides for the home and grounds.

“We were able to share a lot of the history of Niles. People have been looking at displays, books and photos,” she said,

Anna Mae Cushna, an event volunteer on the porch at the Ward Thomas House, said people were purchasing society books on the history of Niles and the historical buildings of Niles.

“When I was asked to be a docent, I was amazed at all that is here that many people do not even know about. It is a treasure for Niles,” she said.

Nancy and Rick Strattan, who attended the Niles McKinley Class of 1964 reunion recently, said they were told about Heritage Day. The two were looking at a large poster of football coaches for the Niles schools including Tony Mason and Phil Raggazo.

“We saw a lot of the historical books at the reunion and even more today. Her sister is doing a genealogy of her family and may be able to use some of these books. There are pictures of the school buildings they went to,” said Rick Strattan.

Howland resident Gabriella Miller, 12, and Niles resident Alaina Haroulakin, 11, were exploring the large garden on the property for the scavenger hunt activity which involved finding certain types of flowers,

Lake Milton resident Amber Boyer and her family came to the event for the car show and then wanted to see what was taking place at the Ward Thomas House.

“We love the antique cars but have never been here before so we came over,” she said.

Niles resident Mason St. Clair, a senior a Niles McKinley High School, showed the Boyer family many of the 9,000 William McKinley items from 1840 to the present he has collected.

“A lot of people are interested in McKinley’s life and facts about him. They ask me about McKinley’s mother, I have a photo of her which is one of a kind,” he said indicating he became interested in local history and politics.

The day’s events included musical performances by Steel Valley Ukers who played on ukuleles and singing by Howland resident Amanda Beagle. Guest speaker Nick Spano spoke out Harry Stevens, who invented the hot dog and has a summer celebration in his honor held in Niles. Heather Merritt of Birds in Flight Sanctuary in Howland spoke of their work in rescuing wildlife.