Allen County Museum620 W Market St
Lima, OH 45801-4604
419-222-9426 | https://www.allencountymuseum.org/
Allen County Museum
Located in downtown Lima, the Allen County Museum hosts a variety of exhibits documenting Lima’s history from Shawnee and Ottawa settlement to the railroad and oil industry. Home to a full-size locomotive engine and other historic vehicles, the Museum offers a fascinating look into Ohio’s transportation history and its influence on the people and places of Western Ohio.
The Allen County Museum was completed in 1955 to preserve and interpret the tangible evidence of Allen County’s history. A wide variety of exhibits document Lima’s early settlement through its industrial era, including a full-size log cabin replica on the museum’s grounds. The Museum houses an impressive collection of historical vehicles, including a fire wagon from the nearby Harrod Fire Department, a 1902 horse-drawn hearse, and a WWI Jeep manufactured in Lima. The Children’s Discovery Center features interactive displays, including a one-room schoolhouse, general store, and bark-covered home typical of Allen County’s Shawnee Nation. The Allen County archives are preserved at the museum and are available to genealogists, historians, and researchers.
Lima was founded in 1831 in a mixture of forestland and marshy prairie on the southern edge of the Great Black Swamp. Members of the Shawnee Nation lived in present-day Shawnee Township, to the south of Lima, having been pushed westward by the British and later, Americans. The Shawnee Reservation existed until the Shawnee removal westward by the United State Government in 1831.
B.C. Faurot accidentally discovered the Lima Oil Field in 1885 while drilling for water for his paper mill, sparking local oil boom that led to Lima’s rapid industrialization over the next decade. By 1886, over 70 oil wells were producing in Lima, skyrocketing the city’s population and making it a national leader in oil production. Standard Oil Company eventually assumed drilling operations in Lima during its march to monopoly. Visitors to the Museum will see displays of Standard Oil products, a model of a turn-of-the-century oil rig, a reconstruction of Lima’s “Golden Square” which housed its prominent citizens during the oil boom, and artifacts of the social and cultural life surrounding Lima’s industrial heyday. Transportation and energy continue to be key elements of Allen County’s economy, and the museum displays link the nineteenth-century industrialization of the city to its present manufacturing sector.
The Allen County Museum is a notable destination for railroad historians. The Lima Locomotive Works was founded in 1879 and was the third largest steam engine manufacturer in the world. The Shay 10 Locomotive Engine, manufactured by the Lima Locomotive Works in 1925 for the Lima Stone Company, is on featured display at the Museum. Lima’s usefulness as a transportation hub shaped the social and cultural life of the area. A recreated 1950’s-era kitchen commemorates the Lima Serviceman’s Free Canteen, which operated along the Lima stretch of the Pennsylvania Railroad and was the longest continuously operated serviceman’s canteen in the United States.
Notes for Travelers
The Allen County Museum is adjacent to the Lima Children’s Garden and the MacDonnell House and all three sites can be easily toured in a day. There is a separate charge for touring the MacDonnell House. The Log Cabin is on the Museum grounds and there is no charge. Some exhibits are reached by stairs or elevator. The main floor of the museum is handicap accessible. The Museum hosts rotating exhibits throughout the year. Past special exhibits included Allen County’s role in WWI, historic quilts, and photography of the 1913 Ottawa River Flood. The Children’s Discovery Center also hosts changing displays of antique toys and other childhood artifacts. A local favorite on permanent exhibit is the newly restored Noah’s Ark, a mechanized display created in Lima by cabinetmaker James Grosjean in 1901, when electronic attractions were a novelty.
Additional ResourcesCamp, Mark J. Railroad Depots of Northwest Ohio. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
Murdock, Eugene C. and Jeffrey Darbee. Ohio: The Buckeye State, an Illustrated History. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 2007.