Warther Museum331 Karl Avenue
Dover, Ohio 44622
330-505-6003 | thewarthermuseum.com
Tucked above the canal and the highway in Dover, the Warther Museum and Gardens highlights the extraordinary carvings of Ernest Warther.
For railroad buffs and folklorists, the Warther Museums and Gardens is worth seeking out. The museum is a series of buildings, including the house where Ernest and Frieda Warther raised a family and warmly shared their artistry and collections with the public. Their two-story brick house has been preserved, along with Ernest’s workshop and their first museum. The property has remained in the Warther family and all of the artifacts on display are original. In 1963, their son Dave built a larger facility to display his father’s carvings, and the original museum became an exhibition space for Frieda’s button collection. The picturesque property, on a bluff above the Tuscarawas River and Ohio Erie Canal, is an idyllic setting with flower gardens and towering shade trees. Signage around the house and gardens use the family’s words to share their story with guests.
As a boy, Ernest nurtured a talent for wood carving. He left school after the second grade and thus had no formal training in sculpture, engineering, or draftsmanship. Self-taught, he carved scale models of steam engines and locomotives that include the internal mechanisms of the full-size models. In 1913, he embarked on an ambitious project to carve the history of the steam engine; that project led to carving the great steam locomotives. The New York Central Railroad commissioned him to bring his collection to Grand Central Station where it was on display for two years. Although New York Central offered him a handsome price to buy the collection, he declined and returned to Dover. As word spread of his artistry, in 1936, the Warthers opened a small museum behind their home to accommodate the flow of visitors. His full collection of carvings can be seen there and nowhere else.
The main museum exhibits Ernest’s earliest carvings, including working pliers magically carved from a single piece of wood, treasures crafted for family members, and wooden postcards carved while traveling and mailed to friends. Short video presentations offer observations about the Warthers and Ernest’s craftsmanship. Two large galleries showcase the carvings depicting the history of steam engines. The artifacts are displayed to highlight the minute details of the exquisite models.
Notes for Travelers
Although visitors can navigate the museum on their own, make time for the tour. A little over an hour long, the tours are led by docents who are very knowledgeable; their narration of the collection includes many family stories and details about each carving.