Military toys on display in Harmar

Inside a 1889 Queen Anne-style home along Gilman Avenue in the Harmar District is one of Marietta’s most unique attractions, The Toy and Doll Museum, which opened for its 2014 season in May.

“We try to add new exhibits every year, and this time we have a special display of military toys from pre World War I through the 1950s,” said museum volunteer Phyllis Wells.

The toys were made by a host of companies like Marx Toys of Pennsylvania, the New Jersey-based Chein Company, Alburn Rubber Company of Indiana, and the Barclay Company of Hoboken, N.J.

Wells said the exhibit is on loan from local collectors and will be among the seven roomfuls of toys, including a wide variety of dolls, doll houses, games, and other toys from the past on display from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through the end of October.

The museum is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and was designated a top local tourist attraction by visitors to the Pioneer City during a recent Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

“Once people get inside they can’t believe we have such a great variety of toys from the past on display. It’s so unique. Something different,” said Joan Hushion, a greeter at the museum. “They especially love the variety of doll houses and our circus room with a collection of circus toys.”

Wells said folks who have visited the museum in the past will always find something new on display each year.

“We try to do something different, but there are still many past exhibits on display, too,” she said. “And we hope everyone will come and see what’s new this year.”

The museum was originated in 1976 when a group of women from Marietta, led by Sally Hille, organized the Bicentennial Women’s Club. They began collecting antique dolls, games, toys and doll houses and put them on display in the Campus Martius Museum at the corner of Washington and Second streets.

The toy collection was moved out of Campus Martius into two railroad cars located in the Harmar District in 1989, and by 1996 the current house at 206 Gilman Ave. was purchased and renovated to accommodate the museum.

“The late Dorie Cook was also one of the founders, and helped add to the growing collection year after year,” said museum volunteer Judy McCauley.

She noted a large doll house in one of the rooms near the museum entrance was created by Cook and donated in her memory. One of the museum’s most unusual large doll houses is “The Old Lady in the Shoe,” also on display on the museum’s ground floor.

In addition to the antique toy displays, there is a children’s room at the museum where kids are welcome to spend some “hands-on” time with a variety of toys.

Wells said while the museum is regularly open on weekends, any group of 10 or more can schedule a tour during the week by calling the museum at 740-373-5900.