A Walk Through Ohio History at Sauder Village
By Dominique King

A Walk Through Ohio History at Sauder Village

Erie Sauder‘s role as founder of the country’s largest ready-to-assemble furniture company created a memorable legacy, but Sauder used his “retirement” from the company that still operates under a third generation of his family to preserve an important part of Ohio’s legacy for future generations at Sauder Village in Archbold.

The living history site follows the development of northwestern Ohio and the work of its craftspeople through the years.

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Broom-making at Sauder Village

The Great Black Swamp covered about 1,500 square miles of northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana in the early 1800s. Leaves falling from trees in the forest settled into the damp ground, decomposing into a black muck that made developing the area into farms and villages difficult.

Native people lived along the edges of the big swamp and hunted in the area, while European settlers generally avoided the swamp.

A party of Mennonite immigrants finally arrived in the area in 1834. They worked hard to drain the swamp and managed to turn the area into some of Ohio’s best farmland within a decade.

Sauder worried that increasing modernization in businesses like his would cause future generations to forget the hard work and craftsmanship of their ancestors.

In the 1970s, as responsibility for the daily operation of his business shifted to his children, Sauder established the Village.

The village immediately became a popular attraction with more than 40 homes, shops, barns and other structures depicting early village life.

 

Friendly and knowledgeable guides bring the village to life, and we found talking to the farmers, craftspeople and shopkeepers at Sauder Village among the most memorable things about our recent visit to the village.

Visitors enter the village through a courtyard surrounded by two concentric circles of workshops where craftspeople make items using traditional methods and tools.

Woodworking at Sauder Village

 

The rest of the village fans out behind the workshops, allowing visitors to move through different eras in history.

 

The Natives and Newcomers area depicts life in northwestern Ohio during the early 1800s, while the Pioneer Settlement depicts development of the farming community from 1834 through 1890. Future plans include extending the visual timeline into the twentieth century with depictions of village life into the 1940s.

The Little Pioneers Homestead allows the village’s youngest visitors to experience living history in their own pint-sized environment.

Sauder collected many of the village buildings, moving them from nearby areas and restoring them, and he collected furnishings, farm equipment and tools for the village.

There are even more of Sauder’s eclectic collections in the village’s Museum Building, where you can browse rows and rows of vintage washing machines, televisions, farm equipment, vintage clothing and just about anything else you can imagine.

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The village complex includes the 98-room Sauder Heritage Inn, the 350-seat Barn Restaurant, the Doughbox Bakery (their cinnamon bread makes great cinnamon toast!), a Sauder furniture store, and campground–all just a short walk from the historic village.

 

Historic Sauder Village is open from April through October. The inn, restaurant, furniture showroom and bakery are open year round.

Thanks to Sauder Village for providing village admission, lodging and meals during my recent visit for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinions about the stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.

About the Author

Dominique King is a metro Detroit writer, hockey fan and frequent visitor to Ohio. She began her writing career as a freelance writer for local newspapers, covering business, art and regional travel topics for the Mirror Newspapers, the Daily Tribune and Hour Detroit Magazine. She has a degree in Communications (M.A.) from Detroit's Wayne State University and an interest in history. You can find Dominique writing about Midwest travel at https://www.midwestguest.com or connect with her on Twitter @midwestguest.