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Village people: 9 reasons to visit (or revisit) Heritage Village Museum in Sharon Woods Park

Beer Barons Bash, Trail of Tears exhibit are draws
Village people: 9 reasons to visit (or revisit) Heritage Village Museum in Sharon Woods Park
Posted at 12:00 PM, May 22, 2017

SHARONVILLE, Ohio -- Nestled in one of Hamilton County's oldest and busiest parks, Heritage Village Museum isn't exactly hidden.

The local gem, located in Sharon Woods Park, attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year and is a field trip favorite for thousands of local school children.

Its mission: Bringing the history of Greater Cincinnati alive. For locals looking to take a step back in time, it doesn't disappoint. The museum is actually a re-created 1800s community, featuring 13 historic buildings saved from demolition from sites around the region.

A small staff and much larger group of volunteers lead guided tours, procure exhibits and host a variety of education programs and events throughout the year that focus on giving visitors a glimpse of the rural simplicity of small town life as it was here in the 1800s.

If you haven't been for a while or have never visited Heritage Village, here are nine reasons why you should check it out this summer.

1. Guided tours began this month.

For local history buffs, what could be better than strolling through a 19th century village, complete with a train station, general store, medical office, and a working kitchen and print shop?

The answer: Touring the entire village with a guide who knows the history of all the buildings.

From May through September, the museum offers daily guided tours of the village. For $5 (or $3 for children), you can learn about what life was like here in the Queen City 200 years ago from an expert on the topic. A bonus, especially for kids, is the guides dress in clothing from that era and rarely break character.

"Our tour guides know their stuff, and they welcome questions from both kids and adults," said Dana Gagnon, who coordinates community outreach and volunteering at the museum. "It adds to the whole experience."

2. The newest exhibit explores the history of Ohio's first residents.

Its new exhibit,"Exile: Ohio's Indian Removal," opened this month. It was created in partnership with history students at Xavier University and explores the Trail of Tears in Ohio.

A well-known part of American history, the Indian Removal Act "removed" tribes from their ancestral homes all over the nation, and Ohio was no exception. The new exhibit focuses on the legal, dehumanizing and sometimes violent removal of Ohio's native people. It displays treaties and objects from the 1790s-1840s that show the life, culture and exile of the Shawnee and Wyandot nations.

The exhibit will run through December.

3. Its next fundraiser focuses on Cincinnati beer.

The museum hosts unique "date night" fundraisers throughout the year that help support its mission.

On June 3, you can take your significant other to the Beer Barons Bash. The event, set for 4 to 7 p.m., will include music, appetizers, beer samples -- and lots of info on the history of brewing in Cincinnati.

4. Heritage Village is home to two vintage "base ball" teams.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to catch game in the 1800s?

The museum has two home teams, the 1869 Cincinnati Stockings and Cincinnati Buckeyes. Both use the village as a home field and play 19th century base ball (the popular sport was written as two words back then) from June through September.

On June 10, Heritage Village will host its annual 1869 Base Ball Festival. The two home teams will play games throughout the day using 1869 rules and wearing 1869 uniforms.

The village will also be open that day for tours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Visitors and volunteers outside of the Chester Park Train Station.

5. Three words: Civil War Weekend.

During one of its biggest events of the year, the village will take visitors back to the early days of the Civil War.

The weekend event is set for July 8-9, when the village will be packed with soldiers camped everywhere. The historic buildings will be open and occupied by civilians, and visitors can expect to see a battle each day. There will also be hands-on activities for kids and presentations, including historians who will portray Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

6. The village offers one-of-a-kind summer camps for kids.

If an afternoon visit isn't enough for your school-aged historian, the Heritage Village offers summer camps for kids ages 6-12.

Native American Camp is set for June 19-23; Archaeology Camp, July 17-21; and Civil War Camp from July 31-Aug. 4. Each promises a hands-on experience for the "19th century" student.

7. It's home to one of Hamilton County's oldest buildings.

The oldest building at the village -- and one of the oldest still standing in Hamilton County -- is the Kemper House. The log home was constructed in 1804.

It was home to Rev. James Kemper, his wife, and most of the couple's 15 children. Kemper was one of the first to settle his family here and was the first Presbyterian minister ordained north of the Ohio River.

You can step into the family's restored log home, which contains furnishings and accessories of the period.

"It's our oldest family, but we actually know a lot about them," Gagnon said of the Kempers. "It's so much more than an old house -- it was their family home. It really paints a picture of their daily life."

8. A family of four could visit for around $15.

Part of Heritage Village's mission is accessibility.

The nonprofit keeps costs low to ensure local families can easily afford admission, according to Gagnon.

Guided tours for adults are $5, and just $3 for children 5-11. Children under 4 are welcome and always free. Special weekend events are $10 and $6, respectively.

A big cost-saver for the village is its large and diverse volunteer base, she said. High school students and adults of all ages volunteer their time throughout the year.

"We couldn't do what we do without them," Gagnon explained. "I like to say we're a little museum and a big museum at the same time. It takes a lot of dedicated people to make that happen."

The Elk Lick house. The structure, which was built in the early 1800s, was to be demolished to make way for the East Fork Reservoir. It was purchased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1969 and is now part of Heritage Village.

9. Your visit helps preserve local history.

Sure, you can join the village's small army of volunteers to help out, but simply visiting and paying the admission prices helps keep all the historic buildings preserved, and the nonprofit relies on those visits.

Even though Heritage Village is located in Sharon Woods Park, it's not affiliated with the Great Parks of Hamilton County system. It's a separate nonprofit organization supported entirely by visitors and members, and funding through grants and donations.

No tax dollars are used to fund the facilities, staff or operations, Gagnon said.

The village first opened in 1971 and continued support from the community has kept it open.

"When you visit the village, you're stepping into history," she said. "At Chester Park Train Station, we have visitors who talk about their parents coming home from World War II. Kids are always excited to learn they've been to East Fork Lake, the site where the Elk Lick house was originally built … Our buildings are from right here in this area, so people have a lot of personal connections."