Front View of Thomas House Five images of buildings and grounds
Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

Ward — Thomas Museum
Home of the Niles Historical Society
503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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Click here to become a Niles Historical Society Member or to renew your membership

E-Mail Us Phone: 330.544.2143

Mail: PO Box 368 Niles, Ohio 44446

Individual Membership: $20.00
Family Membership: $30.00
Patron Membership: $50.00
Business Membership: $100.00
Lifetime Membership: $500.00
Corporate Membership:
Call 330.544.2143

Do you love the history of Niles, Ohio and want to preserve that history and memories of events for future generations?

Click here to donate:

As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, your donation is tax deductible. When you click on the Donate Button, you will be taken to a secure Website where your donation will entered and a receipt generated.



Read or Download:

Niles Historical Society
5-Year Strategic Plan







Built in 1862, the Ward Thomas House was the home of two prominent Niles industrial families. James Ward, who built the house, was a pioneer in the iron industry in the Mahoning Valley. He built puddling plants, Falcon Nail and Iron Company and the Russia mill for manufacturing steel.

The second owners were John and Margaret Thomas who came to this country from Wales. The Thomas family founded the Niles Firebrick Company and later, Mahoning Valley Steel. The Thomas family occupied the house until 1969 when the property was deeded to the City of Niles. Through the efforts of Clare Westenfield, a local attorney, the house became the home of the Niles Historical Society.

Formal front door of Ward-Thomas Museum

The house is now a museum consisting of fourteen rooms, many furnished in the style of the period, some with furniture owned by the Thomas family and donated to the museum. The museum collection has more than 5000 items, including many from the two families. Throughout the museum, mannequins wear life size replicas of the White House ladies’ gowns displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..

Two White House Ladies' gowns

Also on the five acre property are a recently restored barn and a 1925 green house as well a various gardens and 56 varieties of trees in the arboretum. Care of the house and gardens is done by volunteers and the house is decorated appropriately for each season.
Rebuilt green house

Proceeding from the back porch of the Ward-Thomas house, a walk-way leads to a secondary building. This building is used as a workspace for the greenhouse.

The first Sunday of each month the Thomas House is open to the public from 2 - 5 pm.
The last tour begins at 4:00 pm and ends at 5:00 pm.

Additional guided tours may be arranged by contacting the Niles Historical Society
or calling: 330.544.2143.

Building used as workspace for green house

Tour the Buildings and Garden

Ward-Thomas House Tour

Memberships Available:

The yearly membership drive is underway with fees of $20 for individuals, $30 for families, $50 for patron level, $100 for businesses and organizations and $500 for life memberships. Memberships support the society's programs and includes the bimonthly newsletter.

Gift Ideas:
Society memberships may be obtained for $20.00 an individual and $30.00 for a family. $50.00 for a Patron, $100.00 for a business, and $500.00 for a life-time membership.

All are welcome to join. Members receive the newsletter six times/year and free admission to the Ward-Thomas Museum when open on the first Sunday of the month.

1924 Green House Tour


Museum Tours

Tours of the Ward-Thomas Museum for groups will be scheduled as requested.

We have frequent requests for private tours from those visiting the area, various organizations and church groups.

For more information call:

Sandy at (330) 652–8329 or
Anna Marie at (330) 856–8274.
Please leave a message, we will contact you.



Calendar of Events:

On display at the Ward–Thomas Museum is a collection of fans from
Margaret “Margo” Thomas Mills,
daughter of
Edward Morgan Thomas and Mary Jeanette Thomas.

Business meeting in Westenfield Room
July 6, 2024, Saturday, 10:00 AM
All are welcome to attend.

Open House
Ward – Thomas House
July 7, 2024, Sunday, 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Last tour at 4:00 PM

The Society will gladly publish stories of the
accomplishments of current or former residents of Niles.
Contact: Anna Marie Beagle

Gifts with a Niles' History connection. Click on link below:

Try one of the many Niles Historical books.

Books vary in price.

Sample of book content

'A Pictorial History of the Buildings of Niles Ohio'

Over 200 pages and
400 high resolution photographs

To order your book call: Sandy at: 330.652.8329
Niles Historical Society Office at: 330.544.2143

or Email Us

Price: $40.00 local pickup or $45.00 shipped

To save on shipping costs, all of the listed books are available for purchase at any Ward-Thomas Museum open house.
Shipping/Mailing costs are $5.00 for each book ordered.

Please make checks out to: Niles Historical Society
Send your name, address and phone number, and check to cover costs to:

Niles Historical Society
P. O. 368
Niles, Ohio 44446

Dear Friends of the Niles Historical Society,
As you know, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States is rapidly approaching. In addition to this important date, the Niles First Ladies Gowns are approaching the 50th anniversary of their creation.

In 1976, in order to honor the Bicentennial, some of the ladies of Niles formed an organization to recreate the First Ladies Gowns that were in the Smithsonian collection.

The gowns were all locally made and sewn after many painstaking drawings, photos and visits were made to Washington DC in order to ensure absolute accuracy.

After the gowns were made, they were modeled and displayed in many venues around the area, and the ladies even went back to Washington DC to model the dresses there.


The Niles Historical Society is incredibly fortunate to have been given most of the First Ladies Gowns. In order to put this in perspective, Niles is the only community in the Unites States to have a life sized collection of these gowns, outside of the Smithsonian National Museum. But as all things age and deteriorate, the gowns have also, and as they approach their 50th year, the Niles Historical Society is asking for your help.

We are asking you to sponsor a First Ladies Gown. This would entail paying for the cleaning, mending where necessary, and storage of the dresses. A one-time fee of $100.00 will ensure your sponsorship of one of the dresses. When the dress is displayed, as we hope they all will be between now and 2026, your name and/or your family name will be prominently displayed with the dress.


White House Ladies Gowns displayed in the

As we work together to preserve the past for the future, we appreciate your generous support.

Meredith Elliott
Niles Historical Society

Please take some time to consider this opportunity. If you are interested, please fill out the form below, enclose it with your check and mail it to:

The Niles Historical Society
PO Box 368
Niles, Ohio 44446.


White House Ladies Gowns displayed in the

I/we would like to sponsor a First Ladies Gown.
Enclosed please find a $100.00 donation for the cleaning and preserving of one of the gowns.



Phone #___________________________________________

Since the Niles Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN 34-1276513) and no goods or services are provided for donations, your donation is fully tax deductible.

For more information call:

Sandy at (330) 652–8329 or
Anna Marie at (330) 856–8274.
Please leave a message and we will contact you.

To view an electronic file of this Ladies Gown form, click here.


Please save/print and share this form with any family or friends that may want to help preserve the White House Ladies' gowns.

Create an email and attach the file or print the form and share.

The Niles Historical Society mission is to preserve and promote Niles history and share that history with the community.

Click here to join or renew your Niles Historical Society membership.

Please call Sandy (330) 652-8329 or
Anna Marie (330) 719 -5716 to schedule a tour.

A membership drive is currently being held.

The yearly membership drive is underway with fees of $20 for individuals, $30 for families, $50 for patron level, $100 for businesses and organizations and $500 for life-time memberships. Memberships support the society's programs and includes the bimonthly newsletter.

For more information call:

Sandy at (330) 652–8329 or
Anna Marie at (330) 856–8274.
Please leave a message and we will contact you.


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