Front View of Thomas House Five images of buildings and grounds
Special Events Calendar
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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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

Niles Register Masthead

The Niles Register is the official newsletter of the Niles Historical Society and is published six times/yearly.

To view samples of a full newsletter and directions on becoming a member of the Niles Historical Society, click here

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.


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Niles Historical Society
5-Year Strategic Plan







President’s Notes: May — June 2021
Spring is here and is absolutely beautiful and welcome! As we pass from winter to spring and an improved COVID the Niles Historical Society is ready to resume activities.

Writers encouraged:
This issue of the Niles Register includes articles contributed by our members. Lynda Ralston was intrigued by the story of the Ahlstrom piano highlighted in the last issue and presented the research on the history of the piano.

Joan Matheny
approached the Society to present a story of Ed Vargo’s achievements. Joan, Ed Vargo and Bill Browning contributed the information for this article. Dick Bullock was also instrumental in this endeavor.

The Society will gladly publish stories of the accomplishments of current or former residents of Niles. Contact: Anna Marie Beagle 330.719.5716 or

Update on the Ward-Thomas property:
Currently the Society is working to improve the condition of the Ward-Thomas property. The work crews of Niles City have removed several dead trees from the property. Dave Martin, our grounds keeper has been clearing away debris from fallen branches. Volunteers are needed to help weed and plant the flower beds.

The Westenfield Room, the old carriage house, which serves as a meeting space is currently closed due to an extensive mold issue. A bidding process with companies that perform mold remediation is ongoing. The plan is to improve the space with proper insulation, painting, flooring and temperature – humidity control.

Also discussed at the April 17 meeting was performing necessary repairs to the greenhouse. Caulking of the windows is a continuing issue. Companies that perform this service will be sought for bids on the project.

The barn roof is leaking. Mayor Steven Mientkiewcz is investigating ways to repair the roof. The Society thanks Mayor Mientkiewcz for his cooperation. By lease contract the Society is responsible for maintaining the inside of the structures and the flower beds. The City of Niles which owns the property is responsible for maintaining the physical structures, trees and grounds.

Advisory Committee sought:
It is necessary to form a committee to determine the direction to take with the monies in the New Building Fund account that was begun in 2011. The Society requires an improved space for education, research and storage of the collection. At this time there is not adequate space or temperature and humidity control to accept any more physical donations.

There is a proposed rendition for a facility that would be expensive to build and maintain. The amount of money in this fund is not adequate to cover the expense of this lofty plan. The Board of the Society seeks input from members on how to best use the building fund monies to provide an improved space.

I implore members to weigh in on this discussion. Average attendance at meetings is approximately ten members who should not be making this enormous decision for an organization with over three hundred members.

Please contact Anna Marie Beagle at 330-719-5716 or for further discussion.
Thank you, Anna Marie Beagle, President

Calendar of Events

Story Walk in Stevens Park:
The theme of the Story Walk in the month of May is “Niles History”.
Audra Dull at the McKinley Memorial Library directs this project for which the Niles Historical Society’s Sandy Bilovesky provided pictures and dialogue of early Niles.Take time to visit the park and enjoy a little bit of history.

Victorian Tea:
Sunday, May 16, 2021, 3:00 PM at the McKinley Memorial Museum. High Tea catered by Quintealia’s Tea Parlor.
Call for reservations: Ami at 330-652-4273

Business Meeting:
Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 10:00 AM
Ward-Thomas House.

Open House:
Sunday, June 6, 2021
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM.
Last tour starts at 4:00 PM.
Protective Masks required.

In Memoriam: History of Niles Street Names
Tuesday, May 18, 6 P.M.
In this virtual program, Ralph Tolbert of the Niles Historical Society will delve into the history behind some Niles street names. Many Niles natives gave their lives for their country during World War I, and their city honored their sacrifices by naming streets after them.
This is a virtual program, so you will need internet access and an email address to participate. Call Audra Dull:
(330) 652-1704 ext. 3 or email to register.
Presentation will be recorded and later available on YouTube.

Scene below is of Niles Soldiers Leaving for Camp.

Celebrating 159 Years

That is correct! I was born in 1862, during the Civil War days. James Ward built me on this little knoll and here I have been ever since in the town of Niles, Ohio.

Mr. James Ward was an industrial leader in Niles and came here in 1841 when only 300 people lived here. He founded the Ward Iron Manufacturing Company and he and his family lived in a house on Main Street (where the "Farmers Bank" now stands).

Mr. Ward built me on the property on the south side of the Mahoning River at 503 Brown Street. He used square nails, which were manufactured in his factory to hold my boards together that were cut from trees on the property. The double front doors were designed with windows which could be opened to allow the north breeze to blow in and race up the staircase in the main hall to cool the upper rooms in the summer. Mrs. Ward's brother designed the frosted glass panels in the door. He was a glass maker in Pittsburgh.

Look up at my decorative designs on the porch and the cornices under the roof as you pass by. You will not see any buildings like that today. Inside, the decorative plaster mouldings in the ceiling are exquisite designs from a hand carved wooden form. My walnut staircase in the main hall is a thing of beauty also.

I have remained the way I was built with little change since 1862. Well, they had to change a few things, such as the windows that were low to the floor. They had to be raised for the placement of radiators when they changed to hot water heat. Before then they heated me with fireplaces in most every room. Of course changes were made when they installed running water and electric wiring into my walls too. There was a large 2 story "outdoor kitchen” building at the back of my house that was removed in 1925. The ladies would cook in there to prevent the open fires from burning down the main house. It was a nice building to dry the clothes in the winter, too.

John R. Thomas
, founded the Niles Firebrick Company in 1871. He and his wife, Margaret purchased my property in 1887. Members of their family lived here till 1969, caring for me throughout the years. I've had many people pass through my doors to enjoy the hospitality of all the families that have lived here, even Presidents of the United States have visited here.

I have seen a lot of things happen in the town of Niles, Ohio. Yes, I've seen floods and tornadoes pass right by me, and here I have stood for 150 years. In 1907 there was a flood and again in 1913 another flood came close to my door. A tornado went through in 1947 and another one in 1985. There has been a lot changes in Niles through the years, and the people who take care of me now are preserving that colorful story. They are the Niles Historical Society volunteers and they renamed me "Ward-Thomas Museum".

Come visit me at 503 Brown Street in Niles, Ohio 44446 .

There will be people wandering all through my 14 rooms which are filled with displays. It will take you about 1 1/2 hours to tour the museum. I am always open on the first Sunday of every month. Donation $5.00 for adults with children under 12 free if accompanied by an adult.

See you on Sunday, at the public "Open House" 2-5 pm.

You may E-Mail Us or call 330-544-2143 for more information
Or schedule a private 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. 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.

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

Thank You



1924 Green House


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