Wilderness Trail Museum gets an updated look with renovations


FORT LORAMIE — The Wilderness Trail Museum held an open house on Sunday after undergoing renovations primarily on three rooms upstairs on the second floor of the building.

According to curator Jim Rosengarten, the renovations were needed.

“About a year ago, we had plaster starting to fall off the wall, and the ceilings had been an issue with some sagging and cracks,” Rosengarten said. “And then we had a spot where the roof had leaked left the big stain.”

In addition to the damage, Rosengarten said the upstairs rooms were out of date with flowery wallpaper that was decades old and filled with antique furniture that had no connection to Fort Loramie.

A chance for the Fort Loramie Historical Association to fix and update the museum arrived when a tax levy passed, giving it the money needed to make some changes. Donations also helped the project.

“We replaced all the wiring. Then we put in new drywall, lowered the ceiling, somewhat painted it all,” Rosengarten said. “Then we got new carpet. Then we were able to get a bunch of new display cabinets.

“Pieces started to fall together in the right place.”

Over 200 people attended the open house according to the Fort Loramie Historical Association’s Facebook page. Visitors in the renovated upstairs rooms saw walls and ceilings painted an off white color, new gray carpet on the floors and lights hanging from the ceiling that can be moved to better illuminate historical displays.

The three rooms that underwent the most work each have a general theme. There is the church room, business/industry room and the immigration room.

The church room and the business/industry room each have a vertical display case at the center. The random furniture has been sold. The rooms now have artifacts from Fort Loramie’s past.

One such item is a stained glass window depicting St. Patrick. The window was once part of St. Patrick’s Church before it was demolished. In the business/industry room are items from Busse’s Meat Market and other items with the names of long gone local businesses.

The bar room also had some changes with the addition of a large mural depicting Indians and historical landmarks. Visitors gathered to watch the artist, Jill Bornhorst York, of Russia, sign her painting.

A mannequin depicting Peter Loramie stands in front of the mural. The mannequin’s design is based off of written accounts of Loramie’s appearance including a large nose and a ponytail that reached the ground. Peter reportedly used the ponytail as a whip while horse riding.

One more addition to the grounds was the school bell that rang over Short School which was located four miles from Fort Loramie. The bell was installed in the barn behind the main museum building. The bell was donated by Maurice Quinter, of Fort Loramie, who also owns the property that the remains of the Short School building sit on.

A Short School teacher named Ruth Carter-Barhorst was the last to ring the bell before the school ceased operation. The children of Carter-Barhorst took turns ringing the bell during a short ceremony.

The Wilderness Trail Museum’s main building was built in 1853 and was used for years as a boarding house/hotel by travelers on the Miami-Erie Canal according to the Fort Loramie Historical Association’s website. The historical association has been able to keep the building alive in 2024 with help from a public that decided it was worth preserving their community’s history.

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