If you’re looking for a short road trip that packs a punch, consider a trip to Marion County, Ohio. Only 30 minutes north of Delaware, Marion an easy day trip from Columbus.
Marion was founded in 1822 by General Francis Marion. By the 1880s, Marion had catapulted itself into the national spotlight, both as a major industrial center and presidential campaign headquarters.
Marion is also home to several entrepreneurs and inventors who solidified the city’s reputation in industry.
Warren G Harding Presidential Sites
Warren G Harding served as the 29th president of the United States. He owned the Marion Star newspaper and served as an Ohio Senator. Harding was well spoken and very popular.
After a successful front porch campaign, the last of its kind, held from his home in Marion, Harding won the presidency by a historic landslide vote.
Presidential Library & Museum
Anyone interested in history will enjoy learning more about his life and administration at the Warren G Harding Presidential Library, opened in 2021. The exhibits are thoughtfully designed, easy to read, and offer various interactive displays. The museum explores Harding’s many accomplishments, untimely death in office, and his legacy.
Follow Harding’s story from early farm life in Caledonia (OH) to his newspaper career in Marion. Learn about his political career in Ohio and his historic post WWI bid for the presidency, “Return to Normalcy”. Take a seat in the simulated train car to view video footage of his last cross country voyage.
The Harding Home is a Queen Anne style Victorian home built in 1890. Harding and his fiancee, Florence King, were married there in 1891. When Harding began his run for the presidency in 1920, their home in Marion became the main stage for his “front porch” campaign, the fourth and last one for a sitting US president.
Open to the public since 1926, the home underwent a complete restoration in 2017. Visitors may take a guided tour to learn more about the Hardings life together and the campaign which drew over 600,000 visitors to Marion.
Afterwards, take time to tour the grounds, including the Press House and Sentry Guard House.
The presidential library, museum and grounds are fully ADA accessible. The home offers a wheelchair lift with access to the front porch area and first floor of the home. However, the second floor is only accessible by stairs.
The Warren G Harding Presidential Library and Harding Home are located at 380 Mt Vernon Ave, Marion, OH 43302.
The hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from Noon – 5:00 p.m. Tours of the home begin at 10:00 a.m. (Wed-Sat) and 1:00 p.m. (Sun). Tours occur on the hour. Reservations are recommended, especially during busy summer months.
Admission to the library, including the home tour: $16 (adults), $15 (veterans & college students), $8 (6-17), and Free (5 & under). Admission to the library only: $10 (adults) and $8 (students). Ohio History Connection members and active military & families are FREE.
In June of 1923, President and Mrs. Harding embarked on a cross country train trip from Ohio to Alaska, continuing south through California before returning to the Capitol. Known as the “Voyage to Understanding”, Harding wanted to understand the life and struggles of the American people he served.
Harding suffered from poor health and doctors hoped the journey would provide some much need rest. By the time the train arrived in California, the President had become too ill to continue.
On August 2, 1923, Warren G. Harding died of heart failure, only two years into his presidency.
The President’s body was returned by funeral train from California to Ohio. Along the way, millions of Americans lined the tracks to pay their respect.
The President was so well loved that donors from all over the United States and Europe contributed more than $977,000 to build the Harding Memorial in Marion.
The Monument and Tomb
The impressive Greek style monument is circular, without doors or a roof, because Harding wanted to be buried under a tree with a view of the stars. Both the President and First Lady are buried in the open courtyard.
Visitors may walk along the paths of the tree lined park encircling the monument. There is an informational kiosk in front explaining its history and construction. Walk up the steps for a view of the courtyard and the Harding tombs.
Harding Memorial is located at 966-870 Delaware Ave, Marion, OH 43302. It is open daily from dawn to dusk. The monument is easily viewed when driving near the corner of Vernon Heights Blvd and Delaware Ave. There is a dedicated parking lot on Delaware Avenue.
Marion County Historical Society & Museum
The Marion County Historical Society provides a look back at the history of Marion and its most notable residents.
Multiple collections of memorabilia and artifacts are on display depicting daily life, military history, a children’s author, political figures, and local entrepreneurs.
Two particularly interesting collections can be found in dedicated spaces on the main floor.
Wyandotte Popcorn Museum
As soon as you open the door of the Marion County Historical Society, the aroma of freshly popped popcorn fills the air. If just thinking about it makes you hungry, then this museum is for you.
Once inside, it only takes a moment to spot the large red and white circus tent welcoming visitors to “step right up” and view the world’s largest collection of popcorn wagons and poppers.
In 1936, Hoover and Ava Brown founded Wyandotte Popcorn in Wyandotte County. They started by planting 100 acres of popcorn in an effort to add income to their livestock and grain farm.
The popcorn, sold raw, proved to be a huge success. Soon, they began selling ready-to-eat popcorn at movie theaters.
The company continued to expand, where they created the first formula for caramel popcorn…Yum!
For several years, they produced a childhood favorite for many, Cracker Jacks. In 1964, the Browns decided to consolidate all operations into Marion County, where it remains today.
The museum offers a collection of antique popcorn wagons and poppers, plus peanut roasters dating as far back as 1892.
There are more than 35 machines, including a 1899 Cretors No. 1 wagon and a 1909 Cretors Model D wagon, used by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Whether its hand cranked, steam or air popped, this museum has it all.
Be sure to ask for a guided tour at the front desk. The staff is happy to share the history of the company, as well as stories about machines on display. You’ll even be treated to a working demonstration of several poppers and learn about technological advancements over the years.
And the BEST part…everyone receives a free box of freshly popped popcorn at the end of their visit to the Historical Society!
Buckeye Telephone Collection
Today, smart phones are the hub for daily information, communication, and family schedules. Our phones are attached to us everywhere we go.
Not so long ago, many of us can recall being attached to our phones, stretching those dreaded phone cords to their limits in search of privacy.
Located to the right of the main entrance, this collection is sure to bring back memories. Get an up-close look at an open wire insulator, imagine being a switchboard operator, and view a large collection of phones from antique wall-mounted crank to rotary dial and more.
The Marion County Historical Museum is located at 169 E Church St, Marion, OH 43302. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission is $6 (adults), $5 (55+), $3 (6-17), and Free (5 & under).
Huber Machinery Museum
If you grew up on a farm or have an interest in heavy equipment, the Huber Machinery Museum is a hidden gem in Marion. Located at the Marion County Fairgrounds, this museum shares the legacy of Edward Huber, an inventor and pioneer in industry.
Edward Huber is credited for modernizing American agriculture with his 1863 invention of the revolving hay rake. He continued looking for ways to make farming easier using steam powered equipment and became the first producer of a modern gasoline powered tractor.
His work in agriculture provided an easy transition into the heavy construction business. He pioneered the use of weighted rollers in steam engines, which provided the technology to develop modern road leveling and grading equipment.
In 1884, Huber co-founded the Marion Power Shovel company and became the leading manufacturer of shovels and draglines. The company put Marion, known as “Shovel City”, on the map.
Marion built equipment was used to dig the Panama Canal, construction of Hoover Dam, NYC subway tunnels, and exclusively contracted by NASA for their crawler-transporters.
Visitors are greeted in the office area with an impressive collection of memorabilia, miniature models, and photographs. Next, continue to the large open shop where more than 30 restored machines are on display.
Walk the aisles to view examples of the equipment produced by Huber, including a 1914 steam engine, a 1938 road roller, and much more!
The museum is managed by a dedicated group of volunteers, some of whom are past employees of Marion Power Shovel. Be sure to take advantage of a guided tour to learn about the impact that Edward Huber’s machines had both locally and across the country.
The Huber Machinery Museum is located at 220 E Fairground St, Marion, OH 43302. It is open to the public on Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. The museum is ADA accessible.
Railroad enthusiasts should stop at the Marion Union Station.
The station has a storied history from a canteen stop during WWII to the final stop in President Harding’s funeral procession. The station is located between two diamond crossovers, making it a popular spot to watch some of the 100+ trains passing through each day.
In addition to beautiful architecture, the museum houses an impressive collection of memorabilia, plus an AC Tower, and Erie Lackawanna caboose. Railroad historians will enjoy the large collection of interlocking and switch panels, and functioning status lights and signals.
The station is located at 532 W Center St, Marion, OH 43302. It is open every Saturday from 10 a.m – 2 p.m. Some weekday hours are available, when there are volunteers, so call ahead to confirm.
Wrap up a day of exploration with a stop at the G&R Tavern. Located in Waldo, Ohio, just steps from US 23 between Marion and Delaware. The G&R is a small hometown tavern with a huge reputation.
Not much has changed since it opened in 1962. The décor is simple with walls full of photos and hometown trophies. They don’t take credit cards, cash only please, but that’s part of the charm.
Locals frequent the G&R for its homey atmosphere and good company. However, it’s the famous fried bologna sandwich that has everyone talking, drawing visitors from both near and far. The menu also includes sandwiches, pizza, and other standard tavern items.
Regardless of what you order, just make sure to save room for a piece of pie. There are plenty of options to choose from, and they are all delicious!
The G&R Tavern is located at 103 N Marion St, Waldo, OH 43356. The hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.
More fun in Marion County
Marion Popcorn Festival
Don’t miss the annual Marion Popcorn Festival scheduled for September 7-9, 2023. Enjoy music, rides, craft vendors and the popcorn parade. During the festival, tour the museum for free!
Buckeye Chuck for Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day is something to celebrate in Marion. Buckeye Chuck, a long time resident, has been predicting Ohio’s return to Spring since 1979. Known nationwide, along with Punxsutawney Phil, Chuck is Ohio’s official weather predictor.
Each year on February 2nd, Buckeye Chuck returns to the WMRN AM radio station to make his prediction. The event starts at 7:00 a.m. where visitors can enjoy a complimentary SPAM sandwich. Folks from near and far bundle up to join in the fun!
Do you have other Marion County tips?
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