“Now, you can walk through 100 years in a single day,” Debbie Sauder David told the Bryan Rotary Club during its Friday meeting. David was referring to the newly opened addition of the 1920 Main Street to Sauder Village, just outside of Archbold.
David said that Sauder Village is Ohio’s largest living history village and it has received recognition for excellence from Ohio, and national recognition as well.
The village got its start in 1976 when Erie Sauder had the idea that youth should learn how hard their ancestors worked in their daily life. From small beginnings it has grown to a 235-acre historical area which includes 65 acres of wetlands.
She said the village gets 320,000 visitors annually, 87,000 of whom are school-age children. Erie Sauder believed that while books can teach history, it is tangible history that brings it to life.
When Erie Sauder died in 1997, David returned to Archbold to continue her grandfather’s legacy. She decided Sauder Village needed a master plan for growth. She said the village was a retirement project for her grandfather, but it needed a long-term plan in order to grow. Her vision for that growth is a walk through time.
The first addition to the village was the Natives and Newcomers which opened in 2003 followed by the Pioneer Settlement which opened in 2009. The 1920s Main Street, phase one, opened in September. The mission of the village is to tell the story of our rural communities.
Toward that end, the Elmira Depot was moved to the Main Street. Art Oakley’s three-chair barber shop was recreated and a bandstand was built. Connecting the village to Bryan, she said the interior of the Schuck jewelry store was donated to the village and will be a part of the main street project.
David said the village has a train that makes the loop through the living history and the conductor tells riders about the village.
In talking about the Main Street project, David said the Village of Archbold donated brick pavers found under the streets of Archbold. Youth from Archbold helped sort the pavers and it was impressive to David that these youth had now become a part of the history at the village.
David said history is relevant to today and it is our communities working together that help make the past permanent for the future. She asked the club how many could remember the pioneers and then she asked how many remember the “party line” telephone. Then she pointed out that today’s youth only remember cell phones which is why there is a need for living history.
David said the village employs 400-plus people and has an additional 400-plus volunteers.