Historic Sites In Ohio. More Than Just Parks has 5 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing these articles for More Than Just Parks.
I’m going to give you my list of the 5 Historic Sites In Ohio that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks. (More on that below)
If you are planning a trip to Ohio then you might want to pick up a copy of The Great Book of Ohio: The Crazy History of Ohio with Amazing Random Facts & Trivia by Bill O’Neill.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Historic Sites In Ohio
#5. Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial
More Than Just Parks kicks off its list of the five best historic sites in Ohio with Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial.
The Korean War is referred to as the “Forgotten War.” As a former high school history teacher, I can tell you that it’s not the only war my students forgot.
Another such conflict was the one which came between the American Revolutionary War and the Mexican American War.
It was known as the War of 1812 or the Second War of American Independence.
This was the war in which the British actually marched on Washington. They set the Capitol ablaze as America’s leaders fled. The United States desperately needed victories and Perry’s naval success was a tremendous morale booster.
He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for his heroic actions.
Perry later went on to command a diplomatic and anti-piracy naval mission to Venezuela. Sadly, he died of yellow fever in 1819 at the age of 34 while still at sea.
A Memorial Was Built To Honor Perry
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Great Britain, Canada and the U.S.
The Memorial is a Doric column which rises 352 feet over Lake Erie. It’s situated 5 miles from the longest undefended border in the world. It’s an important reminder that freedom is not free.
#4. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
For almost 30 years, I taught high school history. What impresses me most about the field of history are the amazing stories of men and women whose contributions changed the course of human events. In doing so, they helped to bring about the world we have today.
The people we know, however, are few compared to the people we don’t. A case in point is Colonel Charles Young.
Born as a slave during the American Civil War, Charles Young lived a truly extraordinary life. He was the first African American to graduate from a white high school in Ohio. In 1884, Young defied the odds winning an appointment to West Point though a competitive military examination.
After confronting the racism which was unfortunately typical of his era, he emerged as only the third African American to graduate from America’s most prestigious military academy.
As a former history teacher and a lifelong history buff, I love to include book recommendations for those of you who are interested in taking a deeper dive. In the case of Charles Young, I heartily recommend Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young by Brian G. Shellum.
Captain Of An All Black Regiment
Young served as a cavalry officer. He then became the captain of an all-black regiment at San Francisco’s Presidio. Young’s career path would take an interesting turn when managing the national parks became the responsibility of the U.S. Army beginning in 1891.
This was before the creation of a unified system of national parks or the establishment of an elite cadre of park rangers.
By 1903, the U.S. Military was providing protection at America’s parks. Young was assigned to take his troops to Sequoia and General Grant (what is now Sequoia National Park and a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park).
It was during the summer of 1903 that he made history by becoming the acting superintendent of the these two parks. He was the first African-American to hold such a position.
Things To Do At The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Young was sidelined from active duty during World War One due to health issues, but returned to command after the war. He would earn the rank of colonel. Young died unexpectedly, however, in 1922.
As the National Park Service notes, Charles Young overcame stifling inequality to become a leading figure in the years after the Civil War when the United States emerged as a world power.
His work ethic, academic leadership, and devotion to duty provided a strong base for his achievements in the face of racism and oppression.
His long and distinguished career as a commissioned officer in the United States Army made him a popular figure of his time and a role model for generations of new leaders.
Visitors to the site can take a guided tour of the Charles Young Home. Here you can learn more about the incredible story of this remarkable man.
Historic Sites In Ohio
#3. First Ladies National Historic Site
At #3 on More Than Just Parks list of the best historic sites in Ohio is the First Ladies National Historic Site.
At the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio, you can explore a museum of rotating exhibits, watch a film which examines the legacies of America’s first ladies, and check out the National First Ladies’ Library.
You can also step back in time and visit the Saxton House. It’s the former home of First Lady Ida and President William McKinley.
America’s Most Influential First Lady
I love doing historical research which is probably why I ended up teaching history for almost 30 years. You’re likely familiar with rankings.
You know that they tend to change over time. And yet the woman considered by many knowledgeable experts to be America’s Most Influential First Lady hasn’t changed.
Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady for over 12 years. She played an active role in advising her husband and was the first first lady to hold her own press conferences.
Mrs. Roosevelt also championed causes, such as Women’s Rights, and supported programs, such as the one which gave African Americans the opportunity to become fighter pilots during World War Two.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the first first lady to remain an influential political force after her husband’s death. She served as Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
If you’re interested in learning more about this remarkable First Lady then I recommend Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice: Her Impact on the Civil Rights Movement, the White House, and the World by Ilene Cooper.
While In Canton, Ohio, There’s Another Hall Of Fame Worth Seeing
We’re More Than Just Parks which means we’re more than just parks. If you’re planning on traveling to Canton, Ohio, to see one collection of “All Stars” then why not see two while you’re there?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in 1963. Over the years, it has expanded and been transformed into a 118,000 square-foot museum.
You can tour this incredible museum and learn about the talented athletes who played what is today considered to be America’s most popular sport.
This museum features a number of interactive experiences. And while you’re there be sure to visit the Hall of Fame Gallery, which houses the bronze busts of each of its inductees.
There are touchscreen kiosks available which include bios, photos and videos of the inductees.
#2. William Howard Taft National Historic Site
At #2 on our list of the best historic sites in Ohio is the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
While he is not considered a great president, he’s most certainly considered a large one. Weighing in at upwards of 330 pounds, William Howard Taft was the largest man ever to hold the office.
Taft had studied law and served in several minor appointive offices until 1887, when he was named to fill the unfinished term of a judge of the superior court of Ohio.
From 1892 to 1900 he served as a judge of the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. So far, nothing he did brought him any special distinction, but that was about to change.
In 1901, Taft became the first civilian governor of the Philippines under President William McKinley. His administration of the Philippines was considered a success.
In 1904, Taft returned to Washington to serve as Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war. Four years later, Roosevelt endorsed him for the presidency. He was elected in 1908.
During his tenure in office, William Howard Taft signed the first tariff revision since 1897; established a postal savings system; formed the Interstate Commerce Commission; and prosecuted over 75 antitrust violations, far more than pursued by the famed “trust- buster” Theodore Roosevelt.
Things To Do At The William Howard Taft National Historic Site
I recommend beginning at the Taft Education Center. It’s the park’s only visitor center. There you can see the film, William Howard Taft, Public Servant.
It’s approximately 15 minutes and covers the life and legacy of Taft and his career as a judge and a politician from the local level through the federal ranks.
There’s also a gift shop with souvenirs and an assortment of Taft and presidential-related books.
From there you can take a ranger-guided tour of the birthplace and home to the nation’s 27th President.
Did you know that William Howard Taft was the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court? He was the 10th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Visitors will take a trip back in time as the home is decorated in Victorian-era style, which it was during the years that William Howard Taft lived in the house.
The #1 Historic Site In Ohio
#1. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
At #1, More Than Just Parks has selected the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Heritage Park.
Growing up you were probably taught that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” As I’m an avid history buff, what I learned is that “two Wrights make one fabulous airplane.”
All joking aside, on a cold, windy morning on December 17, 1903, history was made. It was at the sandy dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, that two Ohio brothers changed the world.
These two intrepid brothers, named Orville and Wilbur Wright, built and successfully tested the first airplane, the Wright Flyer 1. They were early pioneers of flight who faced tremendous obstacles.
The Wrights were ridiculed as cranks and fools. As award-winning author and historian David McCullough notes:
I don’t think they were ever happier in their lives than they were living in the extreme hardships of Kitty Hawk. The attacks of mosquitos, the winds, the struggle they had against the elements. But they loved it.”
They Had The Wright Stuff
Before experimenting with airplanes, the Wright brothers ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. In 1900, the brothers traveled from Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to begin a series of flight experiments which would rewrite the history of aviation.
While their historic flight lasted only 12 seconds it was nevertheless the first flight in history in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed, and had finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started.
One book I would definitely recommend is The Wright Brothers by Pulitzer Prize Winning Author David McCullough.
Things To Do At The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center is one of two visitor centers operated by the park in Dayton, Ohio. It’s located just west of downtown Dayton. Visitors can go there and learn the amazing story of Orville and Wilbur Wright.
The Center also celebrates the achievements of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 27, 1872, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War.
Dunbar went on to become one of the first influential African-American poets in American literature.
You can purchase this gifted writer’s complete works. The Life And Works Of Paul Laurence Dunbar: Containing His Complete Poetical Works, His Best Short Stories, Numerous Anecdotes And A Complete Biography Of The Famous Poet is a great way to learn more about this amazing man while experiencing his incredibly body of work.
Visit The Site Where Aviation History Began
There is a second interpretative center. It’s the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center. It’s located northeast of downtown Dayton, next to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the National Museum of the Air Force.
While you’re there you’ll have the opportunity to visit the site where aviation history began.
At Huffman Prairie Flying Field you can explore the area and view a replica hangar that is very similar to the one which the Wrights used to house their airplanes.
You can also tour a replica of the bike shop that the Wright Brothers operated. It’s part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Visitors can step back in time and tour the bike shop where the Wrights fixed bicycles and refined their mechanical ingenuity to develop the world’s first practical airplane.
And there’s Carillon Historical Park. It’s a 65-acre open-air history museum you can learn about the history of Dayton, Ohio. There you can view the world’s first practical airplane, the 1905 Wright Flyer III.
List Of Historic Sites In Ohio
- Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
- William Howard Taft National Historic Site
- First Ladies National Historic Site
- Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
- Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial
Map Of Historic Sites In Ohio
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for the More Than Just Parks website. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!
To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
Ohio National Parks: 10 EPIC Ohio National Parks Worth Visiting