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Warther Museum: One Man's Hobby, One Man's Life

Katherine Ryder Published: June 1, 2011 10:29 AM
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Ernest "Mooney" Warther was 28 when he transformed his hobby of "whittling" into his career of carving. With a second grade education, Mooney never knew the proper techniques standards to carve. He simply created his own. And with it he created his own line of carving and kitchen knives that are still made by his proceeding generations today.

Born of a Swiss heritage, Mooney and his wife, Freida, built their home and garden according to tradition.

What once was a dried out bit of old mill stream land is now thriving with over 6,000 buds annually. The garden, which is still cared for by Warther generations, is part of the museum tour. Blooming and fragrant in the spring and summer months, visitors can appreciate the dedication Freida Warther put into caring for her home.

Mooney built his shop in 1912, here he made space for collecting over 5,000 arrowheads and practicing what was still considered his whittling hobby. Shortly after the shop was built, however, Mooney's hobby began to transform.

Mooney had a fascination for steam engine trains, believing that it was one of the most wonderful inventions of all time. In 64 carvings, Mooney illustrated the evolution of the steam engine.

For 99 years, Mooney and the Warther family have carried this tradition and their story through time, influencing their many visitors and appreciators.

The tour of the Warther Carving Museum not only tells the story of the Warther family and their very simple lives but also displays Mooney's creativity and artistic genius.

In 1973, Mooney passed away. From the age of 28 to 68 he spend his days working on the progression of his craft with the theory that "you build everything to last."

Most pieces in the museum to this day have never been repaired or oiled.

Today Mooney's grandson, Mark Warther manages the museum and knife factory and the remaining generations who have chosen to stay and contribute to their family's legacy.

"Our biggest success over the years has been our ability to keep our business in the family," Warther said. "The fact that we can keep the interest to bring in members of our family is great."

Along with the family history and works of art, there are some other treats that Warther includes in the tour. One of which is a carving demonstration.

"My favorite part of the job is being able to take groups on this tour," Warther said. "But apart from that, when I carve the pliers from a single piece of wood and the kids' faces just...light up. Even with all of the technology that we have today they are still amazed by that."

At the Warther Carving Museum, tourists and locals can walk through the lives of Mooney and Freida Warther and their family. They can gain a better understanding of the time, patience, expertise and creativity that this family worked to embody every day of their lives.

The Warther Carving Museum is located at 331 Karl Ave. in Dover, OH. Museum hours are March-November, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and December-February, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily; the last guided tour begins one hour before closing. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter and the first and second Sundays in January. Admission prices are $13/Adults, $5/Children (age 7-17), Free/Children (6 and under). For more information about the Museum and its operations please call 330-343-7513 or visit www.warthers.com.

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