It was quite by accident that I discovered this little gem of a museum that lies tucked in the center of Canton. Recently, I began to include museums as part of my fine arts coverage. The main reason is that I love museums and am always trying to encourage others to check out the various offerings in our area.
As I was going through the list of places to visit close to the Cleveland area, I came across the listing for the Canton Classic Car Museum. Since I had plans to be in Canton on December 27, I decided to call them. Char Lautzenheiser (who is the museum director) immediately invited me to stop by whenever I would like for a visit.
With the aid of Google Maps, I found myself at the front door of the museum on a cold and rainy afternoon (which is the perfect time to visit museums). As you enter into the welcome area you are greeted by Lanny Nicholson and Norm Munson. These gentlemen act as guides, teachers, security and story tellers for the museum and are a lot of fun to talk to. Feel free to ask them lots of questions about the museum and cars in particular. They love to talk about the place and you will learn a lot about what to look for.
The museum itself was started by Marshall and Florence Belden. Marshall wanted a place to show off his collection of cars and Florence wanted to share her comprehensive collection of antiques and memorabilia. Together, they purchased the building that had housed the Monnot & Sacher Ford Dealership which was the largest Ford Dealership in the United States in 1914 due to its proximity to the Lincoln Highway. At one point, the dealership had been opened 24 hours a day as Model T Ford Chassis came in and were assembled right at the dealership. Into the eight huge rooms their collection was assembled in 1978. This included 46 automobiles representing virtually every important era in automotive history as well as thousands of examples of advertising art, fascinating items of everyday use now long discontinued as well as rare and wonderful artifacts of days gone by.
The museum prides itself on the fact that you will find at least one thing during your tour that will make you smile. I found myself smiling a lot as I looked over this amazing collection. There is also a short video detailing how the museum came about as well as another lengthier one originally aired on PBS that details the history of the Lincoln Highway. Both are worth the time to stop and watch.
Although Marshall passed away in the Nineties, Florence still stops by the museum from time to time with items in hand for the collection. Their son Marshall Jr. is the inherited caretaker of the car collection.
In short, this is not your average car museum. It is an “everything museum” full of wonderful surprises that will enchant everyone who enters. Be sure to allow plenty of time to tour since there is so much to see and read.
The museum is located at 123 Sixth Street SW, Canton, Ohio 44702 and is open seven days a week year round from10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Admission is $7.50 for Adults, $6.00 for Seniors, $5.00 for Youth 6-17 (five and under are admitted free with parents). Parking is Free. For more details, call 330-455-3603 or go to: www.cantonclassiccar.org