The Kister Building is the location of the Society’s main office. It houses a formal gallery with rotating exhibits and a small research library containing collections of historical books about the settlement of Wayne County and Ohio. The building also features displays of agricultural implements, an extensive military collection, Native American Indian artifacts, pioneer-era tools and an unusual wood-carving collection which includes a working ferris wheel and Spanish galleons. Another display, popular with schoolchildren, features small, taxidermy animals from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair/Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
The Kister Building was constructed in three phases during the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
In 1973, Henry Shelly proposed to construct a Display Center and formed a committee chaired by Charles Ewing, and members Herbert Werstler, Arthur Dietrick, Russell Frey, Ellis Camp, Guy Kister, James Fetzer and Richard Drabenstott. Upon a significant gift from Guy and Mabel (Shoup) Kister, and financial support from Emma H. Fickes Estate and the John D. Overholt Estate, the original building was constructed and dedicated in 1975. The original building housed a blacksmith shop, items used by cobblers and harness makers, and a tool room on the 1st floor. The basement housed farm implements and equipment.
In 1987, a “garage addition” on the North end of the building was built to house the carriages and buggies given by the Gerstenslager Company to the Society. Robert L. Iceman, President and CEO of the Gerstenslager Company and James Fetzer were instrumental in arranging for this gift. Ray and Carolyn Dix chaired the fundraising campaign with the help of Larry Drabenstott, Ethel Parker, George Riehl, Gladys Jacobs, and Ray Leisy. Stan Levers drew the plans for the addition that was named the “Carriage House” and later became known as the “Transportation Room”. The groundbreaking ceremony for the north end addition took place on June 8, 1987 and was opened to the public in December of 1987. For many years the Firetruck was parked in this space. After the Firehouse was built and reconstruction of the 1881 Carriage House the space in the garage addition of the Kister Building is going to be re-purposed.
In 1996, the Society decided to renovate both the interior and exterior of the building and build a new two-story addition on the south end of the building. In 1998, after a successful fundraising campaign, the office, library, special exhibit area, military display, and glass display were moved from the Beall House into the Kister Building. The existing displays were realigned and new carpeting, track lighting, and air conditioning were installed. New restrooms were added and the building was made accessible to persons with disabilities. A room, named the Dix Vault, was built in the basement to store some of the valuable documents archives. A reinforced steel floor under the garage addition was added to support the additional weight of the firetruck. The exterior of the building was changed from the appearance of a farm outbuilding to an early American decor from the same area as the Beall House.
After connecting all of the basements of the contiguous Society buildings in 2012 via an underground tunnel a large display area that is wheelchair accessible was envisioned and planned. The new Permanent Collection Exhibit will showcase all of the Society’s categories of artifacts that have been in storage for many years due to lack of space.
Many thanks and gratitude to all the members of the Wayne County Historical Society of Ohio and the leadership of all the Boards of Trustees for the foresight and support of the evolution of the Kister Building over the past four decades to what is is today.