Spirit of ’76 Museum Hosts Historic Willard Gallery

IMG_7945cHe’s one of the least-known artists with one of the most recognizable paintings, and for the first time, the largest collection of Archibald Willard’s artistic work will be on display in one place.

No, it’s not in the Cleveland Museum of Art, or even the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin: it’s in Wellington.

The Spirit of ’76 Museum, located in downtown Wellington, has the honor of hosting 22 original Willard paintings within its walls until the end of October when the museum closes for the season. The exhibit, “Yours Truly, A.M. Willard,” is all thanks to Dan Zivko, an art enthusiast out of Cleveland who took a particular interest in Willard’s various works. After a visit to the Spirit of ’76 Museum last spring, Zivko agreed to loan his paintings as a way to honor the 100th anniversary of Willard’s death, as well as to celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary, a place largely dedicated to one of Wellington’s most famous residents.

Willard arrived in Wellington at the age of 19, working as a painter in a local carriage factory, but got his start as an artist painting “Pluck I,” a laughable cartoon featuring the young sons of a prominent Wellington business owner and a rambunctious dog. The painting was so well received that Willard painted a companion piece, “Pluck II,” and the set eventually sold 10,000 copies.

But while Willard started with two boys and a dog, his greatest masterpiece, and the namesake of Wellington’s museum, was “The Spirit of ’76.” What started out as a simple sketch of three Wellingtonians goofing around in the town square turned into one of the nation’s most well-known and symbolic images of the patriotic spirit. Completed in 1876, “The Spirit of ‘76” went on to become Willard’s “bread and butter,” with a known 24 original paintings of the same three figures having been discovered to this day.

The collection, which includes two original “Spirit” paintings, boasts an impressive representation of Willard’s interests. From landscapes and portraits to still life, painted in a variety of mediums, there is something unique and definably “Willard” in every piece; a point of pride for a small-town museum with deep roots.

The figures who originally posed for Willard as he painted “The Spirit of ‘76” were Wellington area residents, and the Spirit of ’76 Museum has had the original drum used by the portrait’s central figure within its collection for years. What they hadn’t had was the fife, carried by Hugh Mosher. Until “Yours Truly, A.M. Willard” opened, that is.

On loan by Mosher’s great-great-granddaughter, Rebecca (Durham) Duelley, for the duration of the exhibit, the fife is a great addition that ties the history and pride of one town together in a three-floor, diamond in the rough building. Duelley described the fife as a “family treasure,” sharing legends of the metal band around the center of the fife, said to be a repair Mosher made after his son Walter cracked the instrument as a child. The metal band can clearly be seen in the “Spirit” paintings on display.

It’s not often that so much little-known history gathers in one little-known location. But whether by fate, universal intervention or just sheer luck, the Spirit of ’76 Museum has the opportunity to share with the masses the story of one unassuming artist who helped shape the American spirit with a stroke of his brush. It’s a piece of history not to be missed.

The Spirit of ’76 Museum is located at 201 N. Main St. in Wellington, and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 – 3:30 p.m. To schedule a tour, visitors can contact the museum office at (440) 647-4367 or send an email to thespiritof76museum@gmail.com.

**Originally published in The Rural Urban Record**

Museum seeking volunteers for new group

The Spirit of ’76 Museum is looking for volunteers to join The Friends of the Spirit of ’76 Museum. If you have any interest in learning more about the museum, and how you may become involved as a volunteer, please contact Teresa Bosela (tmbosela@gmail.com) or Barb Leiby (secretaryspiritof76museum@gmail.com) for more information. We’d love to have you on the team!


Museum extends hours May 20 for Armed Forces Day

In celebration of Armed Forces Day, The Spirit of ’76 Museum will extend its regular visiting hours on Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The second floor of the Museum is home to a wonderful collection of military items and apparel perfect for celebrating our nation’s, and southern Lorain County’s, rich military history. Round out your trip to the Museum on the first and third floors, including paintings and memorabilia from Archibald Willard, historical farming and agricultural tools, fashion from various eras, and items saved from McCormick Middle School before its demolition.

You’re host for the day will be Southern Lorain County Historical Society board member Cindy Norton, and she will be available to answer any questions you may have during your visit. We hope to see you Saturday!

Third floor illuminates the past with new lighting

The Spirit of ’76 Museum gave its third floor an update with brand new lighting thanks to a generous donation made by the Wellington Women’s League. LED light fixtures were installed in late March, just in time for the spring opening of the museum’s weekend hours, and now visitors of the museum can enjoy exhibits like the Alex Justice Collection and women’s fashion throughout the years in a much more flattering and enhancing light.

By the continued generosity and support of people and organizations in and around Wellington, the Museum is able to keep preserving the colorful history of our historic village in bigger and better ways.

Stop in and see the changes for yourself during our visiting hours, Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m., or by scheduling an appointment by calling the museum at (440)647-4367.

Welcome to the Spirit of ’76 Museum


Our website is currently under construction. We appreciate your patience as we work to bring you the best online experience for The Spirit of ’76 Museum possible.

We look forward to seeing you in April!

Admission Is Free to the public during regular visiting hours April – October.

Museum is Handicapped Accessible

Visiting Hours: During the Months of April through October the Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 – 3:30 pm, with the exception of Fair Week.

Group Tours: Group Tours are welcomed, but please make arrangements in advance by calling Barb Leiby at (440) 647-4367.

Office Hours:
Monday & Friday: 9:00 AM to Noon
Tuesday & Thursday: 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

*If door is locked during business hours, we may be upstairs, so please call (440) 647-4367