Does your home have a jar of buttons? In earlier days, every button was saved before an item was discarded in case they might need a similar button later. Frieda Warther collected buttons since she was a child. In fact, she even brought a jar of her mother’s buttons to this country from Switzerland. Today many of those buttons are displayed in Warther Button House, just outside The Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio.
Frieda was, first of all, mother to their five children and an understanding wife to Ernest, master woodcarver nicknamed Mooney. Flower gardening was her main relaxation and she created beautiful Swiss style gardens outside their home and Mooney’s workshop.Those gardens have been maintained in much the style that Frieda enjoyed them. To her, they were a memory of her old back yard in Switzerland. Today, these gardens are a peaceful place to relax with many benches available. It is no surprise that in the garden, there is also an old red caboose since Mooney carved so many trains in his lifetime.
One of their evening pleasures was reading a large collection of books that they kept in their family library. Even though Mooney had only a second grade education, he was a genius and perused everything from repair manuals to Shakespeare.
It wasn’t until she was about sixty years old that Frieda began experimenting with her buttons and sewing them onto cloth to make beautiful designs. Today many of these designs containing 73,000 buttons hang on the walls and ceiling of the Button House, which was the original small museum to display his carvings.
Here you will find buttons of many different materials: handpainted ceramic, wooden, pearl, and metal. Amazing as it may sound, there are no duplicates in the creative displays in the Button House. One of her favorite designs had, as its centerpiece, a button from the Inaugural Dress of Abraham Lincoln’s wife.
Due to the family’s love of children, Frieda also designed one pattern just for them. In it she used Cracker Jack prizes, novelties, and what she called, Goofy Buttons.
But the Button House is not the only place you will find her button designs. The Women’s Rest Room at The Warther Museum displays Frieda’s beautiful creations on the walls. In the Men’s Rest Room, so I was told, there are designs she created from arrowheads that Mooney collected on his trips to the country with the children. There is beauty everywhere.
The original Warther Family Home, their residence for 63 years, is also opened for viewing. You can imagine the family with five children working and playing within its walls. Many of Mooney’s early carvings are on display there as well as a unique collection of pennies from the first one minted in 1793 to the Lincoln-head of 1909.
The dining room table in their home was Frieda’s workshop after the children were raised. Ernest enjoyed her artistic endeavors saying, “Sometimes while Frieda was working, she would drill too deep and hit out table. One look at her breathtaking designs and you will realize it was well worth all the holes.”
Soon the springtime tulips – thousands of them – will be blooming in Frieda’s Swiss Garden. Stop by and relax on a bench and discover what it must have been like to live at the end of “Dumb Street” along the Calico Ditch.
Warthers can be found easily off I-77 in Dover, Ohio. Take Exit 83 to the east and follow the well placed signs to Warthers.