Building blocks have been a favorite gift for many years. That tradition continues today with evolvement of blocks from wooden to plastic, including animation possibilities.
An active imagination can create almost anything from Lego plastic bricks. Dan Brown, museum curator at the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum, displays proof of that. He has collected enough Lego blocks to earn the museum the title of “Largest Personal Collection of Lego Blocks in the World”. There’s no doubt about that fact as Dan has over four million Lego blocks…a number that increases almost daily.
This Toy Museum is for all those who enjoy the world of Lego art- young and old alike. The name Lego actually comes from a contraction of two Danish words: leg godl, translated “play well.” Lego began as a builder of wooden toys. Then in 1937 Ole Kirk Christiansen began making plastic blocks.
You can’t judge a book, or a building, by its cover, as surprise after surprise waits inside this old school. The former Gravel Hill Middle School in Bellaire, Ohio has three floors of amazing suprises, which all involve Lego blocks! Since there wasn’t enough room here for Dan, he bought another local school to store his spare parts. Dan has a great sense of humor as he hoards Legos for future use. While shaking his head, Dan describes himself as “a crazy guy who wanted to retire and open a Lego Museum in Bellaire, Ohio!”
When entering the main lobby on the second floor, amid all the Lego creations, a large display case called “The Vault” catches the eye. This was purchased from Disneyland and features a real gold 2 x 4 brick and an original gold Monopoly set. Throughout the museum, items from all over the world appear…most of them being Legos!
Lego creations of Mt Rushmore and Mona Lisa also add interest. Mona Lisa has a small Lego figure painting the finishing touches on that portrait. Major creations, like these murals, have been glued together to save future repair work, while many of the Legos are assembled just as youngsters would at home. Another fun fact on the walls of the museum estimates there are 52 Lego blocks for every person on the planet. Do you have your share?
After walking down a carpet made in the pattern of Lego blocks, you arrive in the old gymnasium. Before your eyes is the largest Lego image in the world – a mosaic of an 18-wheeler tractor trailer. Designed by Brian Korte, this giant image was created by over 250 local school children with the help of AFOLs (Adult Friends of Legos). It contains over 1.2 million Lego blocks and measures 44 feet by 21 feet.
Some of those same Lego enthusiasts, the builders of tomorrow, are now attempting to construct the tallest Lego tower in the world. It begins in the basement, going up through an air shaft. They have even cut a hole in the roof so it can reach the sky. Plans at this point are for the tower to reach forty feet above the building.
Each of the classrooms throughout the building overflows with themed room Lego designs from Knights Room to Mission to Mars. The Toy Museum also has Guiness World Records for the largest Lego castle, and longest Lego castle wall. As you can imagine, the sign “Do Not Touch” appears frequently throughout the museum but some find it hard to resist. Therefore, they have a special area where you can sit and build your own creations.
Designs from this favorite plastic brick come to life with many examples of animation…a favorite being a lively band called Plastica, which appears on the stage in the old gymnasium. The musical figures were purchased from a department store in New York City, the place Dan called home for most of his life while he worked in the world of computers. The band is powered pneumatically, showing that the world of Legos is more complicated than just building with blocks. It’s a world of engineering as well.
If you or someone in your family enjoys creating with Lego blocks, this is the perfect place to explore. Buiding with blocks is a real brain stimulator. Did you know that possible combinations of six Lego eight-plugged blocks can create 209,000,000 seemingly endless combinations? You might get some new ideas while you explore! What will you build next with your Legos?
Bellaire Toy and Plastic Block Museum can be reached off I-70 at the Bridgeport exit. Take Route 7 south to the 48th Street Drive. Turn west two blocks until you reach a dead end. Turn left and within two blocks you will be at the museum on the right hand side at 4597 Noble Street. Hours during the winter months are 12-5 on weekends, while during the summer season, the museum is open Wed. – Sun. 12-5. For more information, call 740-671-8890.