Yesteryear’s Toys, Today’s Treasure

In the historic district of Marietta lies old boilermakers home full of toys and treasures to transport adults, children, and families back in time.   

“People are drawn to the opportunity of going back in time and having an opportunity to see what life may have been like growing up in our community,” says Diane,is the Vice President of the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum. The museum specializes in vintage dolls, games, toys and doll houses from the late 19th and early 20th century.  

The idea stemmed from Sally Hille, an avid collector of toys and dolls who had a passion sharing her collection with the citizens of Marietta and beyond. Hille began the Toy and Doll Museum in 1976 with the formation of the Bicentennial Women’s Club. Under the direction of Hille, women gathered to celebrate the nation’s birthday by collecting antique nostalgic items in hopes of contributing a lasting legacy for children of the community.  

The first items were on public display at the Campus Martius Museum (Marietta), there the first ever talking dollhouse was revealed. The dollhouse was a repurposed gift from a friend of Hille’s, that was a “childhood dream come true.” The 10-room dollhouse tells the story of wedding day preparations on Christmas Day in 1900. After an overwhelming response at Campus Martius, the collection expanded. 

Two railcars in the historical district of Marietta became the first official location of the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum in 1989. Seven years later, the museum moved next door to an old Queen Anne style home, featuring Victorian-era architecture with patterns and sculptural shapes made of wood and ornamented embellishments, built in 1889, like the dolls and toys whose time period they mirror.   

“When we look at dolls, we don’t think there’s a story behind it, but there’s always a story, if you start digging a little deeper, that’s what’s fun about it,” says Pfile. 

Each toy, doll, and house is either received by donation or loaned from a private collector. Profile sits with her fellow board members Donna Kern (President), Kathy Eckert (Treasurer) and Spencer to decide which collection will be featured.  Before these antiques can be set in one of the nine display rooms, they are separated by style, year, tagged and redressed to fit their appropriate time period.  

Along with her colleagues, Pfile decides every two years what display cases will be rotated every two years. Here’s what to look out for this summer at the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum: 

Shirley Temple Black  

Most of these dolls are examples of German Bisque dating back to the late 1800s. Bisque is a very popular style where the doll is made to be life-like, from the hair to the skin to the glass-painted eyes. Profile began to collect bisque Shirley Temple Black dolls in hopes of passing the collection on to her granddaughter one day.  

The collection consists of over 80 miniatures, dolls, models and memorabilia of Shirley Temple Black’s career. The dolls sports outfits connected to her movies, photos, books and more, something Pfile holds close to home, “She represents my childhood and dolls I loved, but never owned.”  

Marx Toy Company: Johnny West Series 

Spencer’s and Michelle Smith of Westerville, private collection of the Marx Toy Company’s Johnny West series features members of the West family, Chief Cherokee, sheriffs, horses, and outlaws. The toy company was notorious for producing miniseries playsets in the 1960s and 1970s at its Glendale, West Virginia location. The Johnny West set includes members Each figure and its according accessory is authentic to the smallest detail.  

Peggy Nisbet Exhibit 

British doll designer, Nisbet, designed doll replicas of the British Royal Family. Nisbet’s first design was an ode to Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation gown in 1952. The House of Nisbet manufacturing company features a mix traditional and historical costume dolls like Henry VIII and his six wives, formulated with great accuracy. The collection is on loan by Kathy Taylor-Eckert.  

The Children’s Toy and Doll Museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. beginning May 1 and runs through October.  


Southeast Ohio strives to spotlight the culture and community within our 21-county region and aims to inform, entertain and inspire readers with stories that hit close to home. Southeast Ohio is the first student-produced regional magazine in the country. Every semester, approximately 25 students enrolled in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism produce an issue of the magazine, which is published in print twice a year. The staff generates story ideas, conducts interviews, writes stories and designs the magazine in only 15 weeks. The magazine has won several Regional Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.