Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, The Reese-Peters House

145 E Main St.
Lancaster, OH 43130-3713
Tuesday-Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday-Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Uncommon Elegance

With beautifully installed period rooms, compelling exhibitions, studio programs, and a charming gift shop, arts and heritage are flourishing at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. This museum and art center is housed in the splendidly restored Reese-Peters house, a landmark of American architecture in Ohio.

Built in 1834, the Reese-Peters house is one of the earliest, best preserved, and most elegant houses in the Midwest. It also tells an important story of Ohio in the decades after 1803 statehood, a land of promise for the first generation of Americans who came of age after the Revolutionary War. The state’s 1810 population of 231,000 quadrupled to almost a million by 1830. But Ohio was still rough frontier country in most parts and the canal infrastructure designed to harness its agricultural bounty was only just being completed. By the 1830s, the Fairfield county seat was already a place of refined civilization, having been settled by Germans from Pennsylvania shortly after Ebenezer Zane mapped his famous “trace” through the wilderness in 1797. An East Coast visitor in 1837 acclaimed Lancaster as the handsomest Ohio town he had visited. “The hands of its architects,” he wrote, “have been guided by a purer taste. Many of its private dwellings, and some of its public edifices, have been made to assume a style of uncommon…elegance.” The Reese-Peters house exemplifies this distinctive local architecture, with its combination of Federal and Greek Revival design.

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Notes for Travelers

A visit to DACO should be at the top of the list for any trip to Lancaster. Open year-round and offering free admission, it’s the best place to begin your visit to this distinctive Ohio community. Visitors may request a guided tour of the ground floor and learn about the families who lived here over the centuries. The large formal rooms are installed with period décor and important examples of American furniture. DACO also features compelling temporary exhibitions, so repeat visits are always rewarding. The studio facilities in the adjacent chauffeur’s cottage offer art classes throughout the year.

The Reese-Peters House is part of Square 13, a landmark preservation district that is a veritable textbook of 19th century American architecture. In addition to canal-era prosperity, Lancaster was a boomtown after natural gas was discovered in the 1880s, resulting in new industries and a building spree of fine Victorian homes. To experience Square 13, leaving DACO, turn left and continue walking up East Main Street, taking a left on North High Street and a left on East Wheeling Street. For more of Lancaster’s distinctive architectural heritage, visit the elegant Georgian Museum on the corner of East Wheeling and North Broad Street.


Robert Colby