Since its construction in 1976, Sauder Village has expanded tremendously. Their most recent feature is an addition to the 1920s portion of the historical recreation of life in the Black Swamp, building on an already comprehensive experience. It begins with the region’s earliest indigenous inhabitants and ends with accounts of what life was like in a rural town center during the 1920s.
The newest historical recreations include a grocery store, theater, candy shop, fire station, clothing store, theater, pharmacy/soda shop and— get this— a speakeasy that you can only access with a secret code.
Sauder Village President and CEO Debbie Sauder David describes the era as “filled with exciting advancements in travel and communication, tremendous social change, and roaring good times.” We found that every person working the 1920s Main Street was fully committed to their historical character, from the workers selling us ice cream floats to the speakeasy bartender who graciously let us in through the secret entry within the candy shop.
Main Street malts
Our first stop was the soda fountain/pharmacy, which not only serves delightfully old timey drinks (think black and brown cows, egg creams, and phosphates, along with the banana splits and chocolate malts you’re likely more familiar with), but the site also houses reproductions of typical pharmacy staples.
Our recommended must-tries are the “Burn One All the Way” chocolate malt and the Brown Cow, a concoction made with cola, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. We took ours to-go as we continued down Main Street for a little “shopping.”
The dress shop and grocery store allows visitors to explore popular brands of the time with reproduction products impressively rendered by Sauder Village’s talented designers. Each stop offers an opportunity to hear a tour guide in period dress share their knowledge of what day-to-day life was like for 1920s shoppers.
State your business
After a trip to Dr. McGuffin’s Office across the street, where we received a very relevant crash course in what life would have been like for residents during the Spanish Flu pandemic, we headed to the well-hidden speakeasy (our final stop, and the one we were most excited about).
The speakeasy is open for special events and experiences only, but we got a taste of what a party would be like for those who know the password of the day.
Here’s how it goes: you remove a box of candy from the candy store shelf, knock on the wall, and a gentleman or lady answers, “State your business.” If you give the right reply, the shelf in the candy shop opens up, revealing a very swanky spot to enjoy a cocktail with friends.
In keeping with the era, the speakeasy— The Broken Barrel— primarily serves distilled spirits from the 1920s through 1933, the 13 years of Prohibition. After a very informative talk from our tour guide/bartender about the distilleries in the area (there were six government-sanctioned ones that required a prescription from your doctor, apparently), he made a drink complete with logo-embossed ice cubes and whiskey smoked with a small blowtorch. We can’t wait to come back for a full night of fun at The Broken Barrel, our favorite aspect of an already impressive tour of the newest facilities at Sauder Village.
It’s also a wonderful place for families to spend the day; we were put at ease by the care all employees and guests took to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“Families visiting our 1920s Main Street can stop in for a Charleston Chew at the candy shop, enjoy a milkshake at the soda fountain, get a sneak peek of a picture show at the theater and check out a vintage fire truck and antique automobiles,” David said. “Sauder Village offers families a place to laugh, learn, and connect while making history of their very own.”
Admission is $20 for adults, $14 for students age 6-16, and free for members and kids five and under. Open 10am-5pm. Wednesday-Saturday. Sauder Village, 22611 State Route 2, Archbold. 800-590-9755. saudervillage.org