Tour Our Buildings

Greet Straus the stag. Climb the winding stair case.  Ring the school bell.
Learn about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.


Upstairs/Downstairs Guided Tour: Small Town, Big Stories

Enjoy the lifestyles and architecture of historic Oberlin in a guided tour of three beautifully preserved buildings that tell the unique, nationally significant story of the community and college in Oberlin from their beginning in 1833 until the 1930s. Learn about Oberlin's founding as a Christian Perfectionist colony, women attending college, African American education, abolition and the Underground Railroad, aluminum history, decorative arts, the Progressive Era, student life, and more.


Tour Times

  • Tuesday 10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.

  • Thursday 10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.

  • Saturday 10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m. 

Tour Details

  • Tours begin at the Monroe House of the Oberlin Heritage Center. Directions & Map

  • Tours typically last 75 minutes.

  • All ages are welcome but the tour is of most interest to adults and children above the age of 7 years.  See our Event Calendar and Bring a Youth Group page for more children-friendly options, such as the I Spy Oberlin scavenger hunt or Lessons in the Past program.

  • Due to the historic nature of our buildings, the tour involves walking and climbing stairs. Portions of the buildings are accessible by wheelchair. Contact our office for advance arrangements. Guests with hearing difficulties can ask the docent to wear an audio amplifier.

  • Groups of 8 or larger should contact the Museum Education and Tour Coordinator prior to registering for tours.


Tour Fee

  • $6 per adult

  • Free for members, college students with a valid ID, and children under 18 accompanied by an adult. Also free for active duty military personnel and their families as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

Reserve a Tour Online


Drop-In Sneak Peek Tour: Oberlin Origins

Guided 30-minute tour of the first floor of the 1866 Monroe House. Hear about the events and individuals that shaped Oberlin’s first one hundred years. Topics include Oberlin's beginnings as a Christian utopia, coeducation, and abolition.


Tour Times

  • Available Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00-3:00, year round. Drop-ins welcome but advance notice appreciated (440-774-1700). Groups of 8 or more must contact the Museum Education and Tour Coordinator (

Tour Fee

  • $3 per adult

  • Free for members, college students with a valid ID, and children under 18 accompanied by an adult. Also free for active duty military personnel and their families as part of the Blue Star Museums program.


The Monroe House (1866)
This brick Italianate-style house is the starting point for your tour. It was originally the home of Civil War General Giles W. Shurtleff, the leader of the first African-American regiment from Ohio to serve in the Civil War. The house was subsequently the long-time home of James Monroe and his wife, Julia Finney Monroe. Mr. Monroe was an important abolitionist, advocate of voting rights for African Americans, and friend of Frederick Douglass. Monroe taught at Oberlin College, served as the U.S. Consul to Brazil, and was a five-term U.S. congressman. Mrs. Monroe was the daughter of Charles Finney, the great religious leader of Oberlin College.


The Little Red Schoolhouse (1836/1837)
This was the first public school in town and is Oberlin’s oldest building. In defiance of Ohio's "Black Laws", the school was interracial from its inception. Sarah Margru Kinson, who as a young girl was on board the infamous Amistad slave-trading ship, returned later to America and was among the first African Americans to attend school in Oberlin.  Restored as a pioneer-era one-room school, it is a special favorite of school-age visitors.


The Jewett House (1884)
This was the home of Oberlin College chemistry professor Frank Fanning Jewett, and his wife Frances Gulick Jewett, author of books on public health and hygiene. The Jewetts and subsequent owners, the Hubbards, rented rooms to male Oberlin College students who slept in the attic and studied on the second floor. This wonderfully intact house and its simple wood frame barn are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On display in the house is an exhibit on "Aluminum: The Oberlin Connection" that includes a recreation of Charles Martin Hall's 1886 woodshed experiment.


For more tour options, check out the Event Calendar, History Walks, Bring a Group, and Bring a Youth Group pages, or contact the Museum Education and Tour Coordinator to discuss customized tours.

Visitor Comments

"The students absolutely loved the tour! They thought it was way too short. They wanted to spend the whole day with you."
- teacher of a middle-school group from Cleveland


"[We enjoyed] the interaction of kids with history. . .Guides were very informative"
-a church-school group from Lorain


[We most enjoyed] the great mix of local and national history, the ability to tell the story in a reasonable time frame, the ease of walking within [the Oberlin Heritage Center]."
- a bus tour from Virginia


"Wow--what a great deal of history!. . .The people of Oberlin were advanced in their ways of thinking. The feelings in the Monroe House were that you were experiencing history and the original owners were glad."


"I really enjoyed the tour and thought the information was very interesting."


"Best tour. Good information. Lots of pictures and artifacts."


"I loved Oberlin. I loved the small college town feeling, and the total dedication and passion that this town has for its abolitionist past, and for preserving the past. In the hours we spent in Oberlin, and in the people we met and learned from. In the end, it's all about educating and transcending ignorance."