** See prior coverage in the video above.
JEFFERSON, Ohio (WJW) — It’s a one-of-a-kind northeast Ohio attraction, but after 35 years, it’s closing for good and its antique treasures are to be auctioned off.
The Victorian Perambulator Museum at 26 E. Cedar St. in the village is packed wall-to-wall with hundreds of antique baby carriages, children’s dolls and toys and thousands of other rare artifacts from a bygone era. It’s “the only museum of its kind in the world,” says the Ashtabula County Visitors Bureau’s website.
It first opened in 1987, co-owner Janet Pallo told Fox 8. She and her identical twin sister Judith Kaminski, two former Ashtabula County elementary school teachers, have been collecting the pieces for more than four decades, trekking out as far as Canada, Florida and Maine on their weekends and over summer breaks.
“We’ve been all over,” Pallo said. “We keep adding amazing things to it. … It’s 35 years and we’ve added — every year — something special. Everything in the museum is pretty much a work of art.”
The museum boasts more than 300 antique baby carriages called perambulators, or “prams,” which were status symbols for the wealthy. Many are ornate and finely crafted, most from wicker.
The oldest and rarest is from 1850 and was commissioned by the Vanderbilt family, Pallo said. Also on display are carriages once ridden as children by historical figures like Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret and celebrities like Lucille Ball, she said. And there are thousands of other Victorian dolls, children’s toys and other novelties.
See a photo gallery of the museum’s collection and history:
The museum’s open for personal tours, and also puts on holiday displays. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people have been coming through the door to appreciate it, Pallo said — at least, not enough to make it worthwhile.
The sisters don’t want to close the doors on what’s become their life’s work, but “we haven’t got the support this year,” Pallo said. “It’s been a struggle.”
The sisters shopped their unique collection to Jefferson Village officials and to other cities and amusement parks. They also had some passing interest from “a few famous people,” Pallo said. But so far, there have been no takers — or the funding to move the collection never materialized.
“We don’t want to [close]. It’s because we have to,” she said. “It breaks our hearts because we put everything we had into it.”
Soon, all the pieces will be sold off one-by-one by Ohio Company Antiques & Art in at least three online auctions over the next two years. The first is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21.
The collection of carriages is “undoubtedly the best collection ever assembled, and [includes] some true rarities and one-of-a-kind items,” reads a release from Ohio Company Antiques & Art.
“We were never satisfied with what we had,” said Pallo.
Pallo’s son Matt said he recalls those cross-country, treasure-hunting car rides with his mother, aunt and grandmother.
“They had meetings and I would try to be quiet as they were transacting,” he said. “We’d find ways to load these treasures into whatever vehicle we had there at the time.
“They just wanted to cultivate and protect this part of history. … I couldn’t be prouder of them. It takes a lot of passion,” Pallo said.
Those who want to take a piece of that history home will have a chance at next month’s auction, Matt Pallo said.
Janet Pallo and Judith Kaminski are still at the museum every day and giving personal tours — but not for much longer. You can schedule a visit by calling 440-476-9224.