A hidden treasure in Bellaire

IT WAS never on my bucket list, but I did harbor a desire to view the Toy & Plastic Brick unofficial LEGO Museum in Bellaire.

I received that opportunity Saturday morning.

I was not disappointed; awestruck would be a better description of my reaction. The former Gravel Hill School has been revitalized in striking fashion.

The facility is brimming with unique and expensive memorabilia. Every room in the three-story facility — including the old gymnasium — is stocked with intriguing displays.

The museum opened in 2006. It attained the first of its now several Guinness Book of Records entries in 2007.

Dan Brown was the founder and now is chief builder of the magnificent displays inside. The museum is officially owned by the Bellaire Historical Society.

When it opened, I was one of the doubters who said it had no chance of sustaining a lengthy life. I still owned those doubts until Saturday.

The museum is a gold mine of entertainment for young and old alike. Christina Carter, who volunteers her services as museum hostess, noted the museum gained a top 10 listing on Ohio’s Best Attractions List. It was easy to see why.

The museum contains more than 4 million plastic bricks, 500-plus statues and more than 1,000 LEGO creations. Moreover, some 20 theme rooms and interactive displays are included.

The novel attraction has been able to operate while being awarded just two grants in its history, one from the Belmont County Tourism Council and the other from Wal-Mart. The non-profit entity generates operating funds from tours and taking their show on the road.

This past week, groups from Sistersville and Indian Creek were in house while Saturday the city manager of Steubenville checked out the museum.

Carter noted that no Bellaire school group has yet to tour the place in its five years of existence. The museum would be an ideal learning tool for students of any age.

SPEAKING OF Bellaire, the chamber of commerce met Thursday and hosted two county officials.

Commissioner Ginny Favede and Port Authority Director Larry Merry addressed the groups, looking to help promote the All-American Village on the port authority website. The village of Barnesville has made use of the website.

Also at the chamber meeting, it was noted the annual All-American Days Festival will be held June 2-4 in the village’s historic park.

The Saturday night finale will feature the world-famous Vogues followed by a fireworks show.

It was also noted at the chamber luncheon that the annual Imperial Convention is planned for June 9-11.


THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon meeting Tuesday.

It was reported that the Annual Academic Awards Banquet at WesBanco Arena was a smashing success. Some 295 honors students were recognized while nearly 800 attended the gala affair.

Plans are advancing smoothly for the Soap Box Derby, scheduled for June 12. As of midweek, more than 50 drivers have registered for their race. Several more are expected as entry deadline is not until Monday.

The chamber welcomed a new member in Aaron’s Rentals of Bridgeport. The chamber will meet again June 21.


BISHOP ROSECRANS’ stay in the OVAC has been a short one. The Zanesville-based school is leaving the conference to become full-fledged members of the ECOL. The Zanesville Blue Devils are also exiting the conference.

IT WAS pleasing to see that Habitat for Humanity of Belmont County gain national recognition for its charitable work. The group has built 21 homes since 2000. Executive Director Dennis Watson and his support staff should be commended for their passionate work.

THE CLEVELAND Cavaliers — one year removed from Lebron James — have a chance to become relevant again very quickly. That is due to holding the first and fourth picks in next month’s NBA draft. The top pick will almost certainly be Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. Another nugget should be waiting for the Cavs three picks later.

ANYONE LOOKING for a great meal while supporting a most worthwhile cause, they should attend the Bethesda Fire Department Chicken BBQ on Monday, May 30 at the Bethesda Firehouse, starting at noon. Dinners include: half chicken, baked potato, vegetable and roll. Dinners are $8 and half chicken are $4. Pre-order by calling 740-484-4573.

THE BELMONT Veterans Service Commission is sponsoring a blood drive on Wednesday, May 25 at the commission’s headquarters on Belmont Street in Bellaire. Members of the public wishing to donate blood can schedule appointments at 740-325-1042. We urge all those who can donate, please do so.

OHIO GOV. John Kasich is opposed to the new pink driver’s licenses. He should have bigger concerns to deal with.

LANCE ARMSTRONG has long denied using illegal substances. However, after three of his fellow teammates have given testimony, saying they all saw him shoot up, his days may be numbered as a sports icon.

MONDAY marked the close of the OVAC sports year with the staging of the annual Banquet of Champions. The night’s highlight was Shadyside’s Mark Holenka being selected as Coach of the Year. I have been fortunate to know Mape for nearly 40 years now. In fact, he asked me to be an usher in his wedding. Needless to say, I was quite proud for the Tigers’ grid boss. It was an award he richly deserved, leading the Orange & Black on a magical run to the Division VI state title game. Many people forget Mape enjoyed a long and successful tenure as River High wrestling coach. He was very eloquent in his acceptance remarks, deflecting most of the praise to his staff and players. We hope he wins the award again in the future.

Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com