Tommy Lemon’s buddies in New Richmond had an inkling he was crazy. That’s because he once told them they should start a museum to display the best cardboard boats that race down the Ohio River during New Richmond’s RiverDays event every August.

This was while Lemon and his brother Ed Lemon, Tim Young and Kenny Smith were building a new cardboard boat in Tommy’s garage designed to look like Batman’s boat.

The idea might have had something to do with the fact that Tommy already had about six or seven cardboard boats that had raced in previous years hanging in his garage. And there was something about Tommy’s wife.

“I would go in to the garage—[the boats] are hanging everywhere—or my wife would pull in …” His voice started to trail off. He didn’t want to get into the details about that. Husbands understand.

Anyway, Smith told the group he knew someone who had a building that formerly housed a garage in town that had been abandoned for 10 years, since the 1997 flood. “I said, ‘Let’s go look at it,’” Tommy says. The back door was falling in, windows were broken and it was filled with junk.

Tommy says that he immediately knew the location would work. That’s when Smith knew. “He looked at me and he said, ‘You are crazy!’”

Since that day in 2007 the World’s Only Cardboard Boat Museum—yes, that is the actual name of the museum—has been housed at 311 Front St. in New Richmond displaying some of the craziest, zaniest and most ingenious cardboard boats ever created for New Richmond’s annual Cardboard Boat Regatta.

There are now almost 40 full or partial cardboard boats on the floor, walls and ceiling of the former Pure Oil gas station, featuring replicas of the Delta Queen and Island Queen steamboats, a guitar, a Viking ship, a dragster, an ambulance, a school bus, a Coast Guard cutter and a hydroplane named Miss Mudweiser.

Originally allowed to use the building at no charge, the owner soon required the museum to pay rent. One of the museum’s volunteers, Ray Perszyk, quickly went around and secured sponsorships to allow the museum to remain open, says Tommy. Unfortunately, he says, Perszyk died last year.

The museum is open Tuesdays between 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday hours during the winter, however, are iffy, says Tommy. Admission is free.

Those who visit are asked to sign a book. The museum has had visitors from around the world. Maps with pins mark the visitors’ home states and countries. A post on the back deck has directional signs to some of those cities, states and countries.

Museum volunteers conduct a fundraiser each September to raise money for a nonprofit organization, Tommy says. Volunteers have raised about $14,000 the last three years for the Disabled American Veterans, he says. “This is something that we’re really proud of.” The Paddling for a Cause fundraisers consist of a 16-mile canoe and kayak paddle, he says.

Tommy participates in the event by paddling down the river in his favorite mode of transportation. “I always take my cardboard boat.” His buddies would expect nothing less.