The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor, Ohio Historic Preservation Office and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite you to visit the Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Travel Itinerary. The history of the human presence in this region stretches back to the Ice Age. The first Euro-American settlement in the Cuyahoga Valley came in 1786 when Moravian missionary John Heckewelder built a mission he called “Pilgerruh” along the river, but then abandoned it the following year. The Schoenbrunn Site, located today in New Philadelphia, is a reminder of the Moravian attempt to build utopian colonies in Ohio.
Canal building in the United States reached a feverish pace following the opening of New York’s 363-mile Erie Canal in 1825 at a cost of $10 million. In 1822, the governor appointed a commission to identify potential canal routes in Ohio. The Ohio Legislature authorized construction of the “Ohio and Erie Canal” (Cleveland to Portsmouth) and the “Miami Canal” (Cincinnati to Dayton) in 1825. From Cleveland, the Ohio and Erie Canal route proceeded south along the Cuyahoga River, over the Portage Summit (at the future site of Akron) to the Tuscarawas, west to the Licking, then to the Scioto at Columbus, and finally south to the Ohio River town of Portsmouth. The canal route totalled 308 miles, crossing 13 counties stretching from northeast to central and south central Ohio. The prosperity brought to localities can be seen today in the Canal Fulton Historic District, and the Hudson Historic District. the Clinton Ohio and Erie Canal Historic District,
Not only did the Ohio and Erie Canal tie the state to the rest of the nation, but it helped open the interior of Ohio to other markets in the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast. Later, as the railroad began to replace the canals in transporting goods, other communities, such as the Limbach Block Historic District, prospered. The Valley Railroad Historic District displays the importance of railroads linking Ohio's commerce. The city of Cleveland, designed in the late 1790s to resemble a New England town, as seen in the Cleveland Public Square, grew to a major transportation hub, and at one time was the sixth largest city in the country. The Lower Prospect--Huron Historic District reflects this era of wealth, and the East Fourth Street Historic District reflects the history of the urban living from the 1890s through the 1930s when cafes and theaters catered to Cleveland's population.
The Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor travel itinerary offers several ways to discover the places important in the region's history. Each highlighted place features a brief description of its historic significance, color photographs and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find links to four essays: Transportation, Ethnicity, Industry and Preservation. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local websites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed if you plan to visit the area in person.
The Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Travel Itinerary is part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the Nation. The National Register of Historic Places partners with communities, regions and heritage areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan trips by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and providing public accessibility information for each featured site. The Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor is the 41st National Register travel itinerary in this series. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual tour. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
The first transportation routes established in the Canalway were foot trails. The history of the human presence in this region stretches back to the Ice Age and continues to the present day. The first humans to enter this region of the country came as early as 12,000 to 10,000 B.C., and are known as “Paleo-Indians,” consisting of small hunting and foraging groups which roamed through the area following herds of mastodon and mammoth. During the Archaic Period (7000 to 800 B.C.), small nomadic groups grew in number and density and tool-making of cold-hammered copper became common. The “Archaic Indians” settled only seasonally in campsites in interfluvial rock shelters along bluff edges and the floodplain. Toward the end of this era, group territoriality and long distance trading systems began.The period A.D. 700 to 1200 is not well defined nor are there many extant sites other than winter hunting camps. From A.D. 1000 to 1350, summer agrarian villages along the edge of the forest revealed an increased density of semi-permanent habitation. The following 200 years saw organized fields ringing stockaded villages, but overall the region was not heavily settled.
The continent’s interior in the 17th and 18th centuries experienced an intense European rivalry over the lucrative fur trade. In 1744, the Iroquois confederacy recognized British hegemony over the territory north of the Ohio River. Tensions soon came to a head in 1754 as the French-Indian War began at Fort Necessity when a French-Canadian force, intent upon capturing the Ohio River valley for France, clashed with Virginian troops led by George Washington. Upon resolution of the conflict in 1763, French activity ended and the region belonged to Great Britain.
The Native American trails were part of a large regional trail network and the early European settlers established trails that linked the early communities. The Portage Trail, which linked the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers, was a vital link in a American Indian trading route. The Portage Trail is now a road that passes by many historic places including the Simon Perkins Mansion and the Stan Hywet Gardens and the Stan Hywet Hall National Historic Landmark. Another noteworthy trail in the valley is the David Hudson Trail, which is the trek David Hudson and his party made from the Cuyahoga River at Boston Mills, through the wilderness, to the southwest corner of the township. This trek is credited with the founding of the town of Hudson.
With the advent of the American Revolutionary War and the peace treaty of 1783, Britain relinquished all of Ohio to the United States, but British activity did not cease until the conclusion of the War of 1812.American leaders knew that the key to developing the continent’s vast interior was in establishing a good transportation system. That meant a series of canals would be needed to link the Great Lakes with the nation’s river systems. As early as 1784, George Washington espoused a plan to boost the fur trade and interior communications by utilizing the Great Lakes. His plan included the Cuyahoga River. In 1788, Washington formally proposed canals linking the Cuyahoga, Big Beaver, and Muskingum rivers to allow easy intercourse from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River.Building and repairing roads in early Ohio was largely the responsibility of supervisors appointed by township trustees. According to the Act of 1809, every able-bodied man of 21 years or more had to give two days per year to work on public roads in his community. Riverview Road was established in 1811 and links four historic districts and two individual listings in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). It should be noted that “establishment” in this context refers to a local judge designating the route as a public right-of-way. Regional road networks in northeast Ohio did not greatly impact the Canalway, due to its north-south orientation. From 1816 onward, major road building movements in the region were designed to connect Cleveland with Buffalo to the northeast, with Pittsburgh to the southeast and with Columbus to the southwest.
When the Canal was constructed from Cleveland to Akron (1825-27), local roads led to this regional transportation link. Canals were the interstate highways of their time and created a transportation revolution in the early 19th century. The regional canals built in the early 19th century developed into an interconnected national network of waterways. Canals of the northeast and Midwest states linked the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The Ohio and Erie Canal linked the interior of Ohio to Cleveland, on Lake Erie, and from there to Buffalo and the Erie Canal in New York. The canal also linked to the Mississippi River System connecting Ohio to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. By connecting the Ohio frontier with New York and New Orleans, the Ohio and Erie Canal helped people and products flow across America, fueling westward espansion, a national market economy, and regional industrial might. Some sources suggest that the total canal mileage in Ohio exceeded that of any other state.
Ground was broken for the Ohio and Erie Canal on July 4, 1825. Exactly two years later the first section of the canal, between Cleveland and Akron, was opened to traffic. By 1832, the 309 miles of the Ohio and Erie Canal linked Lake Erie with the Ohio River and became a major catalyst for Ohio's economic growth. The canal opened the resource rich hinterlands of the young state and greatly spurred settlement and development in the area. Between 1825 and 1847, the State of Ohio constructed 813 miles of canals. The Ohio and Erie Canal’s first link opened on July 3, 1827, when a group led by Ohio Governor Allen Trimble left Portage Summit aboard State of Ohio. The 38-mile trip to Cleveland and Lake Erie saw a 395-foot drop in elevation as the boat wound her way through the Cuyahoga Valley’s 44 locks and three aqueducts. The canal trench itself was 40 feet wide at the top and 26 feet at the bottom. The entire canal was completed in 1832 at a cost of $5 million. The engineering miracle proved to be an economic wonder as well. Barges could now cross the state in eighty to ninety hours.
The northern section of the remaining canal is the Ohio and Erie Canal National Historic Landmark in CVNP and the Akron area includes the Cascade Lock Historic District. These inland waterways transported grain and coal to eastern ports and finished goods and settlers to the developing Northwest Territory. By the 1850s, the canals were declining and east-west transport and related economic development resulted from railroad expansion.
To supply the growing industries of Cleveland with coal from south of Canton and West Virginia, the Valley Railway was chartered in 1871. The right-of-way was surveyed in 1872, the Cuyahoga Valley provided a route with easy grades and wide curves. Construction of the rail line began in 1878 and operations started between Cleveland and Canton in 1880. In 1882 the line was extended to Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1890 the Baltimore & Ohio acquired a controlling interest in the railroad to gain access to Cleveland.
Unlike other railroads, theValley Railway was never double-tracked for expanded traffic, and the right-of-way remains virtually unaltered.Guide Tourist & Traveler Over Valley Railway, 1880 promotes itself as “Containing a Complete Description of the Scenery and Objects of Interest Along the Road.” The descriptions of the valley in the book illuminate the landscape of the time. This book is available at the railway offices and CVNP visitor center bookstores. The right-of-way through the CVNP into Akron and continuing on to Canton is still maintained and used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Future plans include expansion north to Cleveland’s Terminal Tower.
The development of industry in the Canalway began with agriculture and was fueled by waterpower provided by the canal and rivers. Distilleries and later gristmills converted farm products into finished market goods. A local county history describes whiskey as “the universal beverage used just as it came dripping from the numerous little copper-stills that were operated throughout the forest settlements.” Milling became a trademark of the region’s economy, producing not only grain, but also lumber and woolen goods. Place names such as Boston Mills testify to this heritage as does the Wilson Mill located within the Ohio and Erie Canal NHL district. The Mustill Store in Akron’s Cascade Locks Historic District houses exhibits about the Schumacher Mills in Akron, manufacturer of Quaker Oats.
Stone quarrying and boat building were other canal-influenced industries in the area. At the height of Ohio’s canal era, between 1825 and 1875, Boston and Peninsula were centers for the boat building industry. Akron, along with these two communities, built hundreds of the boats used on the Ohio and Erie Canal. The 1836 Boston General Store in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) features a canal boat building exhibit.
The predominant extractive industry in the northern part of the Canalway was stone quarrying; south of the continental divide in Akron it was coal mining. Quarrying was regarded as the main industry in Peninsula and at one time its four stone quarries employed 200 men. In addition to stone blocks, quarries produced high quality grindstones. The large stepped ledges of Deep Lock Quarry, located along Riverview Road and the Towpath Trail in Peninsula, testify to the importance of this industry.
The output of several coal mines in Summit and Stark counties played a significant role in the development of these areas and the evolution of Cleveland and Akron industries. Ohio and Erie Canal shipping records for the Port of Cleveland show an increase of one million tons shipped from 1837 to 1847. To facilitate coal shipments mine owners built the Messenger feeder canal in Clinton. This canal ran directly from the coal mines to the narrow area located between two locks that define the Ohio and Erie Canal Historic District in Clinton. Coal distributors in Cleveland advertised coal from “the celebrated mines of Clinton.” Today, the Towpath Trail and several wayside panels provide access to and interpretation of this district.
Cleveland’s Warehouse District evidences the city's late 19th-century industrial growth and the convergence of transportation options. The Ohio and Erie Canal traffic, steamship commerce on Lake Erie, and the role of Cleveland as a major Midwest railroad hub all contributed to its great commercial and industrial growth. This resulted in a concentration of warehouses, a historic district including 70 buildings and covering nearly 55 acres. This Victorian era commercial cityscape includes large warehouses for hardware distributors, marine suppliers, garment manufacturers and smaller wholesale and retail establishments for dry goods, grocers, tool suppliers, and ship handlers.
Along with the smokestacks and mills came company towns and entire planned neighborhoods. The Jaite Company town in CVNP consists of several catalogue houses across from a Cuyahoga River paper plant. Barberton is a city laid out in its entirety by O.C. Barber as a manufacturing district and home to his own Diamond Match Company. The Diamond Match Company, once covered two city blocks and produced well over a hundred million matches a day. Barber’s Anna Dean Farm was a large scale experimental farm on the outskirts of Barberton. Some of the original large brick and art stone farm buildings remain as the Anna Dean Farm Historic District.
Early 20th-century industrial development in the Canalway included Akron’s development as a world leader in rubber manufacturing. Charles Goodyear's invention of vulcanize rubber generated a vast new market with the mass production of bicycles and the horseless carriage in the 1890s. Rubber factories, including Goodyear -- named in honor of Charles Goodyear--soon sprawled across Summit County and by 1920 Akron’s 22 establishments producing rubber tires, tubes and other goods employed 77,000 workers – 85% of the city’s labor force. The National Historic Landmark Goodyear Airdock and the Ace Rubber and Swinehart rubber plants in the Cascade Locks Historic District evidence this industrial heritage. The wealth created by this industry is reflected in Goodyear founder and CEO Frank Seiberling’s majestic estate Stan Hywet Hall, a National Historic Landmark.
Settlement of the Canalway is marked by a cultural divide that reflects the continental divide. In 1786, Connecticut ceded its land south of Lake Erie and north of the 41st parallel to the United States, and the Connecticut Western Reserve was formed. The Cuyahoga River Watershed area was known as Connecticut’s Western Reserve and is characterized by cultural landscapes and vernacular architecture associated with New England. Immigrants in this area were largely of English or Irish descent. South of Akron the watershed empties into the Ohio River. This area and much of central Ohio was settled by German immigrants from Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region. In a history of Stark County the author estimates that “perhaps four-fifths” of the population was of German descent.
The “Trek of 1817" brought a wave of settlers to Northeast Ohio seeking to escape the increasingly harsh conditions of life in the northeastern states. The War of 1812 left a legacy of destruction in coastal New England, forcing many traders into bankruptcy. Severe frosts during the summer of 1816 followed by an exceptionally bitter winter destroyed many farmers and brought on famine in the area.
New England's cultural influence is evident in the area's vernacular architecture and town planning. An early New England Green or town common in the area is now the center of the City of Cleveland: Public Square. Smaller towns such as Hudson still have their historic district anchored by the village green. The area has outstanding examples of regional interpretations of vernacular Greek Revival architecture that reflect the New England cultural influence in northeastern Ohio. The Stephen Frazee House in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a rare exception, being a Federal style building, which is associated with areas in the Mid-Atlantic, not the New England extended cultural hearth in Ohio. The Greek Revival Simon Perkins Mansion in Akron is a high style version of the style, while the regional Upright-and-Wing farmhouses, illustrated by a kitchen wing located in a perpendicular one-story eave oriented section, is in the Boston Mills, Village of Peninsula, and Hudson historic districts.
The Irish wave of immigration to the Cuyahoga Valley was a result of canal construction. After the Napoleonic Wars peace settlements of 1815, Irish emigration intensified. Before the potato famine of 1846, more than a million Irish resettled in a foreign country. Many Irish immigrants who landed in New York City were recruited to work on New York State’s Erie Canal, completed in 1825. Upon completion of the Erie Canal, many of these Irish workers came to northeast Ohio to work and made up the bulk of the labor force on the northern segment of the Ohio and Erie Canal. In fact, the 1850 State of Ohio Census lists 22.4% of the state’s immigrants as coming from Ireland. The Irish Town Bend Archeological District in Cleveland’s Flats District reflects the settlement era working class status of this ethnic group. Many of the early German settlers in the southern region of the Canalway were motivated by religion. In 1772 Moravian missionary David Zeisberger led a group of 28 Delaware Indians to the Tuscarawas River Valley to establish Schoenbrunn – the first settlement in the Northwest Territory. This mission settlement grew to include 60 dwellings and more than 300 inhabitants. Today it is a reconstructed village that is managed by the Ohio Historical Society.
In 1817-18 an unusual social experiment took root in northern Tuscarawas County when a group of German Separatists seeking religious freedom led by Joseph M. Bimler settled on 5,500 acres. They endured extreme hardship and as a means of protecting the weak and helpless among them adopted a communal lifestyle early on. In addition to farming, the separatists took a contract to build a section of the Ohio and Erie Canal and operated gristmills, a woolen factory and two iron furnaces. The Zoar Village Historic District is a site currently managed by the Ohio Historical Society that contains significant examples of German log architecture, half timber framed buildings and the Zoar Hotel, which displays features of both Greek Revival and German Baroque Revival Styles.
Cleveland is the most ethnically diverse area in the Canalway and has several historic districts with strong Eastern European heritage. The Warszawa Historic District or “Little Warsaw” is located in the Slavic Village neighborhood and contains the High Victorian Gothic style St. Stanislaus
Catholic Church. The Broadway Avenue Historic District is known for its Czechoslovakian association and contains the Bohemian National Hall.
The most ethnically rich neighborhood in the city is the Tremont Historic District. Overlooking the industrial steel valley, Tremont includes 26 churches within one square mile. One of the most notable is the Russian Orthodox St. Theodosius church, with its 13 onion domes. The church was featured in the film “The Deer Hunter.” Ethnic groups represented in Tremont include Poles, Greeks, Syrians, Russian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, and Lemkovenian. The Polish Workers Hall, the Lemko Social Hall and the densely developed streets lined with vernacular worker cottages intermixed with grand Victorian houses create a rich texture for this revitalizing urban neighborhood known for its restaurants and art galleries.
Preservation efforts of the historic properties in Canalway, Ohio have been successful through a combination of programs offered by government and not-for profit organizations and strong private sector support for the properties. Along with the numerous historical societies in the area, preservation leaders, such as the Cleveland Restoration Society, and the technical assistance from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park staff have leveraged interest in developing the recreational and tourist potential of the Canalway into a strong local preservation ethic.
Since Congress created the Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor in 1996, the Ohio and Erie Canal Association (OECA) has acted as the management entity for the heritage area. The primary program of the association is its annual matching grant program. These grants have been used for several historic preservation projects, including bricks and mortar rehabilitation program development and interpretation.
Examples of bricks and mortar funded preservation work include several buildings that now house museum exhibits that interpret the heritage of the area. The Stick style 1887 Boston Township Hall in the Peninsula Historic District received a grant to assist with preservation work. The facility now houses a local history museum and an annex for the library. The Mustill House and Store in the Cascade Locks Historic District was rehabilitated by the grassroots Cascade Locks Park organization, in partnership with the City of Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), and now houses a visitor center with exhibits focusing on how the City of Akron was a child of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Another local community based not-for-profit organization, the Zoar Community Association, rehabilitated the 1886 Zoar Town Hall into an interpretive center that augments the Ohio Historical Society facilities in the village.
OECA grants have also been used to foster preservation related program development. The Cleveland Restoration Society received several grants to fund expansion of their nationally recognized Neighborhood Preservation Program into residential Cleveland National Register historic districts that were key aspects of the Canalway’s ethnic history. Private homeowners in Tremont, Ohio City and Slavic Village historic districts received below market rate loans to assist with exterior historic rehabilitation work. OECA grant funds also helped with several Main Street projects in Cleveland commercial neighborhood centers. They were also used to fund Downtown Ohio Inc. to assist small canal villages and towns explore Main Street development options.
Interpretive grants and technical assistance include the development of interior exhibits and interpretive materials in printed and other media. The Canal Fulton Main Street program has recently developed a walking tour brochure which also functions as a game board. This project, which includes a website and business recruitment packet, was developed in conjunction with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office’s Certified Local Government grant program and audio tours have been developed for the Zoar Historic District.
Technical assistance from the CVNP staff has been extensive. Projects include a comprehensive inventory of canal-related resources throughout the 110-mile -long Canalway, several National Register nominations, historic structure reports, planning documents and interpretive plans. Maintenance crews have completed rehabilitation and stabilization work on buildings in the Cascade Locks Historic District, and have constructed train shelters to assist with the expansion of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad into the cities of Akron and Canton.
As preservation work increases in the Canalway, the funds used for matching grant work and the technical assistance provided by the CVNP has leveraged a greater awareness of historic places in the Canalway and greater capacity for local stewardship. Increased local awareness and participation in the preservation of historic properties will create a better sense of local ownership – the key ingredient to long term preservation.