Raising Up the Rust Belt

By / Photography By Maria Khoroshilova | June 11, 2018
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Photos courtesy Explore Licking County

Less than an hour’s drive from Columbus down State Route 161 is Newark, Ohio, founded in 1802. Like many Ohio cities, Newark prospered in its early days thanks to industry and convenient transportation via canal and rail. Then, in a familiar story, times changed.

“Like many Midwestern cities we could have become a Rust Belt ghost town,” says Dan Moder, executive director of Explore Licking County, reflecting on economic shifts in the region in the mid to late 20th century and their negative impact on downtown Newark. “As a community, we said ‘no.’”

“Community” is a term one might hear over and over again from locals in Newark. The Ohio gem, which is surrounded by fertile agricultural land, is comprised of a proud collective who recognize the wealth of resources in their land, people and infrastructure.

Walk to It

Anchored by Courthouse Square, with its ornate, gray-stone Licking County Courthouse built in 1876, downtown Newark is filled with historic buildings, many recently renovated or scheduled for restoration. The city’s Pennsylvania Railway Station, the Licking County Historic Jail and the Louis Sullivan Building (one of only eight banks designed by the American architect) are just a few of the city’s 19th century treasures that are nearby and worth a visit.

“We don’t tear down, we reuse,” says Bryn Bird of Bird’s Haven Farms. A Township trustee, co-founder of the Licking County Local Food Council, founding executive director of Canal Market District and a board member for Explore Licking County, Bryn is an example of how many of Licking County’s millennial generation are sticking around and investing their time, money and energy back into the region.

A $5 million renovation of the land between South Park Place and Walnut Street, called the Canal Market District, provides a series of open-air farm and craft markets that have helped to revitalize commerce in downtown.

Visitors to the Canal Market District should take note of the beautifully crafted murals gracing buildings in the neighborhood. Commissioned by the Gilbert Reese Family Foundation and the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, the murals connect visitors to downtown Newark’s rich history. “Each mural is either a replica of a historic photo or was created using a compilation of photos, newspapers and other historic memorabilia,” says Jennifer Roberts, administrative director for the foundations that funded the project. “The images of historic storefronts in the alley on South Park Place represent businesses that were located on the Square in the late 1800s and early 1900s.”

Nearby sits The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology at 55 S. 1st St. in the former Scheidler Machine Works building built in 1882. The Works is a Smithsonian affiliate institution and prides itself on “being more than a museum.” Offering exhibits on the history of Licking County, interactive displays to engage youth in science and technology, a glass blowing studio and residency program with artists from all over the world offering demonstrations and classes, as well as an art gallery and SciDome planetarium, The Works has something for the entire family.

Photo 1: River Road Coffeehouse, at 26 N. Park Pl., a great place to park for the afternoon and get work done before you stroll Newark and head to the farmers market.
Photo 2: The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology at 55 S. 1st St. in the former Scheidler Machine Works building, built in 1882. The Works is a Smithsonian affiliate institution and prides itself on “being more than a museum.” Featured here is the glass blowing studio with an artist from Pittsburgh.
Photo 3: The Louis Sullivan Building (one of only eight banks designed by the American architect).

Experience the Earth

The Dawes Arboretum, at 7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE, sits on nearly 2,000 acres. Open since 1929, the property includes an engaging visitor center, a museum showcasing antiques and memorabilia from the founding family, several formal gardens, as well as numerous ponds, wetlands, meadows and woodlands to roam. Visit the nonprofit’s website at to plan a trip based on the flowering schedule of the property’s plant life.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a National Historic Landmark, and recently recommended by the U.S. Department of the Interior for addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, the Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures on earth.

Built between 100 and 500 A.D. by the Hopewell Culture, the Earthworks are an archeological masterpiece that the Ohio History Connection, its modern-day caretakers, describe as originally “part cathedral, part cemetery and part astronomical observatory.” Located at 455 Hebron Rd. in nearby Heath, visitors can see three remaining segments of the original ancient site and learn about their history in an onsite museum.

Among the Stars

Thirty One West, a live music venue housed in a former dance hall built in 1902, is bringing live music to downtown Newark. Located at 31 W. Church St., the venue includes the Bootlegger Bar, where one can find a craft beer or a specialty cocktail.

The 1,200 seat Midland Theater, at 36 N. Park Pl., offers a variety of local and national arts programming for visitors of all ages. Built in 1928, the building was saved from the wrecking ball in 1992 after standing unused for 14 years.

With so much to do in Newark, an overnight getaway is a definite option. From hotels to campgrounds, Newark has a diversity of lodging. Additionally, the nearby village of Granville houses several locally run inns and bed and breakfasts, several of which proudly highlight local farms and foods in their kitchens.

Visit to learn more.

A flight of sodas from Market Street Soda Works, including black cherry soda and root beer.

Eats + Soda

Downtown Newark offers a range of locally owned food and beverage choices. One of our favorites is the Market Street Soda Works, open during the Canal Market at 14 E. Market St. The unique store features more than 150 glass-bottled sodas and has several craft sodas on tap, a number of which come from breweries in the region.

“My wife and I thought it would be fun to open the spot as a community gathering place,” says Tim Argyle, who launched Market Street Soda Works in 2016 with his wife, Liz. The soda shop is a family affair with the Argyles’ teenage children helping to staff the business.

“We are a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol,” Tim says. “Everyone is welcome.”

During the Canal Market season (Tuesdays, 4–7pm, June to September, and Fridays, 4–7pm, May to October), stop by one of the local food trucks that may be parked nearby.

Directly across from Courthouse Square is River Road Coffeehouse, at 26 N. Park Pl. The business offers a range of hot and iced beverages and on a recent visit we found artisan breads from Granville-based Lucky Cat Bakery and gluten- and nut-free sweets from Columbus’ Cherbourg Bakery in the dessert case.

Article from Edible Columbus at
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