A Taste of Ohio History

Nunley, Debbie and Karen Jane Elliott. A Taste of Ohio History: A Guide to Historic Eateries and Their Recipes.  Winston-Salem, North Carolina; John F. Blair, 2001.

Combining travel, architecture, and food, A Taste of Ohio History, is the second state in a unique series.  The authors have compiled a list of almost 100 historic eateries in the Buckeye state.  The restaurants fall into two categories: 1) Historic venues that have been around forever (forever being at least a hundred years), and 2) New venues that have opened in an old space.  And on top of that, they have thrown in some recipes. (Usually two or three per institution.)  Not quite a foodie book and not quite a guide to historic architecture.  Some crazy adventure in-between.

I like this idea because it is different, but familiar.  I do not believe there is a historic restaurant association, but there could be.  The authors go one step further by classifying the historic eateries: main street (the place, not the idea), former mills, transportation [several train depots], taverns, cabins, and more.  These classifications conveniently show up as chapters.

I don’t see a reader going through the full text in one siting, but the short articles for each eatery is efficiently put together.  In less than five hundred words, Nunley and Elliot are able to give a history of the building and its surroundings, an overview of the food served, and a history of the current ownership.  Hence, history, architecture and food.  This is not brain surgery, but each article is lively and has been well researched.  Though each review covers the same basic material, no review sounds alike.

The authors’ base is Pennsylvania, which is the subject of their first publication.  After A Taste of Ohio History, they published a guide to Maryland and Virginia.  For obvious reasons, I cannot recommend the other titles, but if you are ever heading east…

The 1976 Cincinnati Reds

Feldmann, Doug.  The 1976 Cincinnati Reds: Last Hurrah for the Big Red Machine.  Jefferson, North Carolina; McFarland & Company, 2009.

There is a fine tradition in sports writing of telling the story of a baseball season.  In particular, this usually covers one team.  While the framework of a baseball season is rather structured (Offseason transactions, spring training, opening day, All-Star game break, trading deadlines, and possibly a post-season), there is an art to telling a compelling story.

This definitely involves going beyond the daily box score and covering the transaction page.  A recount of 144 to 162+ games is hard to take in (pleasurably).  As a reader of several of these tales, there are several story elements I look for:

1.) You should walk away with a pretty good knowledge the team’s history for the prior couple of years, and if you are lucky, a recap that discusses what happened with the team after this document year. Continue reading

Dividing Lines

Mould, David H. Dividing Lines: Canals, Railroads and Urban Rivalry in Ohio’s Hocking Valley, 1825-1850.  Dayton, Ohio; Wrights State University Press, 1992.

What more could someone want than a book about canals, railroads, and urban history?  If you could not think of anything, then Dividing Lines is for you.  Mould’s history of the Hocking Valley (and beyond) from 1825 through 1875 covers early river towns, canal towns, railroad hub cities, through coal cities, all within a few hundred pages.

I will warn that this book is not equal parts canals and railroads, with more of the content going to the Iron Horse.  Reading the chapters on the canals, one quickly grasps how short the time of the man-made waterway took up Ohio history.  This is not to say that the canals went away overnight.  (The Hocking Canal was open through 1890).  But, the public’s excitement for the canal boat was quickly eclipsed by the speed and year-round service of the railroad.  (It took over 10 days to ship coal from Nelsonville to Columbus by canal and about 6 hours by train).  By the time the canal extension to Athens was completed in 1843, there were already railroads running in Ohio (the Little Miami opened in 1841).

But that said, I do not think you will find a better history of the Hocking Canal.  Mould covers the story of canals and railroads through the politics and funding.  If you are really interested in the politics and funding, please look at the many, many Notes.  Mould’s story is often told through articles and opinions of the newspaper reporting of the time.

Along with a very detailed look at the process behind making (in stages) the Hocking Canal, there is enough information on the Belpre and Cincinnati (later known as the Marietta and Cincinnati) RR for its own book.  It was a constant struggle to find public and private donors for this venture, and

Apart from the transportation aspects, Dividing Lines is a great source of early history for Lancaster, Nelsonville, and Athens.  After the Civil War, rail extensions were built in the direction of minerals (mainly coal).  This led the quick rise (and later decline) of several coal towns in isolated areas.  Notably Shawnee City, which I am told is worthwhile trip today.   Read Shawnee’s story and more in Dividing Lines.