[graphic] Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
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Map of Ohio Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor
Image From National Register of Historic Places

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.

[photo] Historic view of Zoar Historic District, c. 1900
Courtesy of Ohio Memory website

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.

West Side Market, in the Ohio City Preservation District
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Veronica Glashauckas

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.

[photo] Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway Train
Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

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.

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