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Canal Fulton
Historic District
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Canal Fulton Historic District
Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

Platted in 1826, the village of Fulton was one of 25 new villages established in Stark County between 1824 and 1836 after the State Canal Commission of Ohio chose the east side of the Tuscarawas River as the location for the Ohio and Erie Canal . Ten overland routes converged on the village and two bridges connected it to an older village on other side of the river. By 1830 Fulton had a post office, three warehouses, two taverns, two stores, seven houses and a population of 40. Renamed Canal Fulton in 1832, its downtown was anchored by the Public Square (Canal and Market) at one end, and the highly suspect character of Brimstone Corners (Canal and Cherry) at the other. The merchandising and storage district contrasted with the saloons and lodging houses—Brimstone boasted a liquor establishment on every corner, framing frequent spontaneous boxing matches.

The canal was lined with grain warehouses, their upper floor doors and extended gable peaks protecting winch beams jutting out over the street and canal. Small canal-era, wood frame buildings still stand along Canal Street and the canal, with architectural details such as entablatures and cornice returns that reflect their Greek Revival style influences. The town’s saltbox type houses are products of the canal era and many still have the log walls from their early cabin days.

By the 1870s coal mining drove Canal Fulton’s economy. “Pinchgut,” “Battle Axe” and “Crow’s Nest” were some of the names for the 30 mines in the region that produced a high-grade hard coal. Industrial operations lined the west bank of the river. Manufacturers of coal mining equipment, such as the Canal Fulton Pit Car Works and the Canal Fulton Tool Works added to the industrial base of the Victorian-era economy.

[photo] Historic View of Canal Fulton District, c.1890s
Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brick and stone commercial buildings replaced the timber frame and wood sided canal-era buildings. Large wood frame warehouses adopted more urban functions becoming hotels and even an opera house. The mining-era masonry buildings have ornate cornices, column capitals and window lintels typical of the Italianate and Queen Anne style buildings. Some buildings—such as the Robinson House—are a combination of both with a grand Italianate style house (1867) fronting a smaller and earlier (1840) Greek Revival house.

Canal Fulton’s growing prosperity began to wane with the coming of the 20th century. In 1901 a fire destroyed 10 businesses on Canal Street. The 1904 flood caused major damage to buildings along the canal and a year later the area coal mines were depleted. The Flood of 1913 wrecked the entire canal system, including the recent repairs made in an attempt to revitalize the waterway. Canal Fulton became a rural byway, sharing little in the new motorized industrial economy. The following 80-year period saw an increase in the town’s population of only 210 people. The operating St. Helena III canal boat, the Olde Canal Days Museum, the replica St. Helena II canal boat, the Hike/Bike Towpath Trail and Boardwalk, and specialty stores and restaurants are some of the many attractions in this 19th-century canal town.

The Canal Fulton Historic District is roughly bounded by the Ohio and Erie Canal, and Market, Canal, Cherry and High sts., in Canal Fulton. Shops are open during normal business hours. Visit Discover Fulton for further information.

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