[graphic] Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
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Zoar Historic District
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Zoar Historic District
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

The Village of Zoar is a well-preserved early 19th-century communal village. Zoar was founded in 1817 by a group of German “Separatists” fleeing religious persecution in their native Wurttemberg, Germany. Arriving in Philadelphia, they obtained a loan from the Quakers and purchased 5,500 acres along the Tuscarawas River. They named their settlement Zoar, after the Biblical town to which Lot fled after fleeing Sodom.

Because of the harshness of the frontier and fears of their demise they decided to form a communal society in 1819 and became the “Society of Separatists of Zoar.” Everyone’s property and future earnings became common stock and men and women had equal political rights in the community. The Zoarites were able to pay off their loan by earning $21,000 for digging seven miles of the Ohio and Erie Canal. At one time the Society owned four canal boats and the community became self-sufficient, accumulating more than $1 million in assets by the mid-19th century.

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

At its height the village contained a church, communal bakery, tin shop, blacksmith shop, furniture shop, weaving and sewing houses, a pottery, several mills, a brewery, a large ornamental garden with greenhouse, a town hall, a general store and private and communal residences. Spacious barns and stables were set up on the outskirts of town. The Greek Revival–German Baroque Zoar Hotel was built for tourists and visitors. The society was disbanded in 1898 with each member receiving land, a house and possessions.

Today, The Ohio Historical Society and the Zoar Community Association manage several of the public buildings at Zoar and provide interpretive tours and demonstrations. Several bed and breakfasts operate in the historic district and seasonal festivals are held throughout the year.

The Zoar Historic District is roughly bounded by 5th, Foltz and 1st sts., in Zoar. Historic buildings are open for tours from April-October on Saturdays from 9:30am to 5:00pm and Sundays from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the village is also open Wednesday-Friday from 9:30am to 5:00pm; there is a fee for admission. Visit the websites of the Zoar Village State Memorial or Zoar Community Association for further information. Several places in Zoar have also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. Use the search box to find properties associated with Zoar, Ohio. The National Register also highlights other communal villages in our Amana and Shaker travel itineraries.

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