June 2008 Issue
200 Years Young
Tour Ohio's Best Hometowns - Delaware
It takes only a day trip for travelers to recognize what residents have long known about Delaware: It offers the best of both worlds.
For students who attend Ohio Wesleyan University, the college town’s attraction lies in its vibrancy –– an atmosphere emphasized by a burgeoning arts scene and hip coffee-shop hangouts.
For longtime locals, it’s the former farming community’s laidback feel –– apparent in lovingly preserved, 19th-century buildings in its historic downtown and vintage spots like the Strand Theatre, which screens classic films.
There’s no doubt that the rich blend of old and new contributes to Delaware’s rank as one of the fastest growing regions in the state (not to mention the county’s recent designation as one ofForbes magazine’s “Best Places To Get Ahead”).
Tourists, however, simply revere the locale as an entertaining Ohio getaway.
Now is as good a time as any to enjoy the diverse mix of ambience and attractions. Delaware is in the midst of celebrating its bicentennial, and the year is jam-packed with activities for every type of visitor –– from parades, community picnics and classic-car shows, to Civil War re-enactments and plaque dedications for Academy Award-winning director and former resident Vincent Minnelli.
State history enthusiasts know that the city is overdue for a celebration. After all, Delaware’s unique past includes being the hometown of 19th U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes, who met his wife, Lucy, while at OWU. Out-of-towners can learn more about the area at the Delaware County Historical Museum, or just bask in the city’s authentic air during a visit to its business district, part of which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to public and private cooperation and a multi-million-dollar streetscape project, Delaware is currently experiencing a renaissance. But stops like the old-fashioned diner Hamburger Inn (established in 1942) and the myriad antique shops on Sandusky Street, make this town a haven for fans of the past.
Arts aficionados also find plenty of ways to while away hours in Delaware. Classical music lovers can revel in their favorite composer’s works with a concert by the Central Ohio Symphony at OWU’s Gray Chapel, home of the striking, 4,522-piped Klais Organ. Meanwhile, in August, visitors to the Richard M. Ross Art Museum can both reflect on the region’s beauty and ponder its growth at the “Disappearing Landscapes of Delaware County” exhibit, a painterly tribute to the area’s bygone views. And popular annual events such as the Delaware Arts Festival in May and “Artful Spaces in Downtown Places” in June –– when artists’ works are featured in renovated buildings –– put local creativity on full display.
But the Arts Castle on West Winter Street stands out as perfectly pairing the area’s love of culture with striking surroundings. The blue-limestone structure that was originally built as a wedding present in 1854 –– complete with turrets and Romanesque architecture –– now serves as a gift to the community and visitors, hosting classes as varied as stone carving and ballroom dancing.
Of course, many people who flock to Delaware come for the outdoor activities –– whether that means wading into the water at Alum Creek, home of Ohio’s largest inland beach, or descending 105 feet beneath the earth to explore the Olentangy Indian Caverns, formed millions of years ago by an underground river.
However, reveling in the great outdoors takes on new meaning every September during the Little Brown Jug, a premier pacing classic and one of the jewels in harness racing’s triple-crown circuit.
There’s no doubt when it’s that time of year: The walls of local art galleries are adorned with colorful, horse-themed prints, and residents can be seen heading to the city’s fairgrounds weeks in advance to stake out coveted seats.
For the 50,000 people who attend the race –– nearly double the city’s population –– Delaware is a destination just as beloved as Louisville during the Kentucky Derby.
But for travelers to central Ohio, it’s just one more example of Delaware’s appealing duality: a place with big-city attractions and small-town charm.
For additional information, log on to www.visitdelohio.com.
200 Years YoungJennifer Haliburton