November 2013 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013–2014: Logan
Logan offers family-friendly neighborhoods and access to natural beauty.
: Hocking County, 50 miles southeast of Columbus
: 4.9 square miles
: The Pencil Sharpener Museum — a collection of more
than 3,400 unique pencil sharpeners assembled by the late Rev. Paul
Johnson — is on display at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center.
The Columbus Washboard Company
’s production floor looks as if it were
transported from a different time, and in some ways it was. Factory
manager James Martin points out a century-old saw that still cuts with
precision. A few minutes later, he demonstrates a museum-worthy 1926
That’s not to say modern touches haven’t found their way into the small
factory’s handmade production process. Hammers have given way to nail
guns and new, more efficient saws have replaced older ones. Still, the
tidy space evokes a bygone era while making merchandise that is a
carryover from it.
“A lot of people are getting back to traditional methods,” says Martin,
who adds there is still a market for washboards. “People want to buy
something that’s made in the USA and that’s going to last.”
The small business, which offers factory tours and has a charming
adjoining gift shop, caters to musicians, campers, crafters and those
who simply want a backup for their washing machine. A Washboard Music Festival
is held every Father’s Day Weekend and draws thousands of
America’s last remaining washboard manufacturer moved to Logan in 1999,
after the 118-year-old company was sold to new owners. Martin moved from
London, England, four years ago to become a business partner in the
“I fell in love with the town, I fell in love with the weather, I fell
in love with the traffic — as in, there is no traffic,” he says. “Living
here has been a life-changing experience. I feel much more free.”
Logan was originally built on the coal and iron ore industries in the
1800s and then buoyed by clay and brick production a century later. That
history is evident in the striking stone churches and Victorian-era
homes that dot the town. A self-guided walking tour helps visitors
locate dozens of architectural treasures, such as the 1853 Immanuel
United Methodist Church and lumber king J.J. Snyder’s 1906 home.
Today, the city faces many of the same challenges other southeast Ohio
towns do in the face of dwindling manufacturing jobs and a tough
economy. But its solid schools — the Logan-Hocking Local School District
received an “excellent” rating on the state’s 2011–2012 School Year
Report Card — and beautiful public library are clear reflections of what
the community holds dear.
Ever since it was founded in 1816, Logan has benefitted from its
location along the Hocking River, but Mayor J. Martin Irvine, who took
office in January 2012, sees the town’s proximity to the Hocking Hills
as one of the biggest assets to its future. The hulking rock formations,
thick forests, secluded trails and comfy cabins that lie just south of
Logan’s border draw around 3 million visitors to the region each year.
Attractions such as the Logan Antique Mall
and Olde Dutch Restaurant
along state Route 664 are already popular stops for travelers. But
Irvine now wants to bring those visitors to downtown Logan by embracing
new businesses that offer a dose of small-town civilization to outdoor
adventurers. Utopia, a wood-fired-oven-and-craft-beer spot, is set to
open along West Main Street, and a new locally owned Mexican restaurant
is in the works.
“I’ve been trying to help people change their minds about how things can
be done,” says Irvine, who grew up in Logan before moving away as an
adult to work 30 years in the community- and economic-development
fields. “Just because something didn’t work 20 years ago, doesn’t mean
it can’t work today.”
It’s no coincidence that a quote attributed to Irish playwright George
Bernard Shaw is taped to the corner of a cabinet behind Irvine’s desk.
The mayor recites it as if on cue: “Progress is impossible without
change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”