November 2013 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013–2014: Vermilion
Vermilion embodies lakeshore living and a thriving sense of community.
: Erie and Lorain counties, 21 miles east of Sandusky
: 10.8 square miles
: In true Vermilion fashion, the Ritter Public Library lends fishing poles along with books.
Tom Moes points to a row of houses as he navigates his canopied electric
boat along the Vermilion River, explaining that the waterfront homes
are built on what was low-lying, swampy land in the 1800s.
Soon enough, he’s rattling off the fact that 17.2 million pounds of fish
were caught in the city of Vermilion during the 1950s. Moes is a living
history book when it comes to his lakeshore hometown, and he’s more
than happy to share his knowledge of it with visitors who stop by to
check the place out.
Formerly an officer in the United States Coast Guard, Moes returned home
in 1970 to work at the family business, Moes Marine Service
, dating back to 1938. Aside from
being a traditional marina it also rents electric boats like the one
Moes is piloting.
“I really like the boat yard,” he says with a laugh. “My major was in oceanography. I don’t really know what I’m doing here.”
But it’s clear from his passion for Vermilion that he knows exactly why
he dropped anchor in Vermilion. That hometown loyalty is common among
those who grew up here, many leaving for college or careers but
ultimately coming back. And the town’s population also includes former
vacationers who fell in love with their summertime destination and
decided to stick around.
Vermilion’s population doubles in the summer with tourists attracted to
rental cottages and boater amenities. In fact, the city’s entire history
centers on the water.
Initially formed as a fishing village in 1837, the city soon became a
center for shipbuilding. And the captains of those ships needed
somewhere to call home. By the late 1800s the village was known as “the
village of lake captains.” Today, plaques mark majestic old homes as
former ship captains’ residences. With the golden age of shipbuilding
long over, the city’s main economic drivers are now boating and tourism.
It’s plain to see why people love living in Vermilion. Entire
neighborhoods are built facing the water with private docks mere steps
from their front doors. Adirondack chairs lazily positioned along the
water in front of the New England style homes allow residents to watch
boats float past.
The city’s downtown exudes charm with its array of boutiques and
riverside dining. Residents and visitors have access to a public beach
at the foot of Main Street, and year-round events draw the community
The city’s public schools were ranked “excellent” by the Ohio Department
of Education’s 2011–2012 report, and kids in grades 6–12 are loaned
Macbooks to further enhance learning.
But people are what make a town great, and in Vermilion the dedication
of those who live here is seen in their incredible level of
Some residents pass out water at aid stations during the annual
Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon, while a small business known as
The Shore Thing keeps the public beach clean in the summer. And the
lovely hanging baskets of flowers that adorn lampposts throughout the
city are maintained exclusively by Vermilion in Bloom, volunteers who
drive to each basket in a truck donated by a local car dealership,
according to Linda Tallitsch, executive director of Main Street Vermilion
“People love it here,” she says. “They have so much pride in the community that they want to water flowers.”