Parents, children and dog walking in downtown Perrysburg (photo by Casey Rearick)
Ohio Life | Best Hometowns

Best Hometowns 2022: Perrysburg

This northwest Ohio town built on history continues to thrive with its inviting shopping districts, outstanding schools and family-friendly environment.

A young couple at the monarch station watches in awe as a butterfly — fresh with damp, beautiful orange-and-black wings — emerges from its cocoon. A few feet away in the organic community garden, an older woman picks tomatoes from her plot. In the kids garden, the sound of a little girl plinking away on the large outdoor xylophone fills the air.

This is a typical Saturday afternoon at the 577 Foundation. Since 1989, this nonprofit green space has provided a place for children to play, adults to grow food and everyone to enjoy nature. Classes are offered, too, ranging from pottery and painting to cooking and yoga.

The Perrysburg community and its neighbors find a welcoming place to gather here, and that has long been its purpose. Philanthropist Virginia Secor Stranahan owned the property and preserved it as a conservation easement so it would always remain a green space for the public to enjoy while learning and being creative.

“It’s one of the best-kept secrets, but it’s a secret you want to tell everyone so they don’t miss out,” says Jodi Haney, a retired Bowling Green State University professor who has been taking classes at 577 Foundation and leading workshops for other teachers there for nearly 20 years. “It’s really a grassroots feeling … It’s kind of a learning commons.”
      Community garden at Perrysburg’s 577 Foundation (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

A community garden is just one of the offerings at the 577 Foundation, a nonprofit green space that caters to all ages. (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

For Perrysburg, the 577 Foundation is one of many gathering places that provide community belonging and pride. There are also the city parks that keep expanding to offer diverse activities, from an all-inclusive playground that brings kids of different abilities together to outdoor sculptures to bike paths to free kayak rentals for residents.

The city also has a vibrant and cohesive historic downtown, with restaurants such as Swig, coffee shops like Maddie & Bella Coffee Roasters, and unique boutiques from Angel 101 to Alice-Louise Press. Downtown is filled with people, especially during events like the weekly Thursday farmers markets that take place May through October and draw locals and visitors alike. Not far from downtown, there is Levis Commons shopping center and its surrounding shopping areas, where families can enjoy a night out or a movie and pick up groceries and essentials.

The community rallies around Perrysburg Schools, which are one of the reasons people move to the city, according to Mayor Tom Mackin.
      People walking and talking in downtown Perrysburg by Zingo’s Mediterranean restaurant (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

Perrysburg’s downtown is filled with shops and restaurants. (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

“It has a lot of that quality of being a small town but still vibrant and growing,” he says of Perrysburg. “I think the downtown was really a significant part of that. You have homes that give a sense of community and a sense of history and also some new opportunities for young couples and young families.”

Perrysburg was founded in 1816, three years after Fort Meigs was built on the orders of the government atop a hill overlooking the Maumee River rapids during the War of 1812. The fort was the site of two sieges where the Americans repelled the British and their allies, and it is a popular historic landmark that welcomes around 30,000 visitors each year, according to John Thompson, the fort’s manager of historic programs.

The city itself is named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a hero of the Battle of Lake Erie that was fought near Put-in-Bay during the War of 1812. A statue of Perry stands prominently at Hood Park along the edge of downtown, overlooking the Maumee River.
      Commodore Perry statue in downtown Perrysburg (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

The city is named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a hero of the Battle of Lake Erie. (photo by Matthew Allen)

The historic houses along the river on Front Street and the surrounding neighborhood are beautifully maintained and show different eras of architecture. Many bear a historical marker showing the year they were built: 1840, 1863, 1910 and so on.

Even some of the park and street names, such as the main downtown street of Louisiana Avenue and Orleans Park, have historical connections to the city’s roots. At one time, Perrysburg was a thriving river port that locals believed would become the New Orleans of the north, says Christine Best, executive director of the Perrysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“It’s in everything we do,” Best says of the city’s heritage. “The history is just rich everywhere you go. There’s a definite pride to it.”

Over the years, Perrysburg has become home to medical facilities run by two major hospital chains: Mercy Health – Perrysburg Hospital, which is a full-service hospital, and ProMedica, which operates doctors’ offices and is building a new facility to offer more services. In addition to being good employers, they provide quality health care and have become a place people both in and outside of the city rely on, Mackin adds.
      Woman one of the walkway at Riverside Park in Perrysburg (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

Riverside Park near downtown Perrysburg offers walkways that run alongside the Maumee River (photo by Rachael Jirousek)

First Solar, which is one of the largest solar panel makers in the world, and Owens Illinois, which makes glass containers, have become some of the city’s largest job employers. In addition to being a draw for new residents, the school district also is a major employer.

“They set high academic standards and deliver on that,” Mackin says. “They’re also really good at recognizing and being on the cutting edge of special needs for both teachers and students as education has changed in the last 20 years.”

Mackin knows that firsthand. One of the biggest reasons he and his family moved to Perrysburg in 1990 was so his kids could attend Perrysburg Schools. Since then, the city’s population has doubled to about 25,000 people. Businesses like Owens Illinois helped attract more companies to the area. Makin adds that community members and organizations work well together to accomplish goals, such as raising $8,000 to build the all-inclusive playground at Rotary Community Park, forming a historic district and creating community events.

“People saw us as a vibrant, successful community, and they wanted to be a part of it,” he says of the city’s growth. “The catalyst was a strong sense of community. People were invested in making it succeed.”

More Best Hometowns 2022: Athens | Bellefontaine | Kent | Perrysburg | Versailles