Family walking on path at Grove City’s Gardens at Gantz (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)
Ohio Life | Best Hometowns

Best Hometowns 2023: Grove City

This Columbus suburb embraces new development that connects past and present and creates a small-town atmosphere with the amenities of city living.

While the thundering of hooves on a dirt track once filled the air at Beulah Park, today the grounds where the racetrack stood are covered with manicured lawns, beautiful homes and a glimmering pond. Sidewalks connect the expansive development to the center of Grove City, creating a sense of place that helps this suburban community stand out while also having the benefit of being just a short drive from Columbus.

Yet as recent as a decade ago, Beulah Park was still hosting live racing as it had since it opened as the state’s first thoroughbred track in 1923. After the track’s license was moved to a new facility near Youngstown in 2014, developer Grove City Beulah Park Investment purchased the track in 2019 with a plan to build single-family homes, condominiums, apartments, a senior-care facility and community park. Today, Beulah Park spans more than 220 acres with a total of over 900 housing units.

“[Beulah Park] continues to add diversity in our housing stock,” says Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage, who started his fourth-consecutive term in 2019. “The diversity not only includes demographic diversity, but also the geographic diversity … It’s now incorporated into our overall hub of the city versus some other housing that is more dispersed.
      “The Heartland of Grove City” mural downtown (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

Murals presented on the sides of businesses throughout downtown Grove City offer a window into the community’s past and celebrate local history. (photo by Meghan Leigh Barnard)

Grove City’s growth reflects the boom in the Columbus metropolitan area during the previous two decades. From 2000 to 2021, the metro region’s population increased by a third, adding more than 500,000 residents. Between the 2000 and 2020 U.S. Census counts, Grove City’s population increased from 27,708 to 41,252, growing by more than 50%.

“We wanted to be a self-supporting community [where] about anything and everything you would need as a citizen, would be available in the community: medical care, education, housing, retail,” Stage says. “Except for higher learning, we have pretty well reached all those goals.”

The 19-square-mile city is located along Interstate 71 about 9 miles southwest of downtown Columbus. Boasting 1,600 hotel rooms, the city is the second-largest collector of bed taxes in Franklin County behind Columbus. Part of the South-Western City School District, Grove City has 15 of the district’s 34 buildings — one preschool, six elementary, three intermediate, two middle schools, two high schools and a career center — that educate nearly 10,000 students.
      Beer from Grove City Brewing Co. and man making candle at The Chandler in Grove City (photos by Megan Leigh Barnard)

Grove City Brewing Co. and Plum Run Winery share a space along Broadway. The Chandler caters to groups who visit to create candles from a extensive lineup of scents. (photos by Megan Leigh Barnard)

The school system is one of the city’s largest employers with more than 1,400 staff members, while Grove City Methodist Hospital and Mount Carmel Grove City together employ nearly 2,000. Other large employers in Grove City include FedEx and Walmart distribution centers — with 1,800 and 1,742 workers, respectively — and chemical manufacturer Tosoh America, which employs 350.

The suburban community also has a walkable core, known as Grove City Town Center, which is dotted with shops and restaurants that give the place the atmosphere of a smaller town. The old-school bar and grill, Plank’s on Broadway, is housed in a building that dates to the 1850s, while Little Theatre Off Broadway has been staging community theater productions since 1966. Down the street, Skylarks Toys & Comics brims with playthings of years gone by. Country Hearth Primitives stocks home goods, antiques and furniture, while The Chandler invites groups to visit together and create scented candles in a fun and fragrant environment. Grove City Brewing Co. and Plum Run Winery share a space along Broadway.

“When you visit or you work here, you see that small-town character and charm and you just fall in love with it,” says Jodi Burroughs, who owns the winery and brewery. “I built my house here, and I just grew with the community and the Columbus area.”
     Exterior of Grove City Library (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

The Grove City Library sits along Broadway. The modern facility, which was built in 2016, covers 48,000 square feet. (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

These downtown businesses are complemented by the beautiful 48,000-square-foot Grove City Library, which opened its doors in 2016 and sports a modern look with a glass facade that flows with the curve of the building. Across the street, sitting just behind a row of businesses, a new public park with an amphitheater was completed in summer 2023.

On the community’s eastern edge, the Scioto Grove Metro Park — a mix of prairie, forest and river that is part of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks system — built a fire tower in 2023 that offers a new way to see the 620-acre park.

In 2017, the city unveiled its Purple Heart Memorial Walkway at Henceroth Park, a tranquil setting that offers a place of contemplation and reflection. Trees along the walkway bear plaques that commemorate Grove City’s fallen soldiers, and from the air, the looping path resembles the shape of a heart.
      Suspension bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

Scioto Grove Metro Park sits along Grove City’s eastern edge offers both prairie and woodland trails to explore, including a trip across a suspension bridge. (photo by Meghan Leigh Barnard) 

The Gardens at Gantz, an area of Gantz Park next to the historic Gantz farmhouse, opened in 1991. It offers a look at horticulture through time and demonstrates a variety of garden styles. The Garden of Yesterday, The Garden of Today and The Garden of Tomorrow can be explored by way of a self-guided tour that illustrates how our connection to growing plants has evolved and where it is going next.

That focus on community and history is obvious throughout town. Murals along Broadway depict scenes from Grove City’s past, while at Century Village, historic structures stand alongside a one-room schoolhouse to illustrate how people lived during the 1800s.

The Southwest Franklin County Historical Society operates a welcome center and museum in the middle of town. It showcases artifacts that commemorate the city’s history, ranging from a Model T Ford car that sits in the center of the space to wedding dresses originating from the 1880s to the 1950s. Steven Jackson, president of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society, heads the group that oversees the collection, which is displayed in the former First National Bank of Grove City. 
      Grove City 150th anniversary quilt at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

The Grove City Welcome Center and Museum houses artifacts that offer insight into the evolution of the suburban community. (photo by Meghan Leigh Barnard)

In recent years, the city also got the opportunity to take ownership of and preserve the oldest home still standing within the city limits thanks to the generosity of its former owner. The federal-style abode sits at the end of Park Street, just a few blocks from the historical society’s museum. The Grant-Sawyer Home (formerly known as the A.G. Grant Homestead), was built in 1830, a little more than two decades before Grove City’s 1852 founding. The land had been overlooked by early settlers of the northwest territory that migrated north due to the dense trees and amount of logging that would have to take place in order to build — hence the name Grove City.

The Grant-Sawyer Home opened as a museum in 2017 following its restoration with period-appropriate furnishings and paint that matches the original color of the home. The operating season runs March through December, and tours are available for a nominal fee. The home is also open for free during select community events.

“Towns that have a sense of place that are willing to invest in their sense of place, they tend to be stronger and more successful,” Jackson says. “It’s amazing how many members of our historical society are people that have no connection to the town at all. They moved here and said, ‘this is cool,’ and some of them are our most committed and dedicated.”

Best Hometowns 2023-24: Celina | Cuyahoga Falls | Grove City | Lancaster | Sharonville