Murals depicting local history are prevalent on the outside and inside of buildings all over Ohio. I've photographed dozens of them, and occasionally run photos of them in the Advocate.
Just after the first of the year, I read that some new murals had been erected in downtown Minerva, so I had to check them out.
Although the temperature was only in the 20s, there was no threat of snow and the sun peeked in and out of the clouds on Feb. 16, so I headed south to the town of 3,800 people on the Old Lincoln Highway on the border of Stark, Carroll and Columbiana counties.
I've mentioned Minerva before, having written about eating at the stately Hart Mansion restaurant on a hill at the north end of downtown.
I've also written about an older set of murals on the side of the Minerva Area Historical Society's Haas Museum, a building erected in 1928 to house the former Minerva Bank & Trust Co. Those murals were painted by University of Akron graduate Patrick Buckohr.
The new murals -- divided into three sections with "Welcome to Minerva" at the top -- are enlargements of a painting by Ohio artist Dave Barnhouse, which hangs in the Hart Mansion.
The three scenes show 1950s-era activities on Market Street, the main downtown thoroughfare, with vintage cars lining the street. One shows a crowd of people standing on the sidewalk waiting to get into the Roxy Theater.
In the middle panel, one can see an Isaly's store on the left side of the street, with the Hart Mansion up on the hill in the background.
The latest murals are the first of a series of artwork which a group called the 20/20 Vision Minerva Task Force plans to place at outdoor sites around the community in the next decade.
I really enjoy gazing at the spectacular murals that many towns boast on their landscapes. They brighten up the most depressed and rundown towns.
The downtown Minerva murals aren't the only works of art displayed in the village. When traveling down Lincolnway East (Route 30 / Lincoln Highway), motorists might be surprised to see a giant cow.
The black and white holstein bovine statue named Lacey Mae is about 15 feet long and 10 to 12 feet high, and stands on a platform with a white picket fence around it.
The property behind the giant cow houses the Minerva Dairy, a family-owned business since 1894, which makes Amish-style butter, natural cheeses, Ohio raw milk and goat cheeses, and strives to maintain products free of hormones and antibiotics.
The dairy is across the street from another iconic Minerva business -- the Minerva Classic 57 Diner -- a 1950s-style restaurant and gathering place that has many pennants from Ohio colleges and universities hanging on its interior walls.
BRICK STREETS REMAIN
Although a traveler occasionally runs across old brick sections of streets and roads around Ohio, there aren't many of them left. Asphalt has replaced bricks since it is much easier to maintain.
North Market Street in Minerva and two sections of the nearby Lincoln Highway are a couple of the exceptions.
In 2007-08, the two long blocks of North Market in the downtown commercial district were repaved with bricks which replaced ones that had been there since the 1920s-30s. They are laid out in a 45-degree herringbone pattern.
The replacement bricks came from the Whitacre Greer plant in Alliance, a company which once also had plants in Waynesburg and Magnolia. I remember the latter two from years ago. Ironically, company founder John Whitacre also laid out Minerva in 1818.
The firm manufactured bricks for such landmarks as the Grand Old Opry, Olympic Park in Atlanta, the Metropolitan Museum in New York city, Statue of Liberty island and the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalks between the White House and Capitol in Washington, D.C.
On my recent trip, I also checked out the brick stretches of the Lincoln Highway. Baywood Street, which runs between Robertsville and Minerva, features one of the longest stretches (2 1/2 miles) of old brick road on the famous national highway. A one-mile stretch can be found on Cindell Street west of Robertsville.
Although Osnaburg and Paris township officials have wrestled with the idea of paving the old sections with asphalt for many years, the red bricks have survived.
Osnaburg Township, by the way, surrounds the village of East Canton. The village once was called Osnaburg, too, but anti-German sentiment during World War I led to officials changing the name.
ROXY THEATER RESTORED
Many small town movie theaters have vanished over the years, and that was the case with the Roxy in downtown Minerva. But an effort is under way to restore the facility.
The Minerva Area Chamber of Commerce acquired the building earlier last year from a church which used it since its closing as a theater in the 1970s. Its marquee was restored with the name Roxy, and an LED sign which displays advertisements for businesses and community event listings was added.
Roxy was the theater's original name. In about the mid-1960s, it was known as the Mohawk, when its owners moved from a building in Waynesburg, which now is home to Cibo's Italian restaurant.
The quaint theater boasts about 180 seats. It is hosting music performances, theater groups, business seminars and community meetings. The screen and projection equipment are long gone, but movies are a possibility again if enough money can be raised.
OTHER MINERVA HISTORY
Minerva got a big boost in the 1850s when the Pittsburgh & Cleveland Railroad ran a branch off its Cleveland-Pittsburgh main line at Bayard, continuing south through Dover, Cambridge, Caldwell and Marietta.
The Pittsburgh & Cleveland eventually was taken over by the Pennsylvania RR. The only remaining part of the branch line runs about 5 miles between Bayard and Minerva. South of the village, the line is gone all the way to Marietta.
The 90-mile Lake Erie, Alliance & Wheeling Railroad (later New York Central) ran from Braceville in Trumbull County through Newton Falls, along the eastern edge of Portage County, through Alliance and south through Minerva to Dillonvale in Jefferson County.
The northern portion from Braceville to Minerva was abandoned in the mid-1970s. The middle portion, now used by Ohi-Rail Corp., runs between Minerva and Hopedale, and the southern portion to Dillonvale is gone.
From 1874 to 1898, Minerva was home to the Minerva Car Works, owned by brothers Isaac and Willard Pennock. It originally built wooden rail cars, then was credited with building the first pressed steel rail car in 1895.
In the 1980s-90s, a passenger excursion train called the Elderberry Line ran between Minerva and Carrollton, and later the Minerva Scenic Railroad ran between Minerva and Bayard. Those excursions ended when insurance costs became too high to make them profitable.
The Steam Railroad Museum was located in Minerva until 2009, when it was disbanded and its rolling stock and railroad memorabilia was sold at auction.
Two E-unit diesel locomotives, two passenger cars, a baggage car and a caboose were purchased by Jerry Joe Jacobson, who is developing the Age of Steam Roundhouse south of Sugarcreek. Jacobson is the former owner of the Ohio Central Railroad, now the Genesee & Wyoming.
Minerva also is the birthplace of Charles E. Wilson, secretary of defense under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President William McKinley of Canton owned a farm east of town, where he vacationed during the summers.
Minerva was the center of national attention in 1978, when a family outside of town and some of their friends reported seeing a large, hairy Bigfoot-type creature on several occasions in woods and a stripmine.
Although no photos of the beast ever surfaced, the incidents were among the most famous documented Bigfoot sightings ever reported. The sightings brought reporters from miles around, and some people in the area still talk about "the Minerva Monster."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189