Downtown Athens Ohio Walking Tour
This walking tour follows a mile-long loop and includes stops at several historic buildings, markers, and monuments throughout Athens.
Completed in 1819, this three-story building was named in honor of Manasseh Cutler, a man of science and medicine who was one of the founders of Ohio University. The building is the oldest campus building at any college in the Old Northwest--the states west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River. The building used to house classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices, but is now occupied exclusively by senior administrators. The building's cupola once held the bell that called students to class. Today, the cupola holds chimes that play "Alma Mater Ohio" each morning at 8 A.M and noon.
Erected in 1893, this monument honors the 2,610 men of Athens who served the Union in the Civil War. The monument was funded by donations raised by veterans organizations and women's auxiliaries. The monument features a Union soldier at the ready, and originally included a canon and pyramid of cannon balls. Demonstrating the cyclical nature of history, these metal relics were collected during a city-wide metal scrap drive during World War II. The monument is located on the public land that serves as a divider between the town of Athens and Ohio University.
In 1915, a family opened their grocery-store-turned-theater, the Majestic. The three-screen theater showed films as well as live performances. It was renamed the Athena Cinema in 1935 after a change in ownership. The theater has undergone two major renovations: one after a fire in 1988, and the other in 2001 after it was purchased by Ohio University. The Athena Cinema still operates today as an art house theater.
Created as part of the city's bicentennial celebration, this plaque on the wall of the Athens City Building commemorates the arrival of the first settlers of European descent to the banks of the Hockhocking River in 1797. In 1800, their settlement became known as Athens, and in 1811, the village was incorporated. It was another hundred years before the village population increased to that of a city.
The Berry Hotel was established in 1882 by African American entrepreneur Edward C. Berry and his wife Mattie. What started out as a modest hotel grew in both size and reputation over the years. According to local historian Ray Abraham, four American presidents stayed at the hotel, as well as actor Bob Hope, poet Robert Frost, and writer Carl Sandburg. Berry has also been credited with being the first hotel owner to place Bibles in each of his hotel rooms, though this claim is unverified. The Berry Hotel was demolished in the 1970s after being used as a dormitory for Ohio University.
The Athens Ohio National Guard armory opened in 1915. The process of bringing an armory to Athens began in 1912, when the local Ohio National Guard company and city businessmen lobbied the state to provide funds. The state Armory Board approved the request and acquired land from the Athens Brick Company. Construction began in 1914, and by December of 1915 the building was open for drill and public events. The dedication ceremony took place in 1917, as the United States entered World War I and began mobilizing for war against Imperial Germany. For the next 80 years, the Ohio National Guard used the armory for drill while the Athens community held events in the building.
The congregation of the First Christian Church has a long and rich history that goes back over a century. Founded at the end of the nineteenth-century, this church had a prominent role in the Athens community for most of the twentieth-century. It survived multiple economic, social, and theological challenges, and only recently dwindled to numbers that could not support the costs of their church building. With the transfer of this property to the Southeast Ohio History Center, the congregation’s last visible mark on the landscape is its cornerstone that reminds the public of this building’s origins and long history.
At this site in 1886, Olivia A. Davidson married African American educator and leader Booker T. Washington. Olivia Davidson was a well-educated woman, graduating from Hampton and completing the teacher education program at Framingham State Normal School, now a university operated by the state of Massachusetts. Olivia passed away in 1889 after succumbing to tuberculosis. Although she never achieved the fame of her husband, Olivia was a co-founder of the school that grew into Tuskegee University along with her husband. Olivia Washington exercised tremendous influence in her role as assistant principal. She also helped to cultivate her husband's capacity to raise funds and operate the school in its early years. Three years after Olivia's death, Washington married educator Margaret James Murray who also worked to build Tuskegee as a teacher and administrator.
Constructed in 1893 to serve the CW&B Railroad, this station became known as the Athens B&O Depot when the Baltimore and Ohio Line acquired the route later that same year. The station was renovated and expanded significantly in 1915, reflecting the rapid growth of the area. Rail service stopped in 1981 and the station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The station was one of over forty rail stations that once served Athens County.
The Beasley Building, in the heart of Athens's commercial center, is an excellent example of a late 19th and early 20th-century multi-story warehouse. It has horizontal coursing and vertical window compositions, which give the building a balanced look. Construction on the Beasley Building began when The Eldridge & Higgins Company attained the property in 1904. The building was later purchased by Frank Beasley who owned a large gristmill in Amesville. It became home to perhaps the largest, electrically-powered milling operation in the area. The milling of grain was one of the first activities to take place in southeastern Ohio. After its time as a mill, the Beasley Building was used for grocery distribution.