Main Streets 2016: Ohio
Main Street encompasses much of what makes Oberlin such an inviting place. Bisecting this northern Ohio town’s central business district, Main Street runs up one side of Tappan Square, the downtown gathering spot, and glides past the edge of Oberlin College. Along the way, it provides a home for the city’s vital business community, a place for recreation and reflection, and space for the arts and history. That’s all part of what landed Oberlin on Ohio Magazine’s list of “Ohio’s Best Hometowns.”
This community was founded in 1833 by two Presbyterian ministers, who envisioned it as a haven for people with strong Christian morals in what was then the nation’s unruly Western frontier. After its initial founding as a missionary school, Oberlin College became the country’s first institution of higher learning to admit both women and African-American students. By the mid-19th century, the town had become a hotbed of the anti-slavery abolitionist movement.
Main Street today reflects much of that history, with its eclectic mix of shops and galleries housed in historic landmarks and architecturally significant buildings. South and North Main streets meet by Tappan Square, a National Historic Landmark that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted.
Tappan Square has been witness to many of the events in Oberlin’s past and is now the site of concerts, festivals, vigils, the college’s commencement, and its summer concert series. Music is a big part of life in this community: Oberlin College is home to the nation’s oldest continuously operating conservatory, and has 238 Steinway grand pianos on campus.
Across from Tappan Square is the Allen Memorial Art Museum, known as one of the best college art museums in the country. Art is also an important part of life in Oberlin, and the Fireland Association for the Visual Arts on South Main Street houses galleries and a craft shop.
With its mingling of historic Midwestern architecture, small-town shops, art galleries, antique stores, cafes and eateries, Oberlin’s Main Street is a fitting centerpiece for this landmark American community: welcoming, creative and proud of its place in American culture and history.
All photos courtesy of Oberlin Business Partnership