- Amish Country
Mount Vernon is called "America's Hometown" and was named "Ohio's Most Livable City" by Ohio Magazine in 1994. Established in 1805 by settlers coming from Virginia, they named their new town after George Washington's Virginia estate.
Mount Vernon is in many ways like a southern town. Many of its historic downtown buildings including the Woodward Opera House, the oldest known "free standing" opera house in the country, are being carefully restored. Fine craftsmanship is also being restored on more than a few of its historic residences. There is a pride of ownership in Mount Vernon.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Mount Vernon is the Public Square, the living heart of the bucolic town. A statue honoring those that served in the Civil War is located here as is the Cooper Fountain, named for the man who donated the iron for the fountain, Charles Cooper, who founded the local Cooper Ironworks.
In August the city hosts the annual Dan Emmett Music and Arts Festival named in honor of hometown musician Daniel Emmett who is best known for authoring the song "Dixie." Emmett's other better known tunes include: Blue Tail Fly, Ole Dan Tucker, and Turkey in the Straw. The Festival celebrates American music and brings back the nostalgia of our heritage.
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. In 1943 world famous crooner, Bing Crosby, played him in the musical Dixie with co-star Dorothy Lamour. Daniel D. Emmett was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio. As a young lad on the American frontier, Dan learned to appreciate music from his mother and he taught himself how to play a fiddle.
After serving a stint in the U.S. Army, he joined a circus playing a banjo and singing. In time he organized a group of musicians and singers he called the Virginia Minstrels that first played in New York City and in 1859 Emmett first performed his song "Dixie" to an enthusiastic audience in Mechanics' Hall. He later would often say that he regretted writing that particular song since it became the song of the Confederacy.
To make amends for this Emmett wrote the fife-and-drum manual for the Union Army. Regardless of Emmett's feelings about this song, it would remain a favorite tune that thrilled audiences throughout his life. Even Abraham Lincoln said it was one of the best tunes he had ever heard. Years before Dan Emmett died, he returned to Mount Vernon where he became legendary.
During the growing season from the first Saturday in June thru the last Saturday in October, Mount Vernon offers a farmers market in the downtown area with over 50 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, cheeses and meats. The market is open from 9 - 12 each Saturday morning.
Mount Vernon is located in Amish Country so when visiting, be on the lookout for horse drawn vehicles. There are also a number of antique shops in Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is also home to Mount Vernon Nazarene University that has an enrollment of about 2500 students on a 400 acre campus.
Just east of Mount Vernon in Gambier, is Kenyon College. Kenyon College is one of the nation's finest liberal arts colleges and a small school where academic excellence goes hand in hand with a strong sense of community. Originally established as a seminary for young men, it developed into a liberal arts college for men and, in 1969, admitted women for the first time.
Kenyon College also has a "no cell-phone zone" where cell phone use is forbidden as students and faculty walk along the Middle Path. It is a self-regulating policy and violators will be given warnings from just about anyone. The Middle Path no phone zone is a blessing to many, but an inconvenience to others that don't put much stock in traditions.
On the first Friday of each month, from May thru October, downtown Mount Vernon’s South Main Street becomes a pedestrian mall offering visitors a wide variety of entertainment, food, music and shopping. Other attractions include a classic car show, picnics on Public Square and pizza tasting contests round out the fun.
Pacemakers Dragway Park located 2 miles south of Mount Vernon on SR3, has attracted motor sports enthusiasts of all ages for over 50 years. The Park roars to life as hundreds of participants fill the parking area every weekend. Since being formed in 1956 by 28 local hot-rodders, Pacemakers has grown to be one of the finest 1/8 mile drag strips in Central Ohio. The smaller track allows the public to mingle with the drivers and find out more about the cars they see racing on the track.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad depot is located 5 blocks west of the square on High Street. The brick building served as Mount Vernon?s front door for more than 95 years as a telegraph office, freight and passenger railroad station.
Restoration of Mount Vernon's Baltimore & Ohio Railroad depot began in the early summer of 2001 when a local resident, Phil Samuell, approached Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis about the possibility of the City purchasing the depot and restoring it. The Depot was purchased through a combination of private and local public funds. When restoration was completed, a grand opening was held in October 2007. Total cost for the restoration: $804,435.
Today the historic depot is used for meetings and special events and can be reserved for a minimal fee. The depot will accommodate 64 people for a sit-down event or about 100 for a stand-up reception. The depot has a catering kitchen and B&O china place settings for 100.
The park is a reformation of much of the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass plant that once stood here. Everywhere visitors can see remnants of the plant on the 250 acres of green space. Much of the park is already open to visitors, especially the lake district area.
The Ariel Foundation
The Ariel Foundation was founded by Karen Buchwald Wright. Its mission is to sustain the philanthropic of Karen Buchwald Wright to promote the quality of life in her hometown of Mount Vernon. By concentrating on the arts, education, and parks, the foundation will be able to improve the quality of life of not only Mount Vernon residents, but visitors that are attracted to Mount Vernon.
The park is divided into logical segments: the lakes, the meadows, the terraces, the woods and the historical. Throughout these areas bicycle and walking paths connect and make the 250 acres more accessible.
One of the new features that will be not only the tallest landmark in the park, but also the tallest landmark in Mount Vernon, is reclamation of the PP&G smoke stack that was built in the 1950s. What makes this smoke stack different from all the industrial smoke stacks throughout the state, will be a spiral staircase that will wrap around its exterior to a height of about 13 stories.
The signage for the Ariel-Foundation Park has an artistic depiction of the industrial site's history. Besides the signage, great care has been taken in the selection of certain I-beams recovered during the demolition. These twisted and torn beams have been carefully preserved, painted and arranged as a permanent tribute to the numerous factories that occupied the site.
The Columbus, Akron & Cleveland Depot was originally built in 1907 and was recently completely restored as part of the Ariel Foundation Park. The depot is known as the CA&C Depot and William A. Stroud Visitor Center. The Welcome Center will also house the Knox County and Mount Vernon Parks department offices. The CA& C Depot is located at the east end of Ariel-Foundation Park at the intersection of Columbus Road and South Main Street.
A colorful character from the Civil War, Mary Ann Ball was born near Mount Vernon in 1817. Later she became known as Mother Bickerdyke, a colorful, and probably the most resourceful Civil War nurse. Widowed 2 years before the war began, she supported herself and her 2 sons by practicing as a "botanic Physician". When the Civil War broke out and word came that the field hospitals were in dire need of helped, Mother Bickerdyke took supplies to the front lines and thus began her crusade to help all those in need, from both sides of the fight that would last throughout her life. After the war ended, she worked for the Salvation Army in San Francisco, and became an attorney, helping Union veterans with legal issues. She received a special pension from Congress in 1886, and retired to Bunker Hill, Kansas. She passed away peacefully after a minor stroke.
Today there is a historical marker in Mount Vernon's Town Square honoring Mother Bickerdyke.