Two-hour Trips: Zoar Village, Fort Laurens offer quick look back

Photos by Cordelia Mendenhall and Amy Phelps An artist walks her dog in the gardens at Zoar Village.

ZOAR VILLAGE — Celebrating its Bicentennial this year is Zoar Village, a small town located in northern Ohio. Originally founded by German immigrants in 1817, the 200 religious dissenters came to America with the help of Quakers. They bought several hundred acres of land and created the village Zoar, meaning “place of refuge.” The land was originally going to belong to private citizens, but the community decided a cooperative settlement worked better for them — with each member giving to the Society and receiving their portion of food, clothing and living space. When they were contacted by the state to help build their section of the Ohio and Erie Canal, both men and women worked on building it and maintaining the fields. The completed canal helped turn the village into a self-sustaining community that maintained a quality of wealth.

It was the death of their leader, Joseph Bimeler in 1853 that led to the decline of the community. In 1898, the trustees decided to dissolve the community and sell and divide the assets.

Today there are 11 buildings in the area to visit. The Zoar Store, the original general store, serves as a beginning, where visitors can buy tickets to the museums and souvenirs.

The Blacksmith Shop has forges and someone working them authentically. Nearby is also the Wagon Shop and the Dairy is off of the Zoar Store. The Town Hall is now the Zoar Community Association’s Museum, where visitors can view artifacts, photos and more of the town throughout history. The #1 House, currently under renovation, also houses furniture, clothing and various other pieces of the town’s history to view. The Kitchen, Dining Room and Magazine (where supplies were kept) offers costumed interpreters to explain the history and life amid the town.

The newly opened Bimeler House and Art Gallery offers local artwork to view in several rooms in the historic house. The Tin Shop has various work in tin to show how various sundries were made in the time period, and visitors can even make their own tinworks. The centerpiece of the town is the large gardens, made in a geometric pattern, to visit. There are often artists doing their crafts there as well. Also in the garden is the Garden House to view, where Ohio’s first greenhouse was. The Sewing House offers a look at how weaving was done during the time period with several different looms. The working Bakery has several different types of bread available to buy, as well as cookies and treats to enjoy.

Photos by Cordelia Mendenhall and Amy Phelps Visitors stop at the Zoar Store, which is now a gift shop and information center.

While many of the village’s buildings have now become private residences, visitors can walk through the streets and enjoy a look back at the architecture of the time period. There are several bed and breakfasts where visitors can stay, such as The Cobbler Shop Bed and Breakfast, Zoar School Inn, the Keeping Room and the Cider Mill. Many of the B&Bs also sell antiques in adjoining rooms. Also in an adjoining room is the Zoar Chandlery, where visitors can purchase a variety of hand-made candles.

Zoar happens to be on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, that stretches all the way from their area up to Cleveland. It is only at 3-mile hike from Zoar to Fort Laurens, the site of Ohio’s only Revolutionary War fort.

Fort Laurens is located in Bolivar. It is a small museum that also has a park area and two picnic shelters. It is a trailhead for the Towpath, and visitors can get their start hiking or biking there. The museum has the ground sketched so visitors can see where the fort used to be and with signs explaining what used to be housed in each area. Inside there is a 20-minute movie about the historic fort and a short movie about the canals. Visitors can then explore the historical and archaeological artifacts of both the native people and the Revolutionary War soldiers. There is also a chance to dress up and take photos. There is also a small gift shop. Outside on the property is the tomb of the unknown Revolutionary War soldier.

This short trip offers a little bit of history in some scenic areas for families to enjoy.

Also in the area is Elizabeth’s Dollhouse Museum in Bolivar, which has more than 50 miniature homes visitors can see by appointment. Visit dhmuseum.com for more information. Also in Bolivar is Bolivar’s NTR Canoe Livery, which offers canoes, kayaks and tubing available for rental, as well as fishing in their stocked pond and camping available. Visit canoe-ohio.com for more information. About 12 minutes away in Strasburg is the Lynn Theater, the oldest drive-in theater in Ohio and the second oldest in the world.

Photos by Amy Phelps A tourist looks at one of the historic buildings in Zoar, now a bed and breakfast.


Special Events


* 4th Annual Dog Fest of Zoar, June 10-11

* Blacksmithing Classes, June 17, July 1, July 8, Aug. 19, Aug. 26, Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Oct. 28

Photo by Mara Mendenhall The gardenhouse is the site of the first Ohio greenhouse.

* History Camp, July 5-7

* Harvest Festival and Antiques Show and Sale, July 29-30

* Civil War School Day, Sept. 8

* Civil War Re-Enactment and Encampment: Battle of Antietam, Sept. 9-10

* Heimatfest (Founder’s Week) – Oct. 5-8

Photos by Cordelia Mendenhall and Amy Phelps At Fort Laurens, the tomb of the unknown Revolutionary War soldier sits.

* Ghost Tours of Zoar – Oct. 20-21, 27-28

* Christmas in Zoar – Dec. 2-3


* Let Them Eat Cake Tea, June 24

* BAR Reenactment, July 8-9

* Park Centennial Celebration including Jog for Logs and Dressed for Battle Timeline Event, Aug. 12


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