Athens, Ohio

Athens, Ohio

Infobox Settlement
official_name = Athens, Ohio
website =
settlement_type = City

imagesize =
image_caption =

mapsize = 250px
map_caption = Location in the state of Ohio

mapsize1 =
map_caption1 =
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_type1 = State
subdivision_type2 = County
subdivision_name = United States
subdivision_name1 = Ohio
subdivision_name2 = Athens
government_type =
leader_title = Mayor
leader_name = Paul Wiehl (D)
established_date =
area_magnitude = 1 E8
area_total_km2 = 21.6
area_land_km2 = 21.6
area_water_km2 = 0
population_as_of = 2000
population_total = 21342
population_density_km2 = 988
timezone = EST
utc_offset = -5
timezone_DST = EDT
utc_offset_DST = -4
elevation_ft = 719
latd = 39 |latm = 19 |lats = 45 |latNS = N
longd = 82 |longm = 5 |longs = 46 |longEW = W
area_total_sq_mi = 8.3
area_land_sq_mi = 8.3
area_water_sq_mi = 0.0
elevation_m = 663
postal_code_type = ZIP code
postal_code = 45701
area_code = 740
blank_name = FIPS code
blank_info = 39-02736GR|2
blank1_name = GNIS feature ID
blank1_info = 1075290GR|3
footnotes =

Athens is a historic college town in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Ohio. Home to Ohio University, Athens is the county seat of Athens County,GR|6 and the center of the Athens (Ohio) Micropolitan Statistical Area (as defined by the United States Census Bureau in 2003). The 2006 population estimate for the city of Athens was 20,896. ["Population Finder," [] ." "U.S. Census Bureau," accessed 28 July 2008.]

Athens is a qualified Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. ["Tree Cities Around the Nation," [] ." "Arbor Day Foundation," accessed 28 July 2008.]


The first permanent European settlers arrived in Athens in 1797. In 1800, the town site was first surveyed and plotted, but was not incorporated as a village until 1811. In the meantime, Ohio became a state in 1803, and Ohio University was chartered in 1804 becoming the first institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory. Previously part of Washington County, Ohio, Athens County was formed in 1805.

Athens did not receive city status until 1912 (in Ohio, 5,000 permanent residents are required to receive city status). It should be noted that many people who work in Athens live outside the city limits in various housing developments. One new development, University Estates, is in the final stages of being incorporated into the city. The total population of Athens County is about 72,000.

Originally, large tracts of land (Athens and Alexander Townships) were set aside through a contract between the Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) and the Ohio Company of Associates, a group of Revolutionary War veterans. These lands were thus given to Ohio University by the Federal government. This was the first federal land grant for a university, pre-dating the Morrill Act by more than 70 years. At first, lands were mostly leased out, but the failure of many lessors to pay their rents resulted in most of the land being sold. The sale of these lands funded the growth of Ohio University. Today it is one of the larger institutions of higher learning in Ohio, with an enrollment of over 19,000 on the Athens campus (28,000+ for all campuses).

The earliest industry in the area was salt production, followed by iron production and coal extraction. Today, the largest employer in the county is Ohio University.

In 1843, the Hocking Canal opened, enabling shipping from the Ohio River up the Hocking River, which passes through Athens, to Nelsonville, Ohio, and points beyond. However, the canal was closed during cold winters when it froze over. The first railroad reached Athens in 1857. In the late 1800s, an interurban line opened between Athens and Nelsonville and operated for some years.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, later called the Athens State Hospital, opened in 1874. This was located on high ground to the south of town and to the south of the Hocking River, and in the late 1800s was the town's largest employer. The state hospital was eventually decommissioned and the property was deeded to Ohio University. It is now known as The Ridges. Much of the building space has been renovated for offices and research space, and most of the grounds has been set aside as open space, including a land lab.

Starting in 1969, the Hocking River was partly relocated and partly channelized for a stretch of several miles around the town, moving the river hundreds of feet to the south so that the floodplain, formerly south of the river, was now north of the river and since has been extensively built on by Ohio University. Much of this floodplain was originally agricultural land for the state hospital, but also included park-like areas open to the public. There was an outstanding virgin grove of sycamores near the old Richland Avenue bridge that was destroyed by a tornado in the late 1800s.

The only battle ever to take place in Athens occurred in 1904 when both the U.S. Army and the Ohio National Guard were conducting training exercises at the same time at the city. When some guardsmen became drunk and caused a disturbance, they were arrested by Army MPs. The ensuing quarrel escalated into a battle on Washington Street, during which one guardsman was killed and several combatants were wounded.

During the 1960s, Athens was designated the alternate capital city of Ohio in the event that Columbus was wiped out by a Soviet nuclear strike. An exercise was held in which Governor Rhodes and the statehouse were evacuated and state government was removed to Athens.

Current issues

In the early 2000s, a controversy embroiled Athens over the building of a Wal-Mart and associated stores on East State Street, on land owned by Ohio University. Some area residents strongly opposed the development.

Controversy has percolated for years about the role of Ohio University vis-a-vis the role of the City of Athens. Some residents claim that the university has too much power over the city, and in the early 2000s, the university publicly asserted its independence of city laws relating to zoning, development, and flood-plain regulations. There also has been controversy over the level of enrollment at the university, now around 20,000 students, with some wanting to increase enrollment, others wanting to reduce it. This is an issue because increasing students strains city services but also results in more revenue for the city. So it's a classic growth vs. conservation argument.

Green space around the city has also been a controversial public issue. The city over the past decade has established a partial greenbelt around the northeast side of the city, connecting to Strouds Run State Park and including about 325 acres. Developers want to alter more hillsides around the city, which is opposed by no-growth activists and some area residents, including a neighborhood group on the south side. In recent years, though, much development has taken place in spite of the efforts of the activists -- this includes several student housing projects as well as development along East State Street and a new highway south to Interstate 77. Also, a new retirement center along the river on the near east side has overcome several attempts to prevent the start of construction, and is awaiting final approval of a lease agreement by the state (the land is owned by the university). A development moratorium placed on the ballot a few years ago by the no-growth activists was soundly defeated by citizens at the polls.

Economic development continues to be a source of discussion and controversy. In recent years, Athens has lost two substantial private employers, McBee and TS Trim, with no traditional industry to replace them. Some high-tech firms already in Athens, however, have expanded operations in recent years. Most notably [http:// Diagnostic Hybrids] , a rapidly growing firm that specializes in making rapid diagnostic kits for infectious diseases using various state-of-the art techniques. The retail and restaurant business on the east side has also expanded greatly, with mainly chain eateries like Ruby Tuesday's, Applebees, and Arby's as well as dry-good stores like Lowe's and Staples. Plus the Athens' economy is protected by the institutional permanence of Ohio University, at least when compared to other rural areas and small towns in Southeastern Ohio. But still, a constant source of news in Athens is the tension between students and permanent residents, which seems to increase when the university enrollment is peaking, as it has been in the last few years.

Public services

The residents of Athens are served by the Athens City School District and Athens High School. They are also served by the Nelsonville Public Library system (which is the Athens County Public Library system) with branches in Albany, Athens, Chauncey, Coolville, Glouster, Nelsonville, and The Plains.


Athens was declared one of the top ten most haunted cities in America on the Fox Family special "World's Scariest Places" that aired on October 23, 2000. Other sources have made similar declarations. Ohio University has been called one of the most haunted college campuses in America; most notably, local legend includes stories of hauntings in the former asylum. The area of the asylum is known as The Ridges. There is a museum contained in the old asylum's main administration building.


Ohio University has made Athens a sports-crazed city, with the most popular games in town being Ohio Bobcats football, men's basketball, and women's volleyball. The 2007 "Sporting News" list of the "best sports cities" ranked Athens 105 out of 388 eligible cities, putting it far ahead of much larger cities such as Norfolk, Virginia; El Paso, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Fresno, California.

In addition to Ohio Bobcats athletics, Athens is home to the Southern Ohio Copperheads, a baseball team of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.

The city also is home to a Parks and Recreation Department that actively supports a variety of initiatives. It sponsors adult summer and fall slow-pitch softball that is popular among residents in Athens and the county, though the separate men and women's leagues have fallen apart this year. Co-ed softball continues its popularity, however. Youth sports, such as soccer and little league, are also supported by local residents. In addition, the department maintains the Athens Skate Park, which is the second largest skate park in Ohio.


The Snapdragons were a power trio out of Athens, Ohio. Signed with Atlantic Records in 1991, they released a self-titled album that year which climbed the college radio charts and received much critical acclaim. They toured the United States with Soul Asylum, The Dead Milkmen, and Superchunk.

In 1973, the Ohio Valley Summer Theater began a production called the Appalachian Green Parks Project. It featured music, dance, and theater derived from the Appalachian region. The group won the Governor's Award for Community Action, released an album of music, performed at the Sylvan Amphitheater in Washington, D.C. on July 4, 1974, made numerous television appearances, provided the soundtrack for an Ohio Department Of Natural Resources public service film titled "Sweet Ohio", were designated as the official Bicentennial Touring Group for the state of Ohio, and were the subject of a documentary film during their four year run.

Two former members of the Appalachian Green Parks Project, Jim McGaw and Charlie Lewis began performing with Jimmy Prouty and went on to form the New Vinton County Frogwhompers Marching, Singing, Strumming and Plucking Society in 1976 which was to become one of the most popular groups to come out of the region in the 1970s.


Several significant annual festivals and events are held in or near Athens:
*Blackout Fest is held annually at The Union and features many up-and-coming national underground rock acts.
*The Athens Community Music Festival is held each August and features dozens of local bands.
*The [ Hockhocking Folk Festival] is held annually in May at Hocking College. An audio slideshow of the event can be found in the [ Music in Athens] series [ here]
* High Street Festival
*The Pagan Spirit Gathering, sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, is held near Athens during the week of the Summer solstice.
*The [ Athens Area Sustainability Festival] is held annually at the beginning of October at the Athens Fairgrounds; it began in 2001.
*The [ Pawpaw Festival] has been held annually since 1999 in September at Lake Snowden just southwest of Athens, near Albany.
*The annual Halloween bash in Athens caters to roughly 20,000 to 30,000 dressed up partygoers on four closed blocks of downtown streets. It is touted to be the third largest block party in the nation.
*The annual [ Boogie on the Bricks] is a fast growing, all day event held in July. It allowed drinking of alcoholic beverages in the streets during a limited time for the first time in the history of the townFact|date=December 2007 in 2006.
*For many years, an annual Springfest was held on the OU Campus. Primarily due to changes in state alcohol laws, it was replaced in 2004 by an annual event at Ervin's Big Red Barn (and field), a private "party-farm" just outside the city. Each year, the festival name is changed to represent the number of years it has been held (example 2007 is four fest).
*Athens DIY Fest (Do-It-Yourself Festival)
*Palmerfest and other street parties
*Lobsterfest is an annual free concert hosted by Ohio U's All Campus Radio Network.
*Ohio University sponsors an annual Literary Festival every spring, with various alumni and non-alumni authors and poets participating in readings.


Athens is located in the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. The county extends west from the Ohio River, mostly centering around the lower Hocking River watershed.

Athens is located mostly on and around a south-jutting ridge bordered by a loop in the Hocking River. The underlying geology is mostly sandstone and shale, including "redbed" shale that presents a severe slip hazard when structures are built over it on hillsides. However, there are safe zones above sandstone beds, most notably the Connelsville Sandstone that outcrops high on the hillsides. The old Athens Mental Hospital grounds (now part of the university) was built on the top of a hillside in the late 1860s, and is completely stable due to its position atop the hill rather than on a slope. The recent University Courtyard Apartments is also built on similar underlying geology across a small valley, but the hilltop was extensively removed in order to create a stable base.

The city receives all its water supply from wells in unconsolidated river aquifers, and is reputed to be the largest city in the United States to do so.

Strouds Run State Park is located just outside the city, bordering the city line. This park features 2,606 acres (11 km²) of wooded hills, including many bluffs and rock shelters, centered around a man-made lake. Camping is available.

The City of Athens has recently established the Strouds Ridge Preserve project, currently including some 345 acres (140 hectares), to save land from development adjacent to the state park. This preserve includes an 85-acre (340,000 m²) old-growth forest known as "Hawk Woods", or, more formally, the Dale & Jacki Riddle State Nature Preserve. Also adjacent to the state park is the 75-acre Blair Preserve, owned by the [ Athens Conservancy] .

The City has been developing an extensive scenic trail system in the city lands, adjacent Strouds Run State Park, and the Blair Preserve owned by the Athens Conservancy.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.3 square miles (21.6 km²), all of it land.



The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is a multi-use asphalt trail with its main hub (mile marker 0) at the Athens Community Center on East State Street. The trail extends 16.4 miles northwest to Robbins' Crossing and Hocking College near Nelsonville, and approximately 1.5 miles further east along East State Street. Construction currently underway will extend the trail farther in this direction. Access points with parking are located at mile 4 at the West State Street Park, mile 10.2 off Rt. 682 in The Plains, and mile 16.4 at Robbins' Crossing and Hocking College. The trail, which generally follows the course of the Hocking River, provides access to the East State Street commercial areas, Ohio University's campus (at South Green and Peden Stadium), The Plains, and Hocking College. It is designed for walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, skating, and wheelchairs. ["Hockhocking Adena Bikeway," [] ", "Trail Link," 2007. Accessed 28 July 2008.]

Other trails

The Athens Trail Network is a multi-use trail network branching out from Sells' City Park at the end of Avon Place. A series of twelve trails and connectors branch out into the surrounding woods, heading eastwards to eventually connect with the trails of Strouds Run State Park. The trails are designed for hiking, running, and biking, although some sections are off-limits to bicycles. The trails provide scenic views of the East State Street commercial area and travel past and through notable features such as Sells Pond, Riddle State Nature Preserve (also known as Hawk Woods), Boulder Cove, Turtlehead Cave (also known as Blue Ash Rockhouse), Finger Rock, Pioneer Cemetery, and Dow Lake at Strouds Run State Park. The trail network is maintained by community and university volunteers. ["Athens Trail," [] ", "Cycle Path." Accessed 28 July 2008.]


Ohio University is now the largest employer in Athens County. Coal was once a huge source of employment in the county, but is now a very minor source, as the best and most available coal has been extracted. One of the more interesting manufacturing companies that once existed in Athens was the Midget Motors Corporation, makers of the small automobile, the King Midget.

Athens fastest growing employer is Diagnostic Hybrids, see above link under "current issues." The only truly heavy industry located in Athens is the Athens Mold & Machine Company, located on the near east side and primarily manufactures tire molds. Other significant employers include Stewart-MacDonald Company, which handles supplies for stringed instruments, additionally the Ed Map Corporation, Gem Coatings (an industrial powdercoating company) and Specialty Books, are located in The Plains, nearby.

Athens is known for its local food economy, featuring a significant amount of organic produce, sold largely through a year-round farmer's market held on Saturdays and Wednesdays at the University Mall on the city's east side.


News publications

Athens is served by several news publications:
*" [ The Athens Messenger] ", a daily paper published by Brown Publishing, which also publishes a weekly entertainment paper named the "Athens Insider"
*" [ The Athens News] ", a free semi-weekly tabloid published by Bruce Mitchell
*" [ The Post] ", a student newspaper of Ohio University
*" [] ", a community portal Web site run by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
*" [ The Matrix] ", Athens High School's student-run newspaper.

Broadcast media

In addition, Ohio University's telecommunications center provides public radio and television. The FM radio system covers all of southeastern Ohio.
*FM Public Radio
**WOUB-FM, Athens, 91.3 FM
**WOUC-FM, Cambridge, 89.1 FM
**WOUH-FM, Chillicothe, 91.9 FM
**WOUL-FM, Ironton, 89.1 FM (the "L" is from Lawrence Co.)
**WOUZ-FM, Zanesville, 90.1 FM
**WMRT-FM, Marietta, 98.7 FM, relayed in Athens from Marietta College
*AM Public Radio: WOUB-AM, 1340 AM (Athens only)
*Internet Radio: ACRN (All-Campus Radio Network)
*Public Television: WOUB-TV, broadcast channel 20
*Public Television: WOUB-DT, broadcast digital channel 27

Private broadcast media include:
*WXTQ-FM, 105.5 and WATH-AM, 970 AM (Athens; Top 40; Flagship of OU Men's Basketball)
*WSEO-FM 107.7 and WAIS-AM, 770 AM (Nelsonville)
*WJKW-FM, 95.9 FM (Athens; Christian format)
*WEAK-LPFM, 106.7, "Union Station" (Athens, oldies)
*WATH-AM, 970 AM (Athens; Flagship of OU Baseball)

Former pirate radio stations:
*94.5 FM The Doja

Internet media

*" [ Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau] " a website with tourist attractions and calendar events
*" [ The Athens Musician Network] ", a website founded in 1997 dedicated to archiving and promoting Athens' rich musical heritage. Site contains audio, video, venue information, musician blogs and more.
*" [ The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce] "a website highlighting member businesses, community calendar of events, economic development resources and membership services


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 21,342 people, 6,271 households, and 1,906 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,560.4 people per square mile (988.0/km²). There were 6,715 housing units at an average density of 805.6/sq mi (310.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.16% White, 3.82% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 4.47% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.74% from two or more races. 1.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,271 households. 12.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 22.9% were married couples living together, 5.6% had a female head of household with no husband present, and 69.6% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.72.

In the city 6.7% of the population was under the age of 18, 66.7% were from 18 to 24, 13.7% were from 25 to 44, 8.0% were from 45 to 64, and 4.9% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $17,122, and the median income for a family was $53,391. Males had a median income of $35,849 versus $28,866 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,061. About 14.8% of families and 51.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.

Notable natives and residents

*Justin Gordon, musician, song writer
*Cindy Ovenrack Crabb, radical zinester, author of " [ Doris] "
*Earl Cranston, an American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church
* Dow Finsterwald, professional golfer best known for winning the 1958 PGA Championship.
* Atul Gawande, a surgeon who has written extensively on medicine and public health for "The New Yorker" and "Slate", pieces which have been collected in his books "Complications" and "Better".
*Charles B. "Chuck" Greene, All-American javelin thrower at Western Michigan University; World Maccabiah Games Champion (1985)
* William James Hoge, born in Athens, noted Presbyterian clergyman, college professor and Biblical scholarcite book | title = Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896 | publisher = Marquis Who's Who | location = Chicago | date= 1963]
* Maya Lin, noted architect and designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
* David Wilhelm, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1993 to 1994
* John Cumberland, prominent 1930s social activist.
* Kevin Hartman, Kansas City Wizards goalie.
* Jason Kermit Johnson, Poundtown Chamber of Commerce



* Beatty, Elizabeth G. and Marjorie S. Stone. 1984. Getting to Know Athens County. The Stone House, Athens OH.

Community sites

* [ List of Community Links]
* [ Ohio University]
* [ Ohio Bobcats Athletics]
* [ Athens Trails (includes many trail maps of the area)]
* [ Athens Conservancy (land trust ngo active in the Athens area)]
* [ Athens County Public Library]
* [ Ohio University Libraries]

External links

* [ Athens Skatepark]
* [ Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau]
* [ Athens County Geographic Information System]
* [ Athens County Public Library]
* [ City of Athens, Ohio]
* [ Music and Photo slideshows of Athens, Ohio]
* [ Athens Area Chamber of Commerce]

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