Bellefontaine, Ohio – April 2015 – Caverns and a BP Station in honor of a President

Ohio Caverns is the largest of all the cave systems in Ohio and contains many crystal formations. Approximately 90% of its stalactite and stalagmite formations are still active. The cavern system was originally an aquifier, holding an underground river of melted glacier water. This river eventually receded to lower levels of the ground and is now unseen.

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The tunnel system known today as the Ohio Caverns was discovered in 1897 by a farmhand who worked on the land. Shortly after they started tours in the small section discovered, nearly destroyed it by removing crystal formations in that area and writing their names on the walls and ceilings.

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More controlled tours have occurred since then, and in the 1980s professional cave lighting was added. The day we were there we were the only two people on the tour with a young guide. He took the time to explain everything and show us special views that you normally wouldn’t have seen with a larger group.

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Nearby are two faux castles that have been tourist attractions for many years. They are called the Piatt Castles, built in the 1870s and are called Mac-o-Chee and Mac-o-Cheek. For this trip they were still closed for winter, but we were able to view them from the outside.

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Once we completed our tour we continued on into the town of Bellefontaine, who have two claims to fame, both involving streets.

They claim that in 1891 George Bartholomew guaranteed the city that he could pave the street around the courthouse with the newly created compound called concrete, and that it would last 5 years. That street has lasted over 120 years. They are so proud of their street and George, that it is now closed to automobiles and there is a statue of George in the middle of it.

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A couple of blocks away is McKinley Street, which is 15’ long. For many years this was known to be the shortest street in the world, but recently there has been some controversy that a street in Scotland is shorter.

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After this much excitement it was time for lunch, and we found a local pizzeria called Six Hundred Downtown. After a lunch of cheesesteak and a sausage calzone, that was very good, we were now ready for the afternoon activities.

Ohio, while it has rolling hills throughout much of the eastern and southern portions, is a relatively flat state with no real mountains. The best we can do is 1550’ above sea level at Campbell Hill, just outside of Bellefontaine. We made the long trek up the hill, about 100 foot walk from the car (!), and took some photos of the panorama.

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Our last stop in Bellefontaine was the Logan County History and Transportation Museum at the Orr Mansion. This complex was impressive for such a small city.

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The history museum had a number of rooms built to represent small business of the early and mid 1900s in Bellefontaine. The mansion was well appointed with period pieces.

The most recent addition, the Transportation Museum, is in the shape of a railroad roundhouse, and include several larger transportation artifacts including the Shawver-Shick covered wagon, Kingsbury & Crockett carriage built in Bellefontaine, a sleigh used by the Sharp family of West Liberty, a 1920s airplane designed and built by Clarence Wissler of Bellefontaine, a 1921 West Liberty fire truck, a 1947 A.J. Miller hearse built in Bellefontaine, a 1950’s railroad maintenance car that was used in the Bellefontaine railroad yard, and vehicles on loan from Honda of America made in Logan County, as well as an extensive motorcycle collection from Honda.

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A scenic route home took us through Delaware, Ohio. This town’s most famous native son was President Rutherford B Hayes, who was born there in 1822. The house he was born in was torn down in 1925, never to be rebuilt. What is at this site, the Rutherford B Hayes Memorial BP Station. A presidential birthplace is a gas station, and a British owned one at that.

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After a brief stop at the historic Selby Stadium at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware we headed out of town for our last stop of the day, a giant cottonwood tree in Galena. Measurements have shown it is nearly 30’ around the base.

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