It was clear that Baseball Boy and I were the lone tourists in Steubenville this past weekend, and between my camera and our erratic stop-and-go driving, we drew attention to ourselves. We found ourselves stopping frequently to look at an old building, a mural, and anything food related. We joked a bit about our “staycation” in the Ohio Valley, but truth be told, we were vacationing there, if even for a night.
It’s not a typical type of travel (says the woman who books accommodation at farms in the middle of Vermont), but perhaps this historical and industrial tourism might catch on in our current economy. It was a simple (and inexpensive) get-away, and in the very least, it helped me to better understand the state of Ohio. (If she can be understood at all.)
The city now has the infrastructure to handle tourism. We stayed at a Victorian-era bed and breakfast on North Fourth Street, in a part of town that used to be off-limits (a dangerous area) to kids growing up in Steubenville. It’s clear, though, that the area once housed the very wealthy. Think what you will about gentrification in other cities, but the work that several pioneering community members are doing by renovating dilapidated homes and businesses benefits Steubenville as a whole. We met movers and shakers (as easy to spot as us tourists) throughout the city, with bright visions of ways to restore Downtown Steubenville to her former glory. Future plans include a coffee shop and a small urban mall, as well as more renovations on North Fourth Street.
The house we stayed in, part of a small group of homes operating under the name Bayberry House, was massive, breathtaking and comfortable. I found myself hoping that I’ll have another reason to stay there in the future. For about $140, we had the entire mansion (and a modest breakfast) to ourselves. Bayberry House properties both come with a full kitchen, as well. If we’d stayed longer, it would have been nice to cook in their kitchen.
A place to stay is a start, but the question is, what does one do in Steubenville?
• Visit Union Cemetery. Seriously. It’s a beautiful and historical expanse surrounded by forest and streams.
• Eat. I’ve found in small towns and cities like Steubenville, the easiest way to find the best food is to drive around and look for the places that have people in them. Those are the places to eat. (I’ll cover a few more food places in this coming week.)
• Look at Fort Steuben. Stuebenville is named for a fort built in 1786 to aid in the expansion of the Northwest Territory. This attraction has inconvenient hours, but it’s easy to walk onto the grounds and sneak a peek.
• Gape at the industry. The only time I think about where my electricity comes from is when I pay my bill. A quick jaunt south of Steubenville on County Highway 7 is a giant reminder of what recharges my iPhone and juices my coffee maker. The coal-burning Cardinal Plant (owned by AEP) may not be as pretty as Disney World, but it’s certainly as educational as Epcot. The drive on 7 also showcases several closed or partially closed steel factories, the Ohio River and tiny towns balancing in the hills. When the plants were producing to their capacity, the skies over the Ohio Valley were gray. Now, they’re blue, but jobs disappeared with the air pollution.
All the more reason, in my mind, to visit again. If the Ohio Valley can replace its dying industry with ones that keep the skies clear, I’ll do what I can to help. I’ll even buy a postcard.
Bayberry House Bed & Breakfast
813 North Fourth Street