Blogger: James F. Hale is a historian with the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society

Let’s take a walk.

Not just any walk, a walk that connects with Grove City’s early years. It might take an hour or so, depending on your pace, but it will be one you remember for years to come.

Begin your hike at Park Street and Haughn Road. Look to the east and you’ll see Grant-Sawyer Home, the 1840 era house built by Hugh Grant, Jr. His father settled here in 1804. Did you know Hoover Road was originally known as Crushed Stone Pike?

Next, look toward Park Street Intermediate School. Grove City Jackson Township High School opened on that site in 1928. When a new high school was built on Hoover Road in 1970, the building became Park Street Middle School. In 2001, the 73-year-old building was demolished making way for the present school.

Continue a few steps west to Sesquicentennial Park. This was the site for the first high school building from 1910-1928. It was repurposed  several times by the school district until it was torn down.

Walking west as the road becomes straight, you are crossing what was originally the town limits. Park Street (School Street as it was known then) didn’t extend past the curve.  Passage was blocked by a fence.

Cross to the north side of the street. An 1872 map shows an English-speaking Lutheran Church was located between Third Street and Dudley Avenue. Unfortunately, no historical records of such a church exist.

As you approach the northeast corner Park and Arbutus, see if you can visualize a two-story brick building once known as Park Street School. The first building on that site was a log school, then a plank building housed students before the brick structure. In 1895, Grove City received a high school charter.  Those classes were held on the second floor.

The next building you pass is the current police headquarters. That site was once the combined municipal building, police department and where the township and village fire vehicles were housed. The old building was torn down and the new structure dedicated in 1989. Did you know the first emergency squad in Grove City was operated by the police department? Just across the street is Town Center Park, that was once the fourth site for the Grove City Library.

Walking past the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum, which opened in 2009, you might be tempted to go inside but do that later or on another day. Let’s finish your walk.

Most people are familiar with Plank’s on Broadway but did you know this building was once known as the Voelkel House? It dates back to the founding of Grove City when it was a saloon, hotel and stagecoach stop. A horse barn and a garden were located on the ground the museum now occupies.  In the 1920s, Grove City was voted “dry” for a time. The owners simply transported their patrons to the “Tabernacle”, a bar just outside the town limits.

On the south side of Park Street across from Plank’s was a garage where Grove City’s first fire truck was housed. That was in 1922. Can you see where the original garage door was? Approaching Broadway on the southeast corner was the Grove City Savings Bank, the first bank organized in town in 1903.

As you cross Broadway, visualize rail tracks running north and south.  They once were the platform for an electric railway referred to as the Interurban. Overhead electric wires were the power source. The rail cars would turn west on Park Street where they were housed overnight behind the present municipal building.

On the northwest corner was a large 20-room house built for Grove City’s founder, William F. Breck. After his death, the house was sold and for a time it was a place for community gatherings. It also operated as the Woodland Hotel and was once home for “old women”.

Now that you are west of Broadway, you’ve entered a new town, at least in the early years. Adam Grant had purchased most of the land west of Broadway for a new housing development he named the Beulah Addition, named for a daughter. For a time, everything west of Broadway was in the Town of Beulah, according to Franklin County records.

 As you approach the railroad tracks, the building on the north side of the street once housed the Van Isle Pipe Organ manufacturing company. It was in business about one year.

A few steps further, imagine the whistle of the first train through Grove City in 1884. Near the intersection of Park and Front Street stood a building home to a Methodist Episcopal congregation. The exact location is not known but there are stories that say trains disrupted services and spooked horses. 

On the south side of Park Street was Grant’s Auditorium. It served as a theater, a site for music recitals, a roller-skating rink, dance hall and high school graduation exercises. The Methodist congregation also conducted services there.

Continuing your walk west, keep in mind you’re still in the Beulah Addition. As you approach Lincoln Street, you’ll see the Masonic Lodge. In 1905, that building was dedicated as the Beulah Methodist Episcopal Church before the congregation moved to Columbus Street. 

Further west on Park approaching Elm Street was Fry’s Horse Transportation. Located on the south side of the street, Fry’s was one of the oldest and largest luxury horse transportation companies in the United States. 

As you drive the roundabout, look north at what was once Ohio’s first thoroughbred race track, Beulah Park. Before it was a race track, it was a large community park built by Grant to attract potential homeowners. It was a popular destination for tent revival meetings, reunions, speeches, medicine shows, Civil War military gatherings, baseball games, family and church picnics and for a few years the site for the Franklin County Fair.

Adam Grant’s park once had a steam powered merry-go-round. By 1896 a half-mile horse racing track was built on the grounds.  It became Ohio’s first thoroughbred race track in 1923.

In 1973, Frank Sinatra rode into Grove City in a black limo and turned west on Park Street from Broadway. It was opening night for the Capital Music Center at Beulah Park. The summer venue showcased many headline acts including Tom Jones, Chicago, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt, just to mention a few of the headline acts.

As you continue along Park Street toward Demorest, you are crossing land once owned by the Smith family.  This large farm also had a brick factory located near Demorest. This was one of three known brick factories in the early days of Grove City.

On the left notice the Beulah Park Middle School which will open in the fall of 2022. Before being relocated, it was identified as Brookpark Middle School.

The last part of the walk takes you to Breck Park, named for the founder of the city. Breck also once farmed the land and also was killed in the area when his horses were spooked. He fell from his wagon and a wheel rolled over his neck and chest.  He only lived 45 minutes after the accident.

As you conclude your walk, circle back to the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum, 3378 Park Street, to explore and learn more about Grove City’s early days. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10-4; Saturdays, 9-Noon. Also stop by Grove City’s Visitor Center also located in the Town Center at 3995 Broadway. You’ll learn more about Grove City Adventures and shop for mementos, clothing and an assortment of books.

Disclaimer: While we try our best to post correct and up-to-date information, this does not guarantee accuracy. Please contact individual locations for hours.

Blogger: James F. Hale is a historian with the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society