Avid Massillon historian Margy Vogt reminisces about the wonders of downtown, then and now.
The music that is piped in daily—seven days a week through all four seasons—reminds you that downtown Massillon is still alive. Well-maintained streets and sidewalks and structures that exhibit a traditional small-town downtown architecture are enhanced by an atmosphere of safety and a steady schedule of concerts and special events.
Massillon has sat as a community on the banks of the Tuscarawas River since James Duncan recorded it in 1826. Being situated as a river port in the Tuscarawas Valley was conducive to bringing the Ohio & Erie Canal through town.
But, the water also brought flooding to the city. With that, however, came flood control and railroad safety projects that changed the look of downtown for the better.
“We kind of keep reinventing ourselves,” said Margy Vogt, historian for the city. “In the past, we were very industrial. That probably helped spawn our passion for football, which fills up downtown with signs in the windows and flags flying.”
Indeed, upcoming development includes plans for a much-anticipated expansion of the Massillon Museum, a streetscaping program and a new strip plaza near the viaduct that will have at least three popular restaurants.
Massillon is busy planning and preparing for its future.
Margy Vogt, a lifelong resident of Massillon who conducts tours of downtown and is an avid writer of its history, no doubt possesses as many memories of her hometown as anyone who lives there.
“When I was a little kid, I used to go to work with my dad on North Erie Street—he had a laundry—and Massillon was a magic place,” she recalled. “Probably when I was in early elementary school, I could walk downtown, and it was safe. We knew everybody. I remember especially walking to the toy store and The Independent. I loved to walk to the newspaper and watch the press run in the window.”
In high school, Vogt and her friends headed downtown to watch movies at the Lincoln and Weslin theaters and then grab a bite to eat at the Sugar Bowl.
“These are memories to which several generations can relate,” she said.
Vogt, an independent history writer and graphic designer, works both as public relations coordinator for the Massillon Museum and as newsletter editor for Massillon WestStark Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the boards for both the Chamber and Massillon Public Library.
“Just today, I parked downtown and I went to the museum and the Chamber of Commerce. I walked on up to the bank and went to the library. It’s so nice. It’s all close together, and everybody collaborates. It’s a wonderful downtown, even today.”
“Where Art And History Come Together.” That’s the slogan of the Massillon Museum, and it lives up to the promise. Housed in the renovated Giltz Building since 1996, the museum “collects, preserves and exhibits art and artifacts to enrich our community through education and experience,” according to its mission statement. This is achieved in both ground-floor and second-floor galleries. It also hosts music events, a film series, brown bag lunch talks, discussions by history groups and community parties.
Massillon Public Library
If the worth of a community can be measured by its literacy, Massillon has a high value. The Massillon Public Library operates its main library downtown and two branches—Barry Askren Memorial and Pam S. Belloni. The library provides hardcover and paperback books and audiobooks. It offers book discussion groups and workshops on a variety of topics. For fun? The library provides DVDs for both film and music and holds family movie nights.
“Entertaining audiences since 1915.” But, it’s not all films. Community stage shows make use of the historical facility built by Massillon grocer John McLain on the Lincoln Highway (hence the name). The theater has survived both the arrival of multiplexes and the move into the digital age, emerging not as a relic but as a vital part of the downtown.
An annual Thursday night series of popular music concerts on Lincoln Way and a Thursday night series of ethnic and big-band concerts at Duncan Plaza both provide an ample amount of melody throughout the warm months. Add to that a plethora of downtown festivals and cruise-ins, and area residents have many opportunities to enjoy
downtown in its festive garb.
Outdoor artwork abounds on the walls of downtown buildings. Three award-winning murals were painted by Eric Grohe of Seattle, Washington. Three other fine murals were the work of Scot Phillips, operations officer of the Massillon Museum. In addition, “Valor,” a mural from the Larry and Monica Zink family, honors veterans.
Four downtown churches can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and St. Mary Catholic Church all are listed on the historical registry. St. Timothy’s was founded in part by James Duncan, the founder of the town, who set aside a lot for the place of worship. The church has three Tiffany windows and several other beautiful stained-glass panes.
Veterans Memorial Park
When Massillon was created, city fathers had the foresight to design a nice little patch of green space. Right in the center of the south half of that is Veterans Memorial Park, provided as a monument and tribute to all the people of Massillon who have given their lives in service to their country. There also is a special area in the park for a memorial to six Medal of Honor winners from Massillon.
Historic Fourth Street graces the eastern edge of downtown. It was the neighborhood of the leaders of the community in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places as a neighborhood of historic impact and architectural significance.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail brings a steady stream of bicyclers and hikers into the downtown area. Positioned at the intersection of the Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor and the Lincoln Highway, it provides a tremendous asset, and the new streetscaping project is being planned with that in mind.
Massillon is fortunate to have two standout restaurants and an array of hometown eateries in its downtown. So it’s easy to eat out on the town. Kozmo’s Grille offers American-style grille fare, with comfort aided by big booths. Gallery 121 has a more metropolitan feel, serving fine food and specialty martinis to patrons on leather couches under neon lights.
Painting parties at THE SANGRIA STAND
100 soy-based scents and counting at HANNAH CANDLES