ATHENS, HOCKING VALLEY
ATHENS AND OHIO UNIVERSITY
The New Englanders who came to settle southeast Ohio in 1788 believed in education. Their Ohio Company of Associates (see Marietta itinerary) set aside two whole townships for the “American Western University,” which was to be modeled on the ones back home: Yale and Harvard. It was the first college west of the Alleghenies, and in 1804, the year after statehood, the new Ohio legislature renamed it “Ohio University.”
Though far from the Ohio River, the site was fed by the Hocking River, which promised easy transportation to the Ohio. Reflecting their high ideals, the founders named their university town “Athens” after the Greek birthplace of Western Civilization.
From near the “roundabout” down by the Hocking River, take Dairy Lane to reach The Ridges and the Dairy Barn, two of Athens’ outstanding arts venues. At the sharp bend, turn right and up the hill to explore The Ridges, fascinating remnants of a huge, nineteenth-century asylum, with sprawling and ominous Victorian buildings now largely converted into university uses and the Kennedy Museum of Art, with a stunning collection of weaving and jewelry by Southwest Indians. Edwin and Ruth Kennedy collected both historic and contemporary examples, beginning in the nineteen-fifties, and it is possible to trace a continuity of themes and techniques.
The Dairy Barn Art Center, 8000 Dairy Lane, is home to the most significant art quilt show in the nation: the National, held every two years. (The town of Athens has long been known as a hub for craftspeople, with galleries and pottery showcases scattered through the uptown area, and in nearby Nelsonville.) From the Dairy Barn, a walking path leads to Athens’ (and the old asylum’s) historic cemeteries.
Athens originated the “quilt barn” idea, based on the old quilting art: owners paint a quilt square on their barn, about 8’X8’. There are several barn quilt trails (car or bicycle) in the area; find them at http://www.athensohio.com/whattodo/historic-sites-attractions/quilt-barn....