TARLTON, THE GH ROAD
Turn east onto US 22 and cross the river into downtown Circleville, where the road becomes Main Street, the axis line that bisected the ancient earthworks here, a giant circle (from which the town took its name) and an attached square. Circleville was the home of Caleb Atwater, postmaster and eccentric surveyor of Ohio antiquities in the 1820s
Circleville was laid out in 1810, carefully designed within its 22 acre, double-walled, ancient earthen ring. In building their central octagonal courthouse, the townspeople destroyed the original central burial mound and semi-circular pavement; but the founders had preservation ideals, like their predecessors in Marietta, and envisioned a novel blend of ancient and modern.
Within 20 years, though, complaints arose. The yard around the courthouse attracted swine. The circular plan of the streets was inefficient, especially in view of added business coming to town via the Ohio and Erie Canal.
By 1837, the complainers had won: the state-chartered “Circleville Squaring Company” began the job of destroying the unique town plan, though it took 15 years because of protests. Today only the central axis survives, as Main Street.
Circleville feels like the center of Ohio every October, when throngs of visitors arrive for the annual Pumpkin Festival. Two county historical museums, both in historic houses, help tell the region’s history. The Clarke-May House (162 West Union Street, open April to October, Tuesdays to Fridays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.) is stuffed with materials from every historical period.
Go upstairs to see the model of the Circleville Earthworks executed by a local dentist using dental plaster. Nearby in the Moore House (304 South Court Street), the Genealogical Library also has historical displays; ask to see the original colored drawings of the circular Circleville made by confectioner George Wittich.
Though Circleville’s original octagonal courthouse is gone, today’s local citizens (the “Roundtown Conservancy”) have preserved an excellent example of a private octagonal house, the Gregg-Cites House of 1856, which they moved in 2004 from a Walmart building site to a safe location on Cites Road, off South Court Street.