Apology to Coshocton
Dear Coshocton, I’m sorry.
I think it’s important to clear the slate with Coshocton, Ohio before I begin my adventures here. Today’s blog will weave photos of last night’s Business After Hours event at The Village Pantry of Roscoe with an explanation and apology regarding my first, and wrong, impression of Coshocton.
I realized that after my first experience in Coshocton—searching for rental houses within Kurt’s per diem range that would allow a dog—I needed my own attitude adjustment. Some of the places we looked early in our search left me wondering if Coshocton would be a disappointment. I knew Roscoe Village existed and looked forward to that, but I was worried it might be the only part of town I would ever want to explore.
As I told you yesterday, I left the Chamber of Commerce eager to seek out adventures in all parts of Coshocton—even the areas that initially left me wondering if I would spend more time at our house in Pennsylvania with the house-sitter than here with my husband.
For those of you who’ve been reading my blog, you probably already understand why I was so reserved. For those of you just getting to know me, please bear with me, because I promise you, I’ve had a change of heart.
Here’s where I’m coming from…
I really fell hard for Madison, Indiana, particularly how exquisitely the downtown and riverfront areas are detached from the more modern (and cheap) big box amenities relegated to the hilltop. In Madison, residents enjoy daily walks along the riverfront as well as an ongoing variety of musicians, movies and art festivals. There is a community pool and waterslide, a cozy barbecue hangout, and no factory or big box builder or chain hotel. There are benches and parks, playgrounds and boat launches. There is a floating restaurant, a regatta and the American Queen, a riverboat that comes tootling through once or twice a month in the summer.
On Main Street, mere blocks from the river, buildings are preserved and restored using authentic materials. No modern or cheap substitutes are even allowed. Shop owners have cleverly adjusted to the needs of modern shoppers by making hours 11-7 in most cases. They even have a brochure of dog-friendly establishments. Fourth Fridays are a commitment, complete with art shows, poetry readings, wine and cheese, and store owners open late to embrace first-time shoppers and even the occasional mooch there only for the free food.
From my understanding in talking with Madisonian shop owners, it wasn’t and still isn’t, an easy task. It takes constant effort on informing the public, store owners will always have differences related to old blood/new blood and what constitutes progress versus deterioration. But the ones who believe strongly stay the course despite opposition and it keeps the downtown a place both tourists and residents want to occupy.
And the residents themselves are under a similar obligation. Owning a house in the downtown area of Madison, Indiana comes with a responsibility to historic preservation on a scale I’ve never seen before. Owners complain about the expense of having to purchase authentic materials to do any restoration to their homes, but the complaint comes with a side of pride I’ve never seen elsewhere.
Folks, don’t get me wrong. The problem isn’t with Coshocton. It’s simply that having come from a town so idyllic and preserved at the turn of the previous century, there is probably no other town that wouldn’t have caused the same reaction.
And, it’s that I fell in love with Madison and miss her like a lover. In leaving, I put her on a pedestal and, like I do with so much of my life, erased anything negative I came across in favor of a nostalgia as perfectly preserved as the town itself.
When I read about Coshocton before arriving and saw the pictures of the canal boats and festivals, and historic Roscoe Village, I didn’t pay enough attention to understand those things were in one area. My mind had already decided that the historic preservation I love so much applied liberally to the entire downtown area.
As Kurt and I searched for rental houses on our first and second visits, we kept coming across shuttered houses with broken windows. We ran into people whose sobriety in the middle of a workday seemed questionable. We couldn’t see the river beyond the stores and hotels. When I found a pretty park around the courthouse, I wondered at the peeling paint on the benches and the boarded up window at the top of the building and imagined a town without pride or hope.
The fault is completely mine. I applied standards to Coshocton that were unfair, and worse, I set her up for failure by comparison. A town can only be appreciated according to its own inheritance.
Madison, for example, began its journey with industry on the riverfront.
It was only through flood and fire that early factories along the water were replaced with grass and trees. Freight rails separating the town from the river were later covered by roads, some converted to trails. Whether by accident, over-contentment or intent, early wealthy owners of Madison did not develop and bring in industry at a time when other towns were. The result was a (now-ideal) historic bubble of homes and businesses, later embraced by modern citizens.
As Baxie and I take our morning walk around Coshocton, I find myself imagining rich histories for buildings. I think of the Pittsburgh connection when I pass the beautiful old Carnegie Library. I fall for the standing section of the Park Hotel and get excited to read about the art renovation taking place there, handled by the skilled people of nonprofit The Pomerene Center for the Arts.
As we continue our walk, Baxie makes friends with a calico kitten in the window of a combination thrift shop and pet adoption center. Faces become familiar in morning passersby. Bax gets invited into a local business and I wonder what else I’ve been missing.
I think about this place my husband rented in an area of town I considered questionable. Everyone has been friendly. I’m surrounded by old Victorian homes and when Kurt realized he forgot his screwdriver the other night when setting up our television, I had a one-minute drive to a 24-hour store to get him a replacement.
I relish the creak in the hardwood floors of this carriage house we rent, and imagine a time of horses and stables below us and a carriage where my compact car now tucks into the garage.
I start seeing the peeling courthouse bench I sit on as “weathered” and personal. My favorite bench is the one where I face the war memorials and the wall of the Park Hotel, a position from which Baxter can pretend he isn’t plotting the demise of nearby squirrels.
From where we live I can take Baxie for a quick “business” walk along the railroad tracks (wonderful if it’s raining!) or our evening walk: a nice long trek through the tunnel under the highway and over around Lake Park and Roscoe Village. Roscoe Village is the throwback area of Coshocton that’s the equivalent of Madison’s downtown area. But there is more to Coshocton than this, much more.
Before the roads are busy and the town is awake, we wander up and down streets, searching for a brick and mortar past. Sometimes finding historic treasure is more powerful than having it laid before you.
And when I’m ready to overlay my modern sights of Coshocton with the original scenery, there are plenty of organizations and historical venues ready to take me there. And I’ll take you there with me.
For now, I’m getting to know Coshocton both in daily walks and through meeting the people who love and care for her. Today’s blog photos are of last night’s Business After Hours event at The Village Pantry in Roscoe. I came home with every kind of cheesecake mix they owned (I’m sure that will invoke another fitness blog). But most importantly, I met many friendly and smart business owners who love Coshocton, and invest time and money in this historic and industrious town.
I plan to bring you blogs about the people and places that make Coshocton a town you want to add to your list of must-see America. Because it is a town worth exploring, and an area worth living and investing.