Walking Tour in Oxford to offer more historical insights

One of the local “things to do” has been expanded to offer more historical insights into the community.

A new version of the “Walking Tour of the Uptown Oxford Historic District” booklet is now available from the Smith Library of Regional History at 441 S. Locust Street and at EnjoyOxford! at 14 W. Park Place.

The booklet was first published in 2001 and has had several revisions, the most recent one expanding the scope of the buildings and years presented to offer even more history of local buildings.

That first booklet, produced jointly by the Smith Library and what was then known as the Oxford Visitors Bureau, received an Award of Excellence from what was then the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. Archival photographs from the Smith Library collection are included whenever possible to show what the buildings looked like at an earlier time.

Jessica Greene, executive director of EnjoyOxford!, said the booklet is a valuable tool for her office in providing information about Oxford history to both residents and visitors.

“People come in ask, ‘What can we do?’ We give them a lot. The booklet is very popular,” Greene said. “It is definitely a very popular item.”

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She said those requests come from both local residents seeking a family activity or something different to do and out-of-town visitors with free time looking to learn more about Oxford. That includes parents of Miami students and visitors here for activities or events either on campus or in town.

Oxford has three city-designated historic districts—the Uptown Oxford Historic District, the University Historic District and a Western College for Women Historic District.

There are walking tour booklets for each. All three booklets are available online at lanepl.org/smith.

Each time the booklet is reprinted, there are changes.

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The first edition of the Uptown walking tour booklet included more than 100 pre-World War II buildings that were still standing in the district, but as more were demolished over the years, the booklet was smaller with each reprinting. This year’s booklet reflects a major change.

Instead of including only buildings built before WWII, the new booklet has added buildings that were constructed after the War but before 1967—a cut-off date that incorporates buildings over 50 years old. Fifty years of age is a standard that is often used to indicate historic status.

This new edition marks the first time, Mid-Century Modern architecture is included, with a bank building, church, hardware store, car dealership, dime store and more.

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In addition to families and visitors, the booklets are used by teachers who take classes on walking field trips.

The booklet includes 101 stops on the walking tour covering a 12-block area with brief descriptions of each site, noting historic and architectural significance of each. With one exception, it is limited to buildings constructed more than 50 years ago and still standing.

That lone exception was made in order to include the location where the house formerly stood which was the wedding site of a U.S. president. It is now a vacant lot. Number 26 on the walking tour’s listing, at 131 West High Street, that was the location of a two-story home that stood from 1827 to 1940 and was where Caroline Scott and Benjamin Harrison were married in 1853.

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The property was most recently known as the site of the BP service station.

One of the new entries which may bring back memories for long-time residents is number 64—13 North Poplar Street—which for nearly three decades was Oxford’s Dairy Queen. Constructed in the early 1950s, it was joined to a coin-op laundromat which was constructed adjacent to it.

The building was later incorporated into a larger adjacent building, which is also included in the booklet, at 108 East High Street, number 74 in the booklet.

That location was built on the site of a 19th-century hotel and opened as a department store in 1959 and in the 1070s was a windowless bar called the Boar’s Head Inn. It most recently housed Follett’s Miami Co-op bookstore.

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The complete tour takes an estimated two hours but can be broken down into east and west segments. For the complete tour, it is suggested starting at the Oxford Community Arts Center at the corner of West High Street and South College Avenue. A fold-out map on the inside back cover shows the route to take as well as the numbers which correspond to each address.

The 56-page booklet is free thanks to the W. E. Smith Family Charitable Trust which covers the printing costs.

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