Between Dayton Street and Antioch College
Yellow Springs, OH
Submitted by: Kathryn Ervin
A tiny urban oasis surrounded by farmland in southwestern Ohio proves that sometimes size doesn't matter.
At the center of this village of 4000 residents, these few blocks of Xenia Avenue possess more urban vitality than any district in two nearest cities, Dayton and Springfield. While these neighboring cities - rings of suburban sprawl encircling aging rust-belt cores - are each almost 500 times larger than the village, on any given weekend hundreds of their residents drive considerable distances to stroll the sidewalks of Xenia Ave. Some are drawn by the town's New Age reputation, others by the unique shopping and dining, still others to its proximity to recreational opportunities. For residents, the street is the center of activity for a community that is highly involved in local affairs.
What Makes Xenia Avenue a Great Place?
Visitors must drive to Yellow Springs, but once there, cars are irrelevant and are easily parked in unobtrusive public parking lots and on side streets. One central Xenia Ave. lot borders the Yellow Caboose Bicycle and Skate Rental and an 80-mile bike trail. The trailheads for several parks are within walking distance. The street itself is narrow and cars move slowly, thanks in part to frequent crosswalks announced by orange barrels and large signs. A pedestrian walkway/plaza runs perpendicular to Xenia and is rimmed by shops, a tavern, and benches. A clearly-signed visitor center guides tourists and provides public restrooms.
The streetscape is warm and inviting: shopkeepers hang hand-painted signs out over doorways and windowboxes abound. There are plenty of tree-shaded benches. Trees are very important to the residents: the biggest local controversy of last year occurred when Ye Olde Trail Tavern announced it was removing the old oak tree on its stretch of Xenia Ave sidewalk. Sit-ins and rallies were held in protest.
Usage varies greatly depending on the weather and time of day, week, or year, but the street rarely feels empty. The town celebrates diversity and is about as multicultural as rural Ohio gets. Twice a year the village holds a popular street fair hosted by local merchants and community groups.
Xenia Ave is an especially attractive hangout for teenagers escaping suburbia and Antioch students looking for off-campus diversions. They tend to congregate in the larger open spaces like the widened sidewalk in front of the grocery store. Their punk hairdos and facial piercings provide gawking material for the many families that have come for a day of hiking and shopping. There are also many elderly people running errands and chatting with neighbors, often wearing Birkenstocks and discussing their latest political activism.
History & Background
When the natural springs in this area were discovered around 1800, the waters were thought to have curatative powers, and the area became an attraction. Hotels and spas were popular destinations for travelers, who reached the town by the Little Miami Railroad, which was completed in 1849. The area's popularity declined in the 1900's, and while the spring still exists, the spas do not. Many miles of railroad tracks are now used as biking trails.
Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce: 101 Dayton Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. 937/767-2686 firstname.lastname@example.org