Community Spotlight: Things to see and do in Ravenna, one of the area’s oldest communities

Though Ravenna is the county seat, it’s only the fourth-largest community in Portage County. It was known for its glassworks, oatmeal production and carriage manufacturing in the 19th century. In the 20th century, it made munitions for three wars.
It’s historic downtown got a facelift in the late 1990s, and today bustles with retail activity and in its role as the area’s legal, education and government center.
Ravenna is 15 miles east of Akron and surrounded by Ravenna Township, bisected by state Route 59.
One of the oldest communities in the area, Ravenna was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Tappan, who later became a United States senator. He named Ravenna after a city in Italy.
The Ravenna Arsenal, which opened in 1940 and employed more than 14,000 Ohioans during peak production, became the country’s top military weapon’s producer during World War II. Arms production ended after the war but started up again for the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. The site is now an Ohio National Guard training and logistics site.
The Portage County Courthouse downtown is marked by a 150-foot-tall flagpole that was built in 1893, using metal architecture similar to that of the Eiffel Tower. The pole was almost doomed a decade ago when its structural integrity was questioned, but a group of residents managed to raise $150,000 so the pole could be taken down, stripped to bare metal and repaired, and returned to its post in 2014.
In downtown Ravenna, on the northeast corner of Main and Prospect, is the faded remnants of a painted log on the side of the brick building. This was the site of the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company, which opened for businesses in 1831. The company’s hearses were world renowned, and used for the funerals of presidents William McKinlye and Warren Harding. Although the factory closed in 1926, a restored Riddle hearse was even used for the 1998 funeral of beloved cowboy and singer Roy Rogers.
Notable residents include Jesse Grant (father of President Ulysses S. Grant); rock stars Gerald Casale (Devo) and Maynard James Keenan (Tool and A Perfect Circle); big band singer Peggy Kelly; and Chris Bangle, designer of BMW and Rolls Royce cars.
Please note: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many businesses are altering their hours of operation. Be aware that the information reported in this list may change.
• West Main Street Winery makes its own wine and beer on site. The owners host numerous events and entertainment throughout the year, as well as give tours of the operation. Located at 234 W. Main St., it’s usually open 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 2 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but winter hours can vary. Check at https://wmswinery.com.
• Your Toy Connection, 238 W. Main St., buys and sells vintage and modern toys from the 1960s to the present. Check out the extensive collection from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. https://www.facebook.com/yourtoyconnection
• West Branch State Park, east of Ravenna at 5570 Esworthy Road, offers hiking by foot, bike and horseback and links to the statewide Buckeye Trail. There’s also a full-service campground, seasonal marina with boat rentals, a dog park and an 18-hole disc golf course.
• The I-76 Antique Mall is south of the city at 4284 Lynn Road and features some 400 vendors selling collector and decor antiques and vintage items inside a 50,000-square-foot building. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, year round.
• Windmill Lakes Golf Club, 6544 state Route 14, was awarded the 2011 Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association. It features large, undulating greens, more than 50 bunkers and seven lakes.

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