Bowling Green (population 29,636) had its beginnings in 1833, when pioneer Elisha Martindale claimed 40 acres of land in northwest Ohio’s Great Black Swamp. A year later, a regional postal carrier named this newly settled area Bowling Green after his hometown in Kentucky. The community experienced pronounced growth after large quantities of natural gas were struck locally in 1884. Free gas attracted five glass-making companies, which brought about the town’s temporary moniker “Crystal City.”
Bowling Green became a city in 1901. It soon became an education center, with the establishment of State Normal College (now called Bowling Green State University) in 1910. Today, Bowling Green is a thriving community whose past is reflected in a vibrant, carefully preserved downtown. This university city boasts a manufacturing-based economy, as well as a firm dedication to the arts and local history.
In order to gain maximum expertise for each specific historic preservation activity, the mayor and city council appoint boards/committees on a case-by-case basis. Bowling Green’s Heritage 2000 project is an example of this process. The Main Street Historic District is listed, in its entirety, in the National Register of Historic Places. The committee appointed by the mayor to oversee a streetscape improvement project in the historic district approved the design and monitored the project to ensure the historic district was not negatively impacted. During the project, new traffic signals, sidewalks, benches, planters, and lampposts were added, and alleys and roadways were repaved. The completed Heritage 2000 project spurred many property owners in the district to pursue their own historic maintenance and preservation activities.
In 2008, the city partnered with various organizations such as the chamber of commerce, Bowling Green State University, and the Wood District Public Library to plan a year-long 175th anniversary celebration. Events included a holiday parade with re-enactments, historical skits, docent-led walking tours, an educational musical, and an arts festival. These events recognized Bowling Green’s past as an oil-boom community and early leader in the glass industry.
Bowling Green offers other events throughout the year. ArtWalk! Sneak Peak Building Tours highlight five historic districts. Wood County Heritage Days & the Power of Yesteryear Annual Farm Show feature re-enactors, lost arts demonstrations, historical renditions, vintage tractors, and gas engines. Wood County Living History Day at Oak Grove Cemetery features re-enactors portraying various people interred there.
Bowling Green’s museums include the Wood County Historical Center and Museum, the American Civil War Museum of Ohio, the National Construction Equipment Museum, Wintergarden Nature Preserve, and the Bowling Green State University Center for Archival Collections. The Wood County Historical Center and Museum features educational programs, guided tours, 30+ exhibit rooms, archival collections, and 50 acres with original outbuildings, including a blacksmith shop and a log cabin.
Designated a Preserve America Community in December 2008.
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