Editor’s note: The Champaign County Historical Society is sharing with readers a collection of “Then and Now” photos of the area.
The “Then” photo is ca 1900 looking north up North Main Street in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. A single horse and buggy is traveling along one of the two major streets through the town, lined with many trees on both sides. Those streets were originally called Chillicothe and Sandusky (going toward those older towns in Ohio.) At the top of the hill the street later called North Main changes direction and becomes West Main with High Street beginning and going East.
A large ornate home sits at the top of the hill that was built in 1863 by Major John Baker, a wealthy manufacturer. He had his grand home built on the former site of town founder John Kain’s double log cabin, the first house built in 1812 within the corporation limits of the town platted in 1814 .
Neither the “Then” or “Now” photo does justice to the steepness of the street at this location. It is a challenging hill to walk up. Try it sometime. Notice the modern curbs and gutters along this street even then, and Mechanicsburg’s Main Street was the first in the county to be paved with brick, according to Joseph Ware’s History written in 1917.
Now in 2016, the same grand home that the Bakers built still stands proudly at the top of the hill with another family enjoying the choice site where Main Street turns from North to West and High Street leads to the town’s school complex to the east. Much more traffic appears even at an early morning hour on this busy street nowadays as this is actually state Route 29 (once called W. Jefferson Road), the way many take to the Columbus area. This made taking this photo rather precarious for photographer Dick Virts. The street is still tree lined just not quite as many trees have survived modern times as once did one hundred sixteen years ago.
Stop by the Champaign County Historical Society Museum at 809 East Lawn Avenue, in Urbana, to see if a picture exists of your street from times gone by. Or share with others by donating old photos you might have stuffed in a box somewhere that show how things have changed. Call 937-653-6721 and leave a message any time. The museum’s inventory of photos can also be search on line at www.champaigncountyhistoricalmuseum.org/