Ball Diamonds on SR 603 Have Fallen by the Wayside
Many interesting things to see along State Route 603 in Ashland and Richland counties.
From its southern terminus at State Route 95, this two-lane blacktop road is poker straight and quite hilly. North of State Route 39, it becomes less hilly, but twists and turns around Black Fork of the Mohican River and Charles Mill Lake.
It’s on this stretch that State Route 603 passes the Wayside Inn and the abandoned softball fields opposite the bar.
I drove by there hundreds, if not thousands, of times on my way to and from work in the course of 17 years. The disused fields often reminded me of the Paul Simon song “Night Game.”
Here are the last two verses of the song. Paul Simon wrote it in 1975.
If you’re ever around Malabar Farm, head up Ferguson Way. But, unless you’re a guest of Pugh Cabin, don’t drive.
This road leads to a Ferguson Meadow, made famous by author, screenwriter and conservationist and host to the stars Louis Bromfield.
Doesn’t look like it but, at this point, you’ve come to a crossroads. On the right, is the original wagon road leading to Ferguson Meadow. If you were masochistic enough to follow it, you’d find yourself bushwhacking through a thicket of multiflora rose, another Bromfield legacy.
As the old wagon road progresses, it sinks deeper and deeper into the landscape. It was the product of the very practices Bromfield preached against — activities that caused erosion. The road became so eroded from use and weather that the banks along it are 15 feet high or more in spots.
Along Ferguson Way, closer to the Big House, is Pugh Cabin, which served as a filming location for the Shawshank Redemption. Its foundation is made of stones salvaged from the nearby ghosttown of Newville.
They say Possum Run Road is the coolest place in Ohio. Literally.
Having lived just up the hill from there for more than 15 years, I’d be inclined to agree. According to my car thermometer, it’s always around 10 degrees colder down there in the winter.
Possum Run Road is also one of the coolest places in Ohio for spurnpikers. This two-lane blacktop twists and turns as it meanders through a valley between State Route 13 near the I-71 interchange and State Route 95. It’s one of the most scenic drives in Richland County.
It’s safe to say that most outsiders who use Possum Run Road don’t venture too far — at least not beyond Snow Trails Ski Resort.
Here’s a map:
At the eastern terminus of Possum Run – northeast of the intersection – is the ghost town of Newville. You won’t see much of it. If you go one road east on SR 95, you might find a few foundation stones in the woods north of the Pleasant Hill Road bridge.
Newville was dismantled brick by brick when Pleasant Hill Dam was built in the mid 1930s. It was feared at the time that, when the lake filled in behind the dam, it would back up to the village during high-water events. This ended up being a miscalculation. It didn’t back up that far. Although, in all fairness to the project engineers, residents would have ended up with wet basements occasionally.
The next two photos are of Possum Run Church of God, which was disassembled and moved west by northwest to Possum Run Road.
Besides Snow Trails, Possum Run Road boasts another claim to fame — sort of. Hagerman Road, which was one of the locations for the classic film The Shawshank Redemption begins or ends there. Depending on how you look at it.
If you’re in a hurry, Possum Run is not the road for you. No need for a speed limit; the curves will slow you down. Another reason spurnpikers love it.
I’ve often taken State Route 95 when traveling to and from Columbus. Actually, it’s not much of a spurnpike; it’s the most direct route from the Mohican area to the state capital.
Nonetheless, it’s a scenic road with a few interesting small towns along the way. That includes Fredericktown. At one time, a sign on the edge of town boasted of it being the birthplace of the Future Farmers of America Jacket. For the non-agrarian souls among you, that’s the ubiquitous dark blue corduroy jacket with the huge gold FFA patch on the back. Kind of like country kids wearing their colors.
I’ve driven through Fredericktown many times, hundreds probably, and never stopped there. So early one Sunday morning, I grabbed my camera and drove there from my residence near Loudonville.
I was surprised to find how much was really there. I was not surprised that, like most small towns in Ohio, it’s a mixed bag of quaintness pockmarked with telltale signs of poverty.
Regardless, there’s much to recommend the place and worth taking time to explore.
By the way, these photos (and others) are showcased on my photography blog. High-res enlargements — sans watermark — are available for sale there.
I was born in Cleveland, a few blocks from U.S. 42. I was also born to wander, and I’ve done a lot of that on U.S. 42. Which is what I did Sunday morning on my way home from a family reunion in Medina County. I followed it into Ashland County in lieu of taking Interstate 71.
U.S. 42 starts – or ends, depending on your point of view – in downtown Cleveland. It follows West 25th Street, part of my early stomping grounds. That’s another story for another time.
It’s a rural two-lane for the most part, passing through Medina and West Salem in Medina and Wayne counties respectively.
Medina was once a sleepy rural crossroads. It’s now a bedroom community. In the latter half of the 20th century, it was “resettled” by white-flighters, Caucasians from Cleveland looking to escape encroaching racial integration.
I continued south into Ashland County. As I recall, U.S. 42 originally followed Cleveland and Claremont avenues through town. The U.S. 42 signs are no longer there. Apparently the U.S. 42 bypass, built to keep truck traffic out of town, now serves as the officially designated route.
Building the bypass also kept other traffic out of town, contributing to city’s sense of being suspended in another time. That, too, is another story for another time.