Northwest Ohio Tourism
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Van Wert Courthouse

VanWert Ohio

Once called the "peony capital of the world" Van Wert is located in northwestern Ohio with a population of 10,690 as of the 2000 U.S. census. Van Wert still celebrates its historic connection with the commercial peony growers that once flourished here by having a Peony Festival each year during the first weekend in June.

Van Wert also has a strong historical connection with America. Captain James Riley and his son James Watson Riley surveyed all the land in far northwest Ohio in 1819. In 1820 the Ohio Legislature created the county Van Wert. In creating Van Wert County, the Ohio Legislature chose the name Van Wart, for Isaac Van Wart, one of the three men (Van Wart, Williams, & Paulding) responsible for capturing the British spy Major John André in the American Revolutionary War. However, because of a typographical error in recording the name, the Ohio Legislature recorded the name as Van Wert, otherwise, today it would be called Van Wart.

Van Wert 1873
Van Wert Main and Washington Streets intersection circa 1873

The town of Van Wert was founded in Van Wert County in 1834 when Peter Aughenbaugh, George Marsh, and James Watson Riley bought 240 acres of land in the center of Van Wert County. This plat was finished on March 30, 1835. Although no clear record exists, the first road leading into Van Wert was either Walnut Street or Greenville Road. The first home was built on what is now West Central Street.

In 1838 the Van Wert County commissioners moved the county seat from Willshire to Van Wert when Van Wert town fathers agreed to provide land at the center of their new town for government use, including the county courthouse which was completed in 1876. The Van Wert County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town grew slowly, but thanks to the presence of two railroad lines and the discovery of oil in the region, making Van Wert a center of trade.

Van Wert is home to the first county library in the United States, the Brumback Library. It also has a thriving community art center the Wassenburg Art Center and the award-winning Van Wert Civic Theatre. Van Wert is the smallest city in the United States with both a YMCA and a YWCA.

Van Wert is in an area originally known as the Black Swamp, which was actually the extreme western end of Lake Erie after the last ice age. In time the swamp dried out, but early pioneers had to deal with swampy ground, mud, and malaria. They persevered, draining the swamp for agriculture and eventually reclaiming enough dry land to establish the town.

Today Van Wert is largely an agricultural community along with businesses that support farming.


Balyeat's Coffee ShopBalyeat's Coffee Shop

A Van Wert tradition since 1922, Balyeat's Coffee Shop offers daily specials with good tasting priced-right dinners that will take you back to the good ol' days of home cooking. What's the best meal in the place? Just ask the waitress what's good today. Then sit back and listen to the list ... roast beef, roast pork, Salisbury steak, Swiss steak, meatloaf, baked chicken, BBQ backbones, knockers and kraut ... and the list goes on. Top it all off with real mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a fresh veggie. Before you leave, make sure you have a piece of homemade pie (the cream pies are out of this world!). Stop by this nationally-known eatery for a taste of homemade goodness.

133 E Main Street
Van Wert, OH 45891
(419) 238-1580

Van Wert Historical SocietyVan Wert County Historical Society

The museum is housed in a three-story stone mansion, fully restored and refurbished with period furniture and accessories as well as a large collection of area historical memorabilia. Sometimes known known as the "House of Seven Oaks", the old Clark Mansion was given to the Historical Society in 1955 by William Fostnaught, a local attorney and school teacher, to be used as a museum.

The house's original builders were John and Tacey Clark in 1895 on property located at the far north end of Van Wert. The home, designed by Mrs. Clark, is now furnished with period furniture and artifacts which have been donated by area residents.

On the properties southwest corner is a bell and cornerstone from the old City Hall built in 1886 at the southwest corner of Washington & Central Avenues. In the 1950s the building was demolished. The bell sounded the alarm whenever there was a fire. By the sequence and number of times the bell was rung, volunteer firemen (and almost everyone in town) knew where the fire was!

Van Wert Historical Society Log CabinAround the property are numerous historical artifacts including a recently restored 2-story log house built in the 1860s. A jail cell is also on display from the Van Wert County Jail built in 1891 and demolished in 1989.

In 2007, the museum underwent an extensive renovation project which included making the mansion handicapped accessible. There is no charge for visiting the Museum or any of its buildings.


Van Wert's Bear SchoolRestored 1904 Bear School

Originally BEAR SCHOOL was a one-room schoolhouse in1904. In 1996 the school house was moved and faithfully restored. It is furnished with old school desks, a teacher’s desk, a recitation bench, an organ, the old black stove, books, slates, photos, and other school memorabilia including the traditional one-holer outhouse in the back.

Van Wert County Historical Museum
602 N. Washington Street
Van Wert, OH 45891
(419) 771-9851

America's Traitor

Major John Andre was the man responsible for turning Benedict Arnold into America's most notorious traitor. In fact, it was Andre, after being captured by John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wart, as Andre was fleeing from Arnold's house, that would ultimately expose Benedict Arnold as the traitor he had become.

The sloop-of-war that had transported Andre to Arnold's home on the Hudson River, had come under fire from American forces. In order to avoid capture, Andre slipped out of his military uniform and into common clothes. He left Arnold's house on horseback, along with the plans Arnold had provided him for West Point and how the British could take the fort.

When Andre was stopped, he gave conflicting stories as to who he was, and rose the curiosity of his 3 captors. They searched him and found Arnold's papers. He was found guilty of being a spy.

Upon hearing that Andre had been captured, Benedict Arnold fled to the British. When George Washington discovered Arnold was a traitor, he offered Andre to the British in exchange for Arnold. However, the British refused to hand him over. Andre was hanged as a spy a few days later. Van Wart, Paulding and William stood next to Andre when he was hung.

At the time that Captain Riley was surveying Northwest Ohio, John Paulding (one of Van Wart's companions) had just died at the age of 60 back in New York. It was the Ohio Legislature's memorial to the three men responsible for uncovering Benedict Arnold's plans that could have caused the American Revolution to turn out differently.

Van Wert, Paulding and Williams County's were named for all 3 men at the same time. in 1820.