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Wooster Digital History Project

Market & Walnut Street Tour

Explore historical houses, businesses, and churches that have guided Wooster’s development since its founding.

Wooster City Schools - Cornerstone Elementary School:

Built in 1925, Cornerstone (its’ long held nickname) served to replace the old 1869 Wooster City High School building. However in 1996 this stately designed building converted to Wooster City Schools elementary school. Currently Cornerstone accommodates students in grades kindergarten through fourth-grade.

Municipal City Hall: 

Home for governing the 26,000 citizens of Wooster, Ohio. This new city hall serves as a replacement for the original city hall, however replacing this city hall was quite the task.

Debates and bidding elections began taking place in 1959. However it wasn’t until 1962 when the old city hall was demolished. Discussion for demolishing the original city hall and rebuilding new facilities originated when a new $900,000 bond initiative was made for improving town facilities.

Eventually in the 1959 local November election, voters passed the bond issue, it was set that in conjunction with a new city hall, construction of a new fire station would also occur. The November ballot issue passed with 66.5 percent of voters in favor. Voters approval for this $900,000 bond initiative explains how the current city hall and fire station are adjacent to each other on North Market Street.

McSweeney House:

Walking up North Market Street, one would be walking to the very edge of the city in the nineteenth century. The McSweeney home, in its time, was about as far north as Wooster extended. 

The McSweeney House was first the home of John McSweeney, an Irish immigrant, in 1864. However, in 1949, it was still occupied by his great-grandson, also named John McSweeney -- representing up to three generations of continuous ownership. 

The first McSweeney was a notable lawyer in the city. He served as a court officer in the Court of Common Pleas. Another member of the family, John McSweeney, Jr., was also an attorney. In one notable case in 1880, he defended John Callahan in perhaps one of the most significant murder cases in Wayne County’s history, [link to Callahan exhibit]. When Callahan was found guilty, he even went so far as to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.

Today, the McSweeney House is the home of Hothem Enterprises, a real estate company. But the history of the house can still be seen from the street -- the old woodwork on the porch and around the windows are all preserved elements of its extensive history.

Wayne County Community Foundation:

Built in one of Wooster’s Pioneer Houses, is where Wayne County’s Community Foundation (WCCF) is located. Established in 1978, this philanthropic organization serves to improve the quality of life for Wayne County residents.

The WCCF motto of “sharing your life with someone you may never meet” is executed through a number of funds to serve Wayne County’s citizens. The WCCF also serves a variety of community areas, and funds are classified into one of eight areas: community, scholarship, donor advised, corporate advised, field of interest, agency, designated funds, and administrative. In conjunction with these funds, scholarships are an annual part to the Community Foundation supporting Wayne County’s youth, and to date the WCCF has awarded over $55 million dollars in grants and scholarships.

John Sloane House:

Of all the historic homes that sit on Market Street, the house of John Sloane is perhaps the hardest to miss while walking on the street’s east side. The large plaque to the right of the path to the front door details many of John Sloane’s accomplishments.

A distinguished politician, Sloane first came to Wooster while very young. Originally born in York, Pennsylvania in 1779, Sloane would manage to become a member of the State Legislature at age 25 and during his two-year tenure would become it’s speaker. In 1816, after eight years managing the sale of public lands at auction under the Land Act of 1800 in Canton, Sloane would, with [Reasin Beall: link to Beall’s pin?], move the sale to Wooster.

In the fall of 1819, he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Ohio’s sixth and twelfth districts at the time. He would serve in Congress until 1829, and his Congressional career would include service as Chairman of the Committee on Elections. He would hold this chairmanship when the contentious 1824 presidential election left neither Andrew Jackson or John Quincy Adams as a decisive victor. The election was referred to the House of Representatives, where supporters of the Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, and Adams -- Sloane among them -- would vote in favor of Adams as President.

In 1851, Sloane would serve in his highest office. As the Seventh Treasurer of the United States during the presidencies of Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce, he would have managed the funds of the United States government.

Sloane died at the age of 77 in Wooster, Ohio and was laid to rest at Oak Hill Cemetery.


Central Christian Church:

Established in 1835, for many years the Church of Christ had no official meeting place despite their steady increase in town members’ attendance. They held meetings in the old courthouse, in the town’s school building, and for a while assembled in a local copper shop. Finally a church building was constructed and was completed in 1847. Unfortunately this was not meant to last. Due to internal problems and weakening attendance numbers, the church building was becoming badly in need of repair. It was eventually sold for $1,000 and the money was applied to the purchase of a lot in the 400 block of N. Buckeye Street. From 1885 to 1891 the group met in homes again up until the building’s completion. After 60 years, in 1950, the church dedicated a new brick colonial sanctuary Market Street, just back of the Buckeye Street property. This was attached to an impressive well preserved brick house and makes the Central Christian Church an easily recognizable place in downtown Wooster.

Zion Lutheran Church:

At the site where the Zion Lutheran Church stands today, used to stand one of the earliest built buildings in Wooster. This blockhouse, constructed in 1812, was used to protect settlers in the case of an Indian attack and at the time was used by the First Baptist Church. While the original building no longer exists, on March 21, 1878, the Zion Lutheran Church bought the present lot for a total of 4,000 dollars. This was the third building bought and used by the church since its inception in 1840.


United Methodist Church:

While we can’t trace the United Methodist Church’s origins to an exact date, records show that the first Methodist preachings in the area began in 1816. The system for spreading religion during this time was through traveling preachers. Each preacher was appointed to a territory. He would ride through the country until he could find a home that would welcome him and preach there. If enough people in the area were converted, a class would be formed and a leader would be appointed.It was one of these circuit riders who organized the Wooster class about 1816. Since then there have been four Methodist churches according to the Wayne County Public Library’s Wikipedia page. The first was a log building erected in 1816 which lasted until 1840 when a new frame building was erected. This then burned in 1886, just as people were gathering for Sunday School. In 1872 part of the congregation broke off to create the Trinity Church. After the burning of the Methodist Church however, the two reunited and proceeded to use the property the Trinity Church had built. This red brick building is where services are still conducted today.

Trinity Church of Christ:

Trinity United Church of Christ has carried many names across the years according to the Wayne County Public Library including; Christ Evangelical and Reformed Church, German Lutheran, and Church of Peace, but it was originally called the Reformed and Lutheran Church of Wooster. In 1815, Wooster was growing rapidly with an influx of both Lutheran and Reformed immigrants from Pennsylvania and Germany. These two protestant congregations had little in common - aside from their shared language. The first man to preach in German in Wooster was Rev. D. Henkel, a Lutheran missionary who spoke in Wooster as early as 1815. In the fall of 1819, German Reformed Reverend Henry Sonnedecker preached for a joint Lutheran and German Reformed congregation in Wooster. The two congregations officially joined together to form the “German Lutheran and Reformed Church of Wooster and its Vicinity” in 1820. They met in a brick schoolhouse named “Die Freidens’ Kirche” or “The Peace Church.” The two groups separated within seven years over irreconcilable differences in leadership and church doctrine. Despite the split between the two congregations, they continued to share the Die Freidens’ Kirche building until 1844. Up until this time church had been served only in German. In 1896 the Reformed congregation raised 2,400 dollars to purchase a lot, and later erect a church in the Gothic Style, on the corner of Buckeye and North Streets. This is where the present church remains. It would later adopt the name Trinity Evangelical and Reformed church and eventually, in 1957, would become the Trinity United Church of Christ. For more information on Wooster’s early German legacy please visit!


First Baptist Church: 

Originally called Bethany Baptist Church, the First Baptist Church of Wooster, has been around since the dawn of Wooster. It was organized in 1812, only four years after Wooster’s founding. The group met in a block house that was built some years earlier for the protection of settlers against Native Americans. During services there was a designated group of men with guns who kept guard in case the group was attacked by Indians, although according to available records it never happened. Because it was the only church in the area, it was often visited by ministers of other denominations but its primary pastor was Thomas Griffith Jones, otherwise known as “Priest” Jones. During his life “Priest” Jones was the town’s first minister, first mailman, held the office of associate judge of Wayne County, served as president of the  Bank of Wooster, and ran the town’s second mercantile store. He did much to help increase his congregation and soon they would have to move to a larger building. The cornerstone was laid in 1835 where the building still stands today and was completed in 1840. The church’s distinct stain glass windows were installed in 1910.

St. James Episcopal:

St. James was organized in 1840. It is the second oldest church building in downtown Wooster and was built in the gothic style. In 2016 will be celebrating their 175th anniversary as a parish.

Downing Block:

This building was constructed between 1869-1874. It features High Victorian Italianate architecture, with Metal Arched Molds and keystones above the facade windows. Over the years, this building was home to many local businesses. One of the first was the McClure and Brother Grocery in the 1884 business directory the advertised a fresh and complete stock. Today it is home to a Barber shop and a coffee shop. 

Buckeye Building:

Z.T. Moore began construction on the Buckeye building in 1834. He died before its completion but gave it to his daughter, Mrs. Roland Brewster. This building displays Greek revival architecture. Several rooms were used as a hospital for Spanish American War veterans. Other rooms were used for clubs. Later it was converted into the Ohio Service Co. and the Empire Gas and Fuel Co. Later still the Fair Price Co. The building was restored in 1940.

Olde Jaol House:

While built in 1865, Wayne County’s third jailhouse stood the test of time. After lasting more than 100 years, considerations and bids for a new justice center began taking place.

Wooster’s first jail, now called Olde Jaol house, is home to many things. Primarily it served as the first symbol of law and order due to its’ resurrection before the first courthouse. Many events encompassed the practice of law and order within Wooster’s jail, but quite possibly the most memorable would be hosting Wayne County’s first and only public execution. This execution took place in 1880 and was noted as the darkest Friday in the County’s history.

Wayne County Sheriff and Justice Center:

The newly built Justice Center in 1977 replaced Wayne County’s third jail. Built across the street, the Justice Center is home to Wayne County’s sheriff and Wooster Police Department.

Wayne County Courts - Wooster Municipal Court:

Built in 2002 and is the new court house in Wayne County's court system. The Municipal court handles minor offences. 

Bank of Wooster:

A Small Bank Splits the State 

The corner of Liberty and Walnut streets today isn’t an intersection to stand out. A fair distance away from the Courthouse and the Fairgrounds, today it is mostly filled with those seeking books at the Public Library or breakfast at The Parlor.

In the 1840s, however, you'd be walking next to a bank. And it wouldn't have been any ordinary bank at all.

The Bank of Wooster had a short history -- it was founded in 1840 and promptly went bankrupt eight years later. In that time, however, it would leave a history in its wake that would leave scars on Ohio's Democratic party.

It all began in 1844, when the Ohio legislature was considering a measure known as the Latham Act that required major state banks to recharter themselves. Since the founding of the nation, such banks had been controversial. With a Democratic majority in the state legislature, it had seemed that “bank reform” would have its way around the state with the new law.

However, Wooster Democrats, it seemed, remained far more loyal to their bank. They formed an alliance in the legislature with the opposing party, the Whigs, that was successful in having the law amended to exempt their prized Wooster bank. Known as “soft” Democrats, they even began supporting the Whig candidate for President -- William Henry Harrison -- against the Democratic incumbent!

Party divisions such as these were heavily common as economic and social issues transformed America's political parties in the years before the Civil War. While it would fail in 1848, its history leaves something to be remembered for a long time -- when a Wooster bank split the state.

Return to the intersection of Liberty and Market Streets near the Courthouse to begin our Liberty Street Tour.