Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Street Construction Uncovers Rail History

During the late-19th and early-20th Centuries, a popular way to get around Newark was by electric rail car.  In 1889, the Newark & Granville Electric Street Railway was completed from downtown Newark to a point a little ways east of Granville.  This was one of the first "interurbans," which were electric railways that connected towns.  Interurbans became a major means of transportation in the USA until motorized bus systems developed, automobiles became more affordable, and streets and rural roads were improved.

Workers digging up the streets along the southeast corner of the
Courthouse Square, where several railway spikes and ties were found
In the summer of 2015, a major street construction project commenced around the Courthouse Square in Newark.  In early August, workers who were digging up South Park Place and South 2nd Street found several spikes and rail ties which were the remains of the interurban railway that went alongside the square.  The workers gave some of the spikes to passersby, including former County Commissioner Doug Smith.  Doug then gave one of them to our department.  It has been cleaned and added to our collection.

Spike found during the street construction project in August
We also have bond certificates and coupons from the same street railway company.  These documents were salvaged from the Courthouse attic.  One item is signed by John Peter Altgeld, who was an executive of the railway company, and a controversial governor of Illinois.

Newark & Granville Electric
Street Railway bond
Interurban service was eventually extended from Newark to Hebron, Buckeye Lake, Zanesville and Columbus.  People could ride the rail cars from downtown Newark to the popular Idlewilde Park, an amusement park which was located in the area of the Great Circle Earthworks.  These interurban routes were all shut down by 1929.

If you would like to get a better idea of what it was like to ride in an interurban car, you can do so by visiting The Works museum in Newark.  On display there is a car which was built by the Jewett Car Company in Newark.  The car was used on the Lake Shore Electric Railway, which was an interurban that ran in northern Ohio.

Sources:
"The Newark-Granville Interurban Car: Was It the First Interurban In the Country?," by Anthony J. Lisska, The Historical Times: Newsletter of the Granville, Ohio Historical Society, Winter 1991.

"The Works: Museum Challenge,"
http://www.attheworks.org/files/documents/Museum%20Challenge%20Teacher%20Packet.pdf,
accessed online December 2, 2015