Historic Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon is located among the rolling hills and valleys of central Ohio in Knox County. It serves as the county seat, and is home to some of the state’s most beautiful historic areas. Mount Vernon was founded in 1805 and was named after George Washington’s plantation. Today it is a wonderful place to visit and tour the many buildings and homes that date back to the early 1800’s.
Downtown Mount Vernon Historical District
Downtown Mount Vernon officially made the National Registry of Historic Places in 2012. The Historic Downtown District surrounds the public square and extends along South Main Street. You can see an Italianate influence in the surviving buildings of this area along with examples of Greek Revival, Federal, Queen Anne, Richardsonian-Romanesque, Colonial Revival, and Art Deco architecture.
The Downtown District was originally the city’s commercial district. It is now an anchor for three more residential districts that are also on the National Registry of Historic Places. This includes the East High Street Historic District, the North Main-North Gay Streets Historic District, and the East Gambier Street Historic District.
Original architectural features still exist on many of the buildings. These structures date as far back as 1829. To expand on the historic feeling of the area they have lined the streets with ornamental trees and flower beds. Decorative street lamps resemble the gas lamps the city once used. These charming touches give visitors a sense of being in a 19th century Ohio town. Quaint shops, restaurants, and a Civil War era monument found in the public square make Mount Vernon’s historical districts a pleasure.
East Gambier Street Historic District
In 1976 the East Gambier Street Historic District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. This is the smallest of the historic residential areas in Mount Vernon. Here guests will find numerous examples of Italianate and Greek Revival designs. Many of the homes here date back to 1835 to 1860. Several local celebrities have called this area home. The United States senator Jesse B. Thomas, newspaper publisher Lecky Harper, and the Cooper and Curtis families all lived here.
Among the most noted historical homes in this district is Wolverton House. Located at 106 East Gambier Street it resembles the large antebellum plantation homes of the South with a gabled roof and iconic columns. Stamp House at 401 East Gambier Street is an 1840’s Federal style house with beautiful gardens that are maintained by the current residents. Across the street is Vance House. This was the home of the retired sea captain S.A. Vance. Built in 1860 it has a Gothic Revival style.
East High Street Historic District
Mount Vernon’s East High Street Historic District was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1987. Large shade trees line the streets, many of which are paved in brick. This area began in 1805. Many of the existing buildings found here date from 1830 to 1925. The former Mercy Hospital, the Knox County Courthouse, and the Knox County Memorial Building are included among the non-residential properties.
Residential properties include Columbus Ewalt House at 400 East High Street. It was built in 1906. It was the home of the prominent Judge Ewalt until his death in 1942. The house became a nunnery in 1947. The McIntire House was built in 1874 in the Second Empire style by Alfred R. McIntire with its unique mansard roof. An apartment building was built in the 1840s. It was named The Capitola. In the early part of this century it was divided and moved to three different locations. The central piece is still considered The Capitola while the East and West wings are now private residences.
North Main-North Gay Streets Historic District
Finally in 1990 the North Main-North Gay Streets Historic District made the registry. The buildings dating between 1820 and 1925 are found along tree lined, brick paved streets. Visitors will find that many of the original carriage houses still stand. They’ve been converted into modern garages to be used for cars rather than horses.
The Israel House was built here in 1838. It was the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Israel as a one and a half story home. Samuel was a brick mason who studied law and eventually found work as an attorney. Round Hill is located at the end of Lamartime Street, and it is the most elite Mount Vernon residence. It was constructed in 1850 with an Italian Villa Style. The home has a 50 foot long parlor with a bay window as well as a marble floor entry way with 17 foot ceilings. The dining room was designed to look like Theodore Roosevelt’s.
The Knox County Historical Society
Anyone wishing to visit Mount Vernon’s Historic District should begin their day at the Knox County Historical Society. They are located at 875 Harcourt Road two miles Southwest of the public square. The Historical Society Building houses many exhibits designed to help one understand the area’s history. Guided tours of the historical homes and buildings are also available. They are open Thursday through Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00pm and on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00pm.
As visitors explore the building they will find exhibits on business and industry as well as the people of Mt. Vernon. Antique household furnishings and quilts are on display as well as toys from years past. Local military history is also covered. Mount Vernon’s involvement in the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the Civil War are all memorialized at The Knox County Historical Society. The society hosts many special events and monthly meetings that are free and open to the public for those wanting more information on Mount Vernon’s historical past.