Just inside northern Tuscarawas County across the Stark County line sit two small villages brimming with history, new venues and adventures perfect for visitors to learn and enjoy what Bolivar and Zoar have to share.
Bolivar is a village in Lawrence Township just 14 miles south of Canton on Interstate 77 at Exit 93. Just 4 miles east of Bolivar is the historic village of Zoar on state Route 212. The Ohio & Erie Canal and the canal’s Towpath Trail run through the villages. The trail for bikers and hikers stretches from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.
Bolivar was founded in 1825 and platted as a village in 1830. In just three years the community will celebrate its bicentennial, Mayor Timothy Lang noted. The mayor began his duties in April 2021 after nearly a decade on village council.
“We are a quaint little town where we care about our neighbors,” Lang said. “We have a lot going for us, but after all these years, we are still a small town between two large cities – Canton and New Philadelphia.”
Zoar was founded in 1817 by over 200 German Separatists, who fled from Germany to America because of religious persecution.
Many of the immigrants were hired to help dig the short-lived Sandy-Beaver Canal, which connected shipping from Bolivar to Pittsburgh so farmers could get their crops to the Keystone State.
Known for its art and architecture as well as history, Zoar has many landmarks and original buildings and homes, along with newer residences erected in more recent years.
• When asked what’s new in Lawrence Township, which encompasses Bolivar and Zoar, township trustee Matt Ritterbeck quickly noted the new Massarelli Baseball/Softball Complex under construction on 212 at Arrowhead Road on a 21-acre former farm field, where aspiring baseball and softball players age 6 and up will receive individual and group instruction. Tournaments involving teams from all over the region and beyond are expected to compete once the six ballfields and large indoor facility are completed, scheduled for August.
John Massarelli, a Stark County resident and baseball product of Canton Central Catholic High School, also is owner of Massarelli Baseball School on Massillon Road in Akron, which opened in 2005. Massarelli is the group’s president and former six-year pro baseball catcher and coach with the Houston Astros and has over 18 years of coaching and managing expertise. He and fellow former baseball pro Dave Schaub and Jeff Bunner are equal partners.
They anticipate about 1,000 people each weekend at the complex, which will include an enclosed, multistory training center plus restaurant and bar, turf practice infield and a mezzanine from which fans can view three fields at the same time. Future plans include lighting the fields.
• As for historic sites, Bolivar is the site of Fort Laurens, Ohio’s only Revolutionary War fort, built in 1778. Located at 11067 Fort Laurens Road NW, the 20-acre fort was attacked by British soldiers, Indians and loyalists and 21 U.S troops were killed. The fort wasn’t destroyed but deteriorated over the years and possibly was set on fire by Indians. Over 100 years later the fort was rebuilt, and a museum and Tomb of the Unknown Patriot remain for tourists to view and pay homage.
• Wilkshire Golf Course, off I-77 at exit 93, is in its 52nd year of operation as an 18-hole public course on 182 acres visible from I-77. Owned by Kyle and Samantha Quillen, the course opened in 1970 and now is under direction of General Manager Vince Little. For reservations or questions, call the pro shop at 330-874-2525. The course is open seven days a week now and is 6,730 yards from the blue tees, 6,235 from the white, 5,600 yards from the gold and 4,855 yards from the red. Website: wilkshiregolf.com
• The Zoar Golf Club at 8229 Dover Zoar Road was opened in 1975 as an 18-hole, par 72 challenge and plays 6,700 yards from the back tees. Website: zoarvillagegolf.com
• Known for many years for its annual Strawberry Festival before taking a hiatus well over a decade ago, the Bolivar Main Street Association, with President Bob Smith, owner of Lebold-Smith Funeral Home in Bolivar, will host the 16th annual fest June 9 to 11 right on Canal Street downtown.
Besides the strawberries, the festival will feature live music, amusement rides, food vendors and crafters. Auditions for the "Bolivar Idol" show will be from 4 to 6 p.m. June 10 at the Family Friendly Tent, with finals from 7 to 8 p.m. The Queen’s contest will be held for Bolivar senior women at 6 p.m. A festival first will be an auction at 7:30 p.m. of five plates featuring the original Bolivar High School. A limited number of plates also will be sold after the auction. On June 11, the Miss Berry Princess for 7- to 9-year-olds will be held at 11 a.m. followed at noon by the Little Miss Shortcake contest for 4- to 6-year-olds. Coming events by the business association will be the annual downtown Bolivar Car Show July 23 and Christmas on the Canal on Nov. 12 on Cherry Street.
• The Bolivar Canoe Livery at 11358 Route 212 on the Tuscarawas River just east of downtown is open now through Labor Day, offering canoe, kayak and tube rentals for 2½-mile water rides. Call 330-874-2002 for reservations. Website: canoe-ohio.com
• Oberlin Antiques at 164 S. Canal St. could be a collector’s paradise, featuring jewelry, glassware, clocks, locks and old oil cans, and a whole lot more. Owner Dan Oberlin, in his third year on village council and a third-generation Bolivar resident, opened his store six years ago after retiring from Republic Steel in Canton after 42 years. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Fun and dining
• Zoar's German Maifest will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday in the Zoar Garden on Main Street. The event usually attracts more than 1,000 celebrants. Sponsored by the Zoar Community Association and Rotary Club of Bolivar-Zoar, a German band from Cleveland and an Alpenhorn group will perform. There also will be a German food and beer tent, artists painting in the garden and much more.
• For those who like hiking and biking, there is the Bolivar Dam site in addition to all of the above activities. In Zoar, visit the Zoar Store where tour tickets are sold and scheduled; the Zoar Museum and visitor center; the Zoar Gardens with religious connotations; the Zoar Levee on County Road 82 Dover Zoar Road; and plenty of shopping, museums, music and wineries.
As for dining, Bolivar and Zoar are rich in goodness when it comes to food and pastries.
• In Bolivar, the Canal Street Diner at 157 Canal St. is known for its all-homemade meals, desserts and ice cream under owners Kayla Patton and Ashley Tsantis. The diner is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Specials are featured each day along with a wide variety of ice cream flavors plus carrot cake and nearly a dozen different pies each day. On Facebook: facebook.com/canalstreetdiner/
• Sublime Smoke barbecue restaurant at 110 Water St. SE. is owned by Zach Salapack and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On Sept. 26, Salapack is to host Octoberfest to raise funds for Loving Hearts Foundation’s Tusky Valley Schools Backpack Nutrition Program. Featured will be live music, a cornhole tournament, a beverage garden and the house specialty, wood-fired barbecue. Website: sublimesmoke.com
• Towpath Tavern, at 225 Canal St. and owned by Rich Dotts, is best-known for its spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs. The brew pub is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with the kitchen closing an hour earlier each night. On Facebook: facebook.com/TowpathTavernBolivar
• Lockport Brewery at the former Georgio’s Restaurant, 10748 Wilkshire Hills NE, is owned by Andrew and Lauren Marburger and specializes in craft beers and a wide variety of entrees. The facility is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. Website: lockportbeer.com
• Kickin’ Kountry at 10997 Route 212 is a nightlife entertainment venue with TVs everywhere, a big indoor dance floor and concert venue, a bar both inside and outside, pool tables and other games plus a heated outdoor patio and plenty of food. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. On Facebook: facebook.com/kickinkountry/
• Simply Cinnamon at 11237 Fairbanks Road NE is a coffee shop that features baked goods as well as sandwiches, soups and salads and is also known for its smoothies. Owned by Ashley Kline, the coffee shop is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. On Facebook: facebook.com/www.simplycinnamon
• For those who prefer Chinese cuisine, the No. 1 Kitchen at 11237 Fairbanks Road NE is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant is known for its modern interpretation of classic Chinese dishes and high-quality fresh ingredients. Website: no1kitchenbolivar.com
• Zoar’s Canal Tavern at 8804 Towpath Road NE is the village’s original hotel and tavern built in 1829. The showplace is only open now for private events and special dinners. Owned by Jon Elsasser, president of the Zoar Community Association, the tavern has a wide selection of craft beers, with a menu including steaks and seafood. Website: canaltavernofzoar.com
• Donnie’s Tavern is at 162 Main St. in Zoar and is known for its craft cooking and southern take on some dishes while using Ohio ingredients. Owners Nathan and Maggie Kelly opened the eatery in December 2019 to honor their son, Donovan (known as “Donnie”), who dreamed of his family having a restaurant before he died unexpectedly at age 16, seven months before the restaurant opened. The tavern is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The owners plan to open for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., beginning June 5. Website: donniestavern.com
Population: 961 in 2020 census
Village website: villageofbolivar.com
School district: Tuscarawas County Local Schools
District website: tvtrojans.org/ContactUs.aspx
Population: 178 in 2020 census
Village website: historiczoarvillage.com
School district: Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools
District website: facebook.com/TVTrojans
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Bolivar and Zoar offer rich history, new venues