The Appalachian Region is rich with the history of coal mining and other quarrying industries, which can still be seen today in many ways. One of those distinct reminders is the company town.
Company towns were owned almost entirely by the company, and were built to provide housing, stores and other services for its employees and their families. The downside of company towns is that they were often mandatory for employees and their families to live there. Company owners regularly exploited their captive audience, charging outstanding prices for goods, services and housing that left workers in debt after their weekly earnings. Eventually the popularity of company towns declined and then petered out altogether after the invention of mass transit (i.e. automobiles).
What remains today is what we so often see when driving through some sleepy town or mountain road – company towns made up of identical company houses and dotted with a few company store buildings. The Eclipse Company Town in Plains, Ohio was built by the Hocking Valley Coal Company between 1900 and 1902, making it over 112 years old. Today the town has 12 company houses, one shotgun house and the Company Store, which are all a mix of several types of businesses and private residences.
The Eclipse Company Town sits right next to the edge of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, a 22-mile flat paved bike path that follows on the old Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad bed. So bring your bike or your four-legged friend and take a short afternoon cruise or stroll down the bike path (please keep pets on leash for their safety and the safety of our biker friends).
Don’t have a bike that fits you anymore? Then head over to Black Diamond Bicycles, a family owned bike shop run by husband and wife team Vincent and Timarie Francis. They can get you ready to ride in no time. Not looking to buy just yet or don’t want to haul your bike for a ride on the bike path? Not a problem! Black Diamond Cycle also offers bike rentals for the bike path by hour or day. Hourly bike rental fees start at just $12/hr. You can also grab an ice cream treat or drink at the bike shop as well.
“Bike rental business is doing pretty well and we are moving to do rentals online so you can reserve bikes anytime,” Vincent Francis said. “When people come here to the Eclipse Company Town it’s nice because it sort of breaks up a ride on the bike path. You can take a break. See something! Shop, have a bite to eat or grab an ice cream.”
The Butterstick Bakery & Cafe is the newest addition to the Eclipse community that offers delicious baked goods and lunch options. They have a big deck to enjoy your lunch outside or you can call ahead and order a box of pastries for your Monday morning staff meeting. The Butterstick Bakery & Cafe is open Monday – Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. Be sure to follow them on Facebook to see their weekly lunch specials.
You can also spend some time shopping in the Putnam and Speedwell Antiques store if you happen to catch them open. Sadly they were not open the day I was in Eclipse, but you can also find their shop on Etsy, and they seem to have a variety of items from pottery to books and other vintage items.
Eclipse is also home to the famous 9 Tables restaurant (and yes, it really only has 9 tables) that offers an intimate dining experience with five or seven course options. 9 Tables started in Athens in 2011 and was built around offering guests an immersive dining experience.
The large Eclipse Company Store has been beautifully renovated and the original hardwood floors and walls provide a rustic feel and elegance to the building. Additions have been made to add space and modern conveniences and now you can rent out the Company Store for business meetings, workshops or even large weddings or events.
If it is a day trip you are looking for or just a stop on your bike ride the Eclipse Company Town should be on your map. The historical significance and the charm of the local businesses won’t disappoint you if you take the time to wander off the main road a bit.