- Amish Country
Ravenna is the county seat for Portage County. It was named not only for the township of Ravenna which was suggested by one of the early settlers coming from the east, but was also named for an historic Italian city. Of historic note is the Ravenna flag pole. It is a 150' tall structure. The flagpole was recently carefully and completely disassembled, repaired, restored and returned. The lighted flagpole is unlike any other and stands in the heart of the downtown in front of the Portage County Courthouse. It was originally built in 1893, and is made completely out of an iron latticework similar to an old bridge except the span is skyward instead of horizontal.
Today, Ravenna is home to over 11,000 residents with many of those working in Cleveland.
Benjamin Tappan, Jr. arrived here as the legal agent for his father to lay claim to the land that his father had purchased from other Connecticut landowners who had either been given land in the Connecticut Western Reserve or who had purchased the land, but decided not to make the dangerous trip to lay claim to their land titles. He was born in Massachusetts several years before the Revolutionary War had begun. His mother was a grandniece of Benjamin Franklin. Tappan would not remain in the area for long, but long enough to build a settlement of log cabins. After he completed these first cabins, Benjamin went back to Connecticut and married and the newly wedded couple returned to the Western Reserve and together they built their own log cabin in the thickly wooded land.
It was Nancy Wright, Benjamin Tappan's new bride that actually suggested the name Ravenna for the newly established settlement, supposedly after a northern Italian city of the same name. Nancy, who was well educated and of strong mind, became a driving force for the small community of Ravenna and later when Ohio became a state, she strongly pushed forward the idea of Ravenna becoming the county seat. It was also through her efforts that she convinced more Connecticut families of the opportunities available in the wilderness. About five years after Ohio became a state, the Tappan's moved to Steubenville where Benjamin Tappan had a successful legal career.
One of the early manufacturing companies was the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company which has its founding in 1831 in Ravenna when the Clark Carriage Company first started producing high-end hearses known for their elaborate workmanship and quality. Clark Carriage Company was purchased in 1861 by Henry W. Riddle and Charles Merts. Riddle was the salesman for the company and Merts ran the factory. In 1891, when Merts retired from the business, he sold his share of the company to Riddle and in the process changing the name to the Riddle Coach and Hearse. Later when the company started producing motorized hearses, the company changed its name to the Riddle Manufacturing Company.
The widely accepted reputation of the Riddle Hearse made them the coach of choice for two Ohio presidents, William McKinley and Warren G. Harding, to carry their bodies. A Merts and Riddle Coach and Hearse Company horse drawn coach similar to the one pictured at right, is on display in the Portage County Historical Society Museum in Ravenna.
Each year since the 1970s the Ravenna Balloon A-Fair has been attracting hot air balloonists and hot air balloon fans to Sunbeau Valley Farm on the west side of Ravenna. Sunbeau Valley Farm is where the balloons launch during the festival, but due to prevailing winds the hot air balloons usually quietly glide over downtown Ravenna for a spectacular site. The hot air balloon festival is usually held around mid September. Besides the hot air balloons, there is also parades, cruise ins and live entertainment. Although the balloon festival is held rain or shine, balloon lift-offs and fireworks are subject to weather conditions.
For more information and event schedule: http://www.ravennaballoonafair.com/