Andover, the quiet life on Pymatuning Lake: Tiny Towns Ohio
Andover, the quiet life on Pymatuning Lake: Tiny Towns Ohio
ANDOVER, Ohio – What happens to a town geared for lake-loving summer tourists when the summer ends?
In Andover, where the motto is “America’s Small Town,” life goes on, quietly.
Raymond French, mayor of the Ashtabula County village bordering Pymatuning Lake, said things get quieter once the boaters and beach-lovers have gone home. Though he noted some will still be around until October, weather permitting.
By mid-September, many of the tourists have already moved on. On a recent overcast Monday, the beaches and parks were devoid of people and only a lonely boat or two sailed the Pymatuning Lake.
“It will quiet down now, some of the seasonal businesses will close up until next year,” French said. “That’s how we like it. This isn’t a place you come to get crazy, people come here to get away from all that and enjoy the peace of the lake.”
French proudly proclaims that the village of about a square mile “doesn’t have a traffic light or a parking meter” and says: “We don’t need them.”
No one is quite sure how many people visit the village -- located about 50 miles south of Lake Erie -- while vacationing, though its website states that 4.5 million people visit the wider Pymatuning Lake area each year. French said the village itself can get pretty crowded during the tourist season.
“During the summer we can’t get into some restaurants because of the lines,” said French. “We also get a lot of people here for our weekend concerts. We have no hotels or motels in town, so they stay nearby, many at the campgrounds or cabins. There are plenty of hotels not too far away.”
Russel and Maryanne Kelvington, of Martinsburg, W.Va., walked around the square on that overcast Monday, enjoying the quiet late summer day.
“We’re on a tour of Lake Erie lighthouses and this little town is just what we were looking for as a stopover point,” Russel said. “I will admit this is a back-up plan. We were supposed to be at the Outer Banks in North Carolina this week until the hurricane made us change our minds. But this has been fine.”
While Andover village does not actually touch Pymatuning Lake, it is the closest town to it, sitting a scant mile from the water. Andover Township, which surrounds the village and is many times as large, borders the lake.
There were 1,145 residents there as of the 2010 census and the population was estimated at 1,103 in 2017. The surrounding township is estimated at having a population of 2,680 living in an area of about 26 square miles.
The Town Square, the heart of the village.
The heart of Andover is the quaint village square, a central park with a large picnic area and modern bandstand where weekend concerts are held all spring and summer. It also features a modern memorial to the fallen members of the military, with black obelisks representing the branches.
Along the streets surrounding the park are a small number of stores and restaurants, like the Andover Diner, Barb’s Restaurant or the Chinese Gardens. Thrift stores and secondhand shops sit among beauty shops, banks, law offices and a struggling movie theater which no longer plays movies, but occasionally presents live shows and concerts.
Nearby are markets, food stores and more restaurants.
Perhaps the most intriguing building along the village square is Victorian Elements, owned by Westlake Architect David Michael. The building combined three separate buildings that date back to 1891. Over the years, the buildings housed many different businesses.
Michael purchased three adjoining buildings in 2005 and combined them into one. Someday, he would like to turn the building into a museum, display a tiny portion of the antiques he has stored there and elsewhere.
“It’s my plan, but I am so busy I don’t know when it will happen,” he said.
The building is a popular spot for people to look at, but they are frustrated because it is not open to the public, French said.
“It’s not a store where people could walk in and browse,” Michael said. “I don’t mind people looking through the windows, but there is nothing in there for them to buy. My customers are mainly cities that want to purchase historical items. For example, I have a large amount of items taken from the Millionaires’ Row mansions in Cleveland that were reclaimed by the builders when the mansions were being demolished.
“These are irreplaceable items, some imported from Italy, enough to rebuild more than one mansion. There are doors, mantles, windows, things from ages past. I have quite a bit of it.”
Andover home to a few famous Americans.
The most famous person with a connection to Andover was Clarence Darrow, who had a law office in Andover and nearby Kinsman, where he was born. The staunch defender of evolution is famous for his participation in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tenn. in 1925, where he defended a teacher fired for teaching evolution.
Runner-up is Ellen Maria Colfax, the wife of Schuyler Colfax, vice-president under President Ulysses S. Grant.
Main Street, also known as Ohio 85 east of the village and U.S. 6 west of it, runs right into Lake Pymatuning and the bridge to Espyville, Pa. It also leads to the sprawling Pymatuning State Park and campgrounds, which are hugely popular.
“You might have to schedule a cabin or a camp site months in advance, maybe even a year,” said Lara Reibold, president of the Pymatuning Area Chamber of Commerce. “People come from all over to stay here and enjoy the lake and the town.”
If the state campgrounds are full, there are several private campgrounds in the area.
Of course, it will take more than a bit of cold weather to dissuade fishermen from their sport.
“They fish for crappie, walleye and perch and come from Virginia, Pennsylvania, all over the place,” said lifelong Andover resident Dan Creed who runs Mega-Byte Computers. “They continue to come all winter, even for ice-fishing.”
The Linesville Fish Hatchery, just across the bridge in Pennsylvania, breeds millions of walleye, muskie, bluegill and other fish each year and releases them into the Pymatuning Lake and all over Pennsylvania. The hatchery, with its massive fish tanks, has become a tourist attraction, luring about 80,000 visitors a year to see and feed the fish.
Just outside the village in Andover Township, the Pymatuning Drive-In Theater still stands, though it no longer shows films. The screen, decorated like a giant American flag, now serves as a billboard to promote the weekend flea market. The owners determined they were getting more customers for the flea market than for the movies and made the switch two years ago.
A Fall Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6, in the town square with crafters, face-painting, food vendors, a baked goods auction and music by Elvis impersonated Jim Felix and country singer Brett Allen Morgan. For a full list of upcoming festivals and events in Andover and the Pymatuning region, visit their website.