DUBLIN, Ohio — It was the image of “The Field of Corn,” a collection of 109 people-sized ears of corn made of concrete, that first grabbed my attention. The eccentric display — located on farmland once tilled by Sam Franz in Dublin, Ohio — makes sense. Franz is known for the development of hybrid corn seeds, and a field of giant corn cobs seems the perfect memorial to this agricultural trailblazer.
Further sleuthing introduced me to Dublin’s Art in Public Places program, which includes over 70 art pieces of which “Field of Corn” is one of the earliest. These intriguing works of art are scattered over this economically robust town of some 55,000 residents — a 20-minute drive north of Columbus, Ohio, and a three-hour drive northwest of Charleston.
A bit of history
Dublin’s first settlers arrived in 1801. When Irishman John Shields surveyed the town 17 years later, he thought the area reminded him of his mother country, and, when asked to name the small hamlet, he suggested his birthplace, Dublin, Ireland.
In the 1840s, with the arrival of the canals and the National Road in nearby Columbus, the town was one of the fastest growing in central Ohio. Even so, by 1970, the population was only a scant 681. It wasn’t until the arrival of corporations like Ashland Chemical and the Jack Nicklaus Muirfield Golf Club — home to the PGA’s Memorial Tournament — in the 1970s that the population boom got underway.
Now prosperous and vibrant, the town’s historic district is a charming area of quaint stone buildings, restaurants, pubs and boutiques. One of the oldest structures, built circa 1891, functioned as a residence, hardware store and post office. Dublin Village Tavern now occupies the site, serving up items like Irish egg rolls, hooley eggs (an Irish take on Scotch eggs), braised shepherd’s pie, Irish sliders and more.
Owner Geri Gertz said the establishment was planned as a tavern that served food, but the food is so good it’s now a restaurant that serves beverages. These include a stock of 23 Irish Whiskies and, of course, Irish beers, like Guinness, Smithwicks and Kilkenny.
Obviously, St. Patrick’s Day is a big event in town, but it’s the Irish Festival, held the first weekend in August, that draws some 100,000 Irish wannabees to expansive Coffman Park to what’s billed as “the biggest three-day Irish Festival on the planet.”
In the historic district, check out the Dublin Barbershop at 28 E. High St., the oldest continuously operating business in town (since 1938). You’ll recognize the place by the old swirling barber pole mounted outside the door. Six barbers are needed to handle the patronage, and reservations are recommended because walk-in traffic is limited. Phone 614-889-8328.
Even the kids will enjoy strolling the town’s shops, where tiny and magical Irish “fairy doors” wait to be discovered. Grab a passport and write the names of all the fairies on the seven doors, then hand it in or mail it to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, 9 S. High Street, for a free Fairy Doors T-shirt.
Within walking distance of the historic area, Indian Run Falls is a wooded retreat with boardwalks, observation platforms, hiking trails, and of course, a cascading waterfall that adds a bit of serenity to a Dublin visit.
Just across the Scioto River, Bridge Park is a newer development that mixes green spaces with shopping and dining. A stop in Kilwin’s Chocolate Shop, at 4549 Bridge Park Ave., introduced me to owner Stephanie Malas, who let me don an apron and cap and make hand-dipped chocolate Ohio Buckeyes with peanut butter cores. Fudge, truffles, hand-dipped Twinkies and marshmallows are just some of the candies on display, but don’t overlook the ice creams. (Sea Salt Caramel was my favorite, and samples are available).
Nearby, Wendy’s corporate headquarters is just across the street from its flagship restaurant (4555 W. Dublin-Granville Rd.), said to have the latest in design and technology with digital menu boards, a Wi-Fi bar, self-order kiosks and mobile order capabilities, plus a Wendy’s timeline and mini museum.
Looking to the future
Coming next year to Dublin is a $22 million, 760-foot long pedestrian-bicycling bridge that will cross the Scioto River, connect the historic Dublin with Bridge Park and become the city’s iconic landmark.
A few minutes from town, drop in at Phoenix Bats to see a log of wood transformed into a baseball bat in under two minutes. The company that started as a vintage bat maker for players who use 1860s rules (no gloves) offers hourlong tours that explain the company’s history and a look at the start-to-finish process, with stops in the storage area (full of ash, birch and maple raw material), machine-cutting and laser-engraving rooms and showroom.
West Virginia Power Baseball team players who’ve used Phoenix Bats include Ryan Peurifoy, Chris Sharpe, Calvin Mitchell and Lolo Sanchez. Tours of the plant are $10, include an engraved miniature bat and are offered on Monday and Friday at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 6 p.m.
To see 25 of Dublin’s 70-plus outdoor public artworks, pick up a Cell Phone Tour brochure at the Dublin Arts Council, 7125 Riverside Drive, then use your phone to listen to artists and professionals deepen your understanding of what you’re looking at. The Arts Council building is housed in an elegant manse built in the French eclectic style in 1941. Exhibits change every 6 weeks, with a display of art quilts opening Tuesday .
Those interested in geocaching might want to join the Riverbox Challenge. Brochures are available at the Arts Council, where one of the riverboxes is located. Follow the clues at each of the sites along the Scioto River, stamp your booklet and, when every site is validated, take the booklet to the Arts Council and receive a geopin or geocoin as a reward.
For more information on Dublin, phone 800-245-8387 or visitdublinohio.com.
For a place to stay, the Crowne Plaza, 600 Metro Place North, offers 215 recently renovated rooms, fiber-optic internet connectivity, complimentary shuttle service in a 5-mile radius, an indoor pool, business center, daily happy hour specials at the bar and casual dining. Phone 614-764-2200.
For a place to dine, The Morgan House, 5300 Glick Rd., is located in a charming Civil War-era log cabin restored with 18,000 square feet and four floors of shopping. The restaurant’s all-American home style menu features items like chicken pot pie, quiche, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Phone 614-889-0037 or www.morganhse.com.