Ravenna History


Benjamin Tappan

Benjamin Tappan

The City of Ravenna was founded by Benjamin Tappan, who first arrived here on June 11, 1799. Tappan, born in Northampton Massachusetts May 25, 1773, practiced law in Connecticut before transplanting to Ohio.

Tappan served as a member of the Ohio State Senate from 1803-1805. In 1809, Tappan moved to Steubenville where he continued to practice law. Tappan served in the War of 1812 under General Elijah Wadsworth. He later served as a United States Senator, representing Ohio from 1839 – 1845.

Tappan died on April 20, 1857 in Steubenville, Ohio. Ravenna was originally included in Franklin Township, which at the time was part of Trumbull County. The first Ravenna mail route was established in 1802 and the first school opened in 1803. It was not until 1807 that Portage County was formed, and on April 22, 1808 Benjamin Tappan filed the town plot. In that same year, Ravenna was established as the county seat.

Early 1900's view of downtown Ravenna

Early 1900’s view of downtown Ravenna

Women’s Rights & Presidential (Elect) Visit

In 1853, the Ohio Women’s Rights Association held its first statewide meeting in Ravenna. The attendees helped draft a petition to the Ohio General Assembly, requesting legislation that would grant women more rights.

En route to his 1861 inauguration, Abraham Lincoln traveled by train through Ravenna. He didn’t plan on speaking, but the enthusiastic community support – and the stunning cannon salute – so inspired the president-elect that he stepped out of the train and addressed the crowd.

Growth & Building

In 1810 the first Portage County Court house and log jail were constructed. This was later replaced with the first brick courthouse in 1830. This new courthouse was expanded with an addition in 1881. Our current Portage County Courthouse was built in the 1950s.

H.W. Riddle

H.W. Riddle

The first church to be established in Ravenna was the Congregational Church, founded in 1822. In 1824 the Methodist Church held its first meeting, and later formally organized in 1831. The Presbyterian and the Disciple of Christ Churches were organized in 1830. In 1842, the Catholic Church in Ravenna was dedicated.

In 1831 a wagon and buggy business was founded by W.D. Clark. This business would later become the Riddle Coach and Hearse Company. Later, presidents McKinley and Harding would be carried to their grave sites in Riddle Hearses. H. Warner Riddle didn’t arrive in Ravenna until 1860. He would become one of Ravenna’s greatest businessmen and philanthropists. Many of Ravenna’s downtown buildings were built by or named after Riddle.

Big Industry & Transportation Arrives

In 1848 the first glassworks was established in Ravenna. This is now commonly recognized as the first true industry in Ravenna. Rail service first arrived via the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad in 1851. In 1877, the Quaker Oats Company was founded in Ravenna. The familiar Quaker Oats logo was patented in Ravenna in 1879.

Telephones were first introduced in Ravenna in 1882. (In 1938, the first dial telephone system was installed in Ravenna.) In 1898, Ravenna residents saw the first paved streets, when East and West Main streets received their new surfaces. By 1909, nearly 50 passenger trains arrived in Ravenna each day. In 1932 the County purchased White Hospital. This was the first step towards today’s University Hospitals/Portage Medical Center – located in Ravenna.

Through the 1920s, the company was recognized as the largest cast-iron toy manufacturer in the world.

Ravenna Arsenal

Munitions at the Ravenna Arsenal during WWII

Munitions at the Ravenna Arsenal during WWII

The Ravenna Arsenal opened in 1940. Original predictions slated 8,000 employees for this facility. During WWII this facility provided countless ammunitions to the U.S. troops abroad, as well as provided much needed jobs for the area. The employment trend continued in Ravenna, when in 1947 the city saw an industrial boom with the founding of companies such as Enduro Rubber, Duracote and Allen Aircraft.

The Ravenna Arsenal, opening in 1940, produced more weapons for the war effort than at any other plant in the United States. More than 14,000 Ohioans found employment here during World War II. The Ravenna Arsenal began production on March 23, 1942, The facility ceased arms production at the end of World War II. The Ravenna Arsenal began production of arms again during the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. The site later became the Ohio National Guard’s Ravenna Training and Logistics Site.

Contemporary Ravenna

In the late 1990’s, Ravenna saw a major revival. The downtown area received a $3 million facelift to restore and preserve the town’s architecture, history and heritage. As the county seat, the downtown bustles each day with business and activities from local citizens, legal and legislative professionals and area commerce.

Ravenna remains the heart of Portage County – and a great place to live and work – positioned conveniently just minutes away from major highways in the northeast Ohio industrial and technology corridor.