A little over 20 miles north of the state capital of Columbus, Delaware is the seat of government of surrounding Delaware County, and has a city population of about 35,000 within its 15 square miles. The city is home to the noted liberal arts college of Ohio Wesleyan University (attendance: just under 2,000). It also annually hosts The Little Brown Jug, one of harness racing’s top crown races.
Delaware occupies a site along the Olentangy River that, prior to the city’s founding in 1808, supported a Lenape Native American encampment. By the 1830s, the city had become a favored health resort, and Ohio Wesleyan University was founded in 1842 within an old spa hotel. Railroad lines arrived beginning in the 1850s, fostering the growth of industry and continued county growth.
Delaware has suffered perhaps less sprawl than the typical Midwestern small town. It’s multiple blocks of historic late-19th Century downtown retail buildings and churches remain, offering a variety of community amenities. The city’s primary streets are Sandusky Street (commercial), University Avenue (university) and Winter Street (cultural). The grand red-brick-and-stone Gothic edifice of St. Mary Delaware Catholic Church, erected in 1886, is a distinctive architectural and community landmark.
As a university town, the downtown and campus mix of uses includes a good sampling of coffee shops, bookstores, gourmet food stores, gift shops, a cinema, a cycle shop, a fair trade store, and several antiques emporiums. Citizens support a farmers market and a number of cultural and entertainment venues. The Arts Castle houses the local cultural arts center, and offers a range of art and craft classes. An annual air fair is held at the Delaware Municipal Airport. Other local attractions include Perkins Observatory and the Olentangy Indian Caverns.