History, Preservation, Road Trips

Old buildings in Old Washington, on Ohio’s National Road

After 18 miles of laying waste to Ohio’s National Road, I-70 finally relents at Old Washington. US 40 even rejoins the National Road here. The blue line is the National Road’s original path.

You might think Old Washington is so named because it’s old. Well, it is old. It was laid out in 1805, before the National Road was built, as Guernsey County’s first settlement. But the town was actually named New Washington then. When the town incorporated some years later, the New was dropped and the town became just Washington. Then the U.S. Post Office got all worried that people would confuse Washington with another Ohio town improbably named Washington Court House. Thus Washington became Old Washington.

I drove through a lot of old little towns on this trip. So many of them were not even a shadow of their former selves, just a row of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. I drove right through them without stopping. But I stopped in Old Washington. It is what all those other old towns wish they could be. It is virtually a trip back in time to when the National Road was new, at least in terms of its buildings.

Old Washington, Ohio

Most of them are very nicely kept. Many have simple designs.

Old Washington, Ohio

Several have a tonier appearance.

Old Washington, Ohio

The tonier houses share enough design details that I would not be surprised to find the same architect behind them.

Old Washington, Ohio

While most of the buildings in Old Washington are brick, a few are wooden. This one could use a little loving.

Old Washington, Ohio

While Old Washington wasn’t exactly bustling the day I drove through, there were many clear signs of life, such as cars parked on the street, lamps in windows, and landscaping around many of the homes.

Old Washington, Ohio

Someone was busy building a garage next to this house!

Old Washington, Ohio

Sometimes a highway bypass is good for historic preservation. Transportation needs may demand a wider, straighter, or flatter road, but to achieve that in a town so often means destroying some of its buildings. US 40 was rerouted a block to the south at some point, allowing all of these great houses to remain. On the west edge of town, the old road comes to an end as US 40 curves around and resumes the National Road’s original alignment.

Dead end of NR west of Old Washington

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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