Ashtabula, Ohio

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Ashtabula, Ohio
Aerial view of the port at Ashtabula
Aerial view of the port at Ashtabula
Location of Ashtabula, Ohio
Location of Ashtabula, Ohio
Coordinates: 41°52′38″N 80°47′49″W / 41.87722°N 80.79694°W / 41.87722; -80.79694Coordinates: 41°52′38″N 80°47′49″W / 41.87722°N 80.79694°W / 41.87722; -80.79694
Country United States
State Ohio
County Ashtabula
 • City manager Jonah Hill
 • Total 7.91 sq mi (20.49 km2)
 • Land 7.74 sq mi (20.05 km2)
 • Water 0.17 sq mi (0.44 km2)
Elevation[2] 673 ft (205 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 19,124
 • Estimate (2012[4]) 18,811
 • Density 2,470.8/sq mi (954.0/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 44004-44005
Area code(s) 440
FIPS code 39-02638[5]
GNIS feature ID 1048468[2]
Railyard in the port of Ashtabula
Projected primary nuclear strike targets for Ohio, c. 1990 (FEMA Image, with Ashtabula labeled)

Ashtabula /æʃtəˈbjuːlə/ ash-tə-BEW-lə is a city in Ashtabula County, Ohio, United States, and the center of the Ashtabula Micropolitan Statistical Area (as defined by the United States Census Bureau in 2003). A major location on the Underground Railroad in the middle 19th century, the city today is a major coal port on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Ashtabula River northeast of Cleveland. The name Ashtabula comes from ashtepihəle, which means 'always enough fish to be shared around' in the Lenape language. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 19,124, a decrease of 1,838 (8.8%). from the 20,962 residents recorded in the 2000 census.[6]

Poet Carl Sandburg wrote a poem titled "Crossing Ohio when Poppies Bloom in Ashtabula." There is also a novel called The King from Ashtabula by Vern Sneider, published in 1960. The city is also mentioned in the Bob Dylan song "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

Ashtabula hosts an annual Blessing of the Fleet Celebration, usually in late May or early June. As part of the celebration, a procession and prayer service is held at Ashtabula Harbor. Ashtabula was also home of the FinnFestUSA in 2007.


The site of Ashtabula was settled in 1803 and incorporated in 1891.[7] The city contains several former stops on the Underground Railroad which was used to convey African-American slaves to freedom in Canada in the years before the American Civil War. Among the stops is Hubbard House, one of the handful of termination points. Ex-slaves would reside in a basement of the house adjacent to the lake and then leave on the next safe boat to Canada, gaining their freedom once they arrived in Ontario. Its harbor has been a large ore and coal port since the end of the 19th century and continues to be to some extent with a long coal ramp draping across the horizon in the current harbor and the ore shipments unloaded from lakers that is sent down to the steel mills of Pennsylvania.

Many newcomers to Ashtabula in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were immigrants from Finland, Sweden, and Italy. Ethnic rivalries among these groups were once a major influence on daily life in Ashtabula. A substantial percentage of the current residents are descended from those immigrants. The population in the City of Ashtabula grew steadily until 1970, but has declined in recent years.

Rail history[edit]

On December 29, 1876, one of the nation's most notorious rail accidents occurred, known as the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster, Ashtabula Horror or Ashtabula bridge disaster. As Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Train No. 5, The Pacific Express, crossed the Ashtabula River bridge, the Howe truss structure collapsed, dropping the second locomotive and 11 passenger cars into the frozen creek 150 feet (46 m) below. A fire was started by the car stoves, and of the 159 people on board, 64 were injured and 92 killed.

A rail ferry, also named Ashtabula, used to run from Ashtabula to Port Burwell, Ontario.[8] The ferry was launched in 1906, and collided with another vessel in 1958.


The 20th century saw great changes in Ashtabula. Its access to Lake Erie and nearly 30 miles (48 km) of shoreline helped position Ashtabula as a major shipping and commercial center.

During the 1950s, the area experienced growth with its expanding chemical industry and increasing harbor activity, making Ashtabula one of the most important port cities of the Great Lakes. Historical industries in the area included a Rockwell International plant on Route 20 on the western side of Ashtabula that manufactured brakes for the Space Shuttle program and the extrusion of depleted and enriched uranium at the Reactive Metals Extrusion plant on East 21st Street.

Ashtabula Harbor hosts an annual Blessing of the Fleet community festival. The origin of the Blessing of the Fleet can be traced to Portuguese and Irish fisherman and tugmen who settled in Ashtabula. During the 1930s, the Blessing of the Fleet was a small, almost private affair in early April conducted by a few tugmen, their parish priest, and an acolyte. By 1950, it had become a public ceremony under the auspices of Mother of Sorrows parish. In 1974, the Blessing of the Fleet became a community affair involving all of Ashtabula's religious and harbor community.

The Coast Guard Station and the Harbor Museum help to preserve Ashtabula's maritime heritage.


Ashtabula is located at 41°52′38″N 80°47′49″W / 41.87722°N 80.79694°W / 41.87722; -80.79694 (41.877138, -80.796976).[9]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 7.91 square miles (20.5 km2), of which 7.74 square miles (20.0 km2) (or 97.85%) is land and 0.17 square miles (0.44 km2) (or 2.15%) is water.[10]

Ashtabula borders Lake Erie to the north and has a prominent harbor where the Ashtabula River flows into the lake. The Ashtabula Harbor was a primary coal harbor and still serves to ship . It has two public beaches: Walnut Beach, near the harbor, and Lake Shore Park, originally a Public Works Administration project, on the opposite side of the harbor.

The Ashtabula River and harbor are a significant superfund site due to past industrial abuse of the waterway.

Part of the city lies in Ashtabula Township, and part lies in Saybrook Township.

The Ashtabula area receives a considerable amount of snow throughout the winter with the average snowfall being 68 inches. Much of the snow comes from lake-effect snow bands.


Coal rail cars at the Ashtabula Railway
Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 821
1860 1,418 72.7%
1870 1,999 41.0%
1880 4,445 122.4%
1890 8,338 87.6%
1900 12,949 55.3%
1910 18,266 41.1%
1920 22,082 20.9%
1930 23,301 5.5%
1940 21,405 −8.1%
1950 23,696 10.7%
1960 24,559 3.6%
1970 24,313 −1.0%
1980 23,354 −3.9%
1990 21,633 −7.4%
2000 20,962 −3.1%
2010 19,124 −8.8%

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 19,124 people, 7,746 households, and 4,724 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,470.8 inhabitants per square mile (954.0/km2). There were 9,087 housing units at an average density of 1,174.0 per square mile (453.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.0% White, 8.9% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 3.3% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.3% of the population.

There were 7,746 households of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.2% were married couples living together, 19.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.0% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.03.

The median age in the city was 37 years. 26.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.9% were from 25 to 44; 25.8% were from 45 to 64; and 14.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.6% male and 52.4% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, there were 20,962 people, 8,435 households, and 5,423 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,775.9 people per square mile (1,072.0/km²). There were 9,151 housing units at an average density of 1,211.8 per square mile (468.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.69% White, 9.79% African American, 0.29% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 2.51% from other races, and 2.26% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.32% of the population. 16.5% were of Italian, 14.6% German, 9.2% American, 8.1% Irish and 8.1% English ancestry according to Census 2000. 93.1% spoke English and 5.4% Spanish as their first language.

There were 8,435 households out of which 32.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% were married couples living together, 17.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.6% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,354, and the median income for a family was $33,454. Males had a median income of $28,436 versus $22,490 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,034. About 17.8% of families and 21.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.2% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.


The Ashtabula Area School District serves Ashtabula (its high school is Lakeside High School). Kent State University at Ashtabula is also located in Ashtabula.

Notable people[edit]

Medical care[edit]

Ashtabula County Medical Center (ACMC)[12] is a multi-specialty hospital, located in Ashtabula County, Ohio.[13] ACMC serves the people of Ashtabula County and the surrounding areas in northeastern Ohio. ACMC is an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic[14] system.

The hospital also operates the county's only behavioral medicine unit, a sleep disorders lab, as well as many specialized services. The attached "Ashtabula Clinic" also provides outpatient care in the specialties of pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine, pulmonary, neurology, psychiatry, sleep disorders, cardiology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, urology, ENT, podiatry and oncology. ACMC operates satellite clinics in the county of Ashtabula. In December 2008, ACMC made the addition of the first Cardiac Catheterization Lab (commonly known as the Cath Lab) in Ashtabula County. ACMC provides OB/GYN care and maternity/birthing services in a newly renovated maternity unit.[15]

Ashtabula in pop culture[edit]

USS Ashtabula[edit]

During World War II, the United States Navy used the names of rivers with Indian origins for an entire class of fleet oilers used to replenish vessels while underway at sea. USS Ashtabula (AO-51) was commissioned in 1943 and served until 1982. Ashtabula was awarded eight battle stars for World War II service, four battle stars for the Korean War, and eight battle stars for duty in the Vietnam War. Partially scrapped in 1995, Ashtabula was expended as a target in fleet exercises on October 15, 2000. She has been the only Navy vessel to bear the name Ashtabula.

Gallery of Ashtabula[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  2. ^ a b "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  4. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ Terry, Shelley. "'Bula's population down 9 percent in 2010 census". Star Beacon. Community Newspaper Holdings, Incorporated. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Ashtabula" in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 15th edn., 1992, Vol. 1, p. 627.
  8. ^ "Ashtabula (Ferry), U203071, sunk by collision, 18 September 1958". Maritime History of the Great Lakes. Retrieved 2011-11-14. Sunk in collision with steamer BEN MOREELL in harbor at Ashtabula, Ohio, September 18, 1958. 
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  10. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Ohio". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  11. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "City of Ashtabula". 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  14. ^ "Cleveland Clinic". 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  15. ^ "ACMC welcomes a new OB/GYN » Archive » The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio". Retrieved 2012-09-06. 

External links[edit]