Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 11-14-04
By Jeff Gill
“So, What Next?”

Getting ready for my transition from being a voice for the “Hebron Crossroads” to a wider view in “Notes From My Knapsack,” I wanted to look back and ahead.
Regular readers know my taste for history, and history does offer a useful guide for the future . . . in the old saw, “history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme!”
The strength of these crossroads has been in being ahead of the curve. What curve, asks the driver on the National Road? Right, our roads don’t tend to ramble ‘round here like they do across Flint Ridge or the Welsh Hills, but the trend line of growth and development has always followed us, even when we were a ways out ahead and out of sight.
In the first phase of growth at Licking Summit, soon to be renamed Hebron by some unknown early settler who was well versed in their Bible, this was a hub for the service industry. Hostelries, distilleries, and all and sundry for the traveler was where we grew in our first few decades. Hotels, bars, and shops catering to the wagoneer or pioneer made our historic crossroads swell to bursting (see the muddy but well-traveled street in the picture down at Kroger).
Then the railroads passed us by, and times looked tough; but while agriculture’s future was seen as heading west and to the Great Plains, local farmers developed cutting edge approaches to draining swamps, ploughing fields, rotating crops, and increasing yields.
Leisure, not even an industry by anyone’s standards at the turn of the 1900’s, was quietly working down from the upper classes into the middle classes, and Buckeye Lake positioned itself for that huge market, even as the Interurban laid rails across central Ohio, connecting Zanesville to Indianapolis through Hebron. Our downtown may have burned in 1901, but the economy caught fire in the next few decades when we got ahead of even the automobile.
Cars gave new life to US 40, and the 1920’s brought gas stations, auto dealers, and trucking companies to the mix with the boom years of the Crystal Ballroom, the Lake Breeze Hotel, and Buckeye Lake Park, well before the US became an automotive nation from coast to coast.
“The Park” gave up the ghost before the federal interstate system might have given it a fresh start, but the arrival of I-70 paralleling US 40 took some energy out of the Hebron crossroads, but gave a boost that took a few years to discern around the edges. With the elimination of heavy through traffic, “Main Street” could start becoming just that again, with recent developments extending from the far east edge of the village where bulldozers are at work on a new retail strip, west past the upper edge of what will be some 180 or more homes in Lake Forest, on through downtown and Carlos Brezina’s restored Hebron Mill to the field just before the new municipal complex, which looks to be professional and retail development soon right across from the always bustling Creative Catering/Hometown Deli campus.
We have health/medical offices going in to our north behind the still-new McDonald’s, and just before and beyond Enterprise Drive are new businesses in our area, with new construction at the long empty WaterWorks warehouse and atop the Alford Drive hill. We were a distribution center across half a continent long before “just in time” inventory was a watchword, and we’ve been global for almost as long, with native speakers of Japanese, Hindi, and New Jersey finding a home in our town.
So, what next? There is always a little anxiety in such a question, and folks can justly feel a bit of concern over prospective vacancies in downtown with Coughlin Chevrolet heading for Pataskala or empty spots like Anchor Pharmacy selling out to Kroger.
But the history of this area has always been to be out ahead of the curve, anticipating the next big thing before anyone else even knows what it will be. Why would that change now?
What I’ve seen in the last few years is a renewed commitment to investment in community, in the creation of a new community around the framework of the old ways and means, just as the canal built on the pike’s traditions; the interurban supplanted, but ultimately accented the roadways; the interstate drained some businesses of life but pumped new energy into others.
The old model, that every one is still talking about, but may well be played out, is the bedroom community. Many are concerned about Hebron becoming a ghost town from 7 am to 6 pm weekdays as commuters head to Franklin and Delaware Counties, and equally empty on weekends as those same “rootless” folk drive back the same routes for their shopping and even worshiping.
Being ahead of the curve, and where I see our area going, is to pioneer again on the suburban frontier. What I hear people looking for is local community, with florists and coffee shops and auto mechanics and good pizza right at hand. They want to be part of a community where they and their families can belong and feel at home, and spend less time in their cars, not more.
True, the kind of business and church and club they want to participate in and join doesn’t always look exactly the way we’ve been used to, but the homogenous, bland bedroom community isn’t what they want to make of Hebron, either.
They want to order by fax and e-mail, pay by swipe card, and hear music that isn’t even always to my taste (but I’m over 40, so who cares?), but they love our school building in a residential neighborhood, they like even the 60’s shopping plaza ambiance as “sort of retro”, and you should see some of the ideas for across the street at the old Bowman’s.
These families may prefer soccer to baseball (horrors!), but they’ll come and cheer and even help out (hooray!). They may order their DVD rental on-line shipped by UPS from California, but they want to invite a real live neighbor over to watch it with, after grilling meat they bought locally (Spirits?)and that, better yet, may have even been raised locally (Cable Farms?).
Crossroads of Hebron Floral, Sunrise Café, the new Bee Dubs Pizza, the amazingly renovated Clay’s Café with paved parking no less: these are the new community centers. Let’s see who our new neighbors are, and work with them to make the next Hebron, as folks have at these crossroads since 1827.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher; if you have a story to share, e-mail him at