Day Tipping in Tipp City

Tipp-CityTipp City, Ohio
Tippecanoe

Day-Tipping! That’s right, without the “R” although you’ll find plenty of R&R in Tipp City.

Ohio is littered with old canal towns selling the past but old Tippecanoe, now Tipp City, is as vibrant as ever. Whereas most canal towns were killed by the railroads, Tippecanoe City kept on rolling. And when railroads succumbed to superhighways, Tipp City found itself at America’s crossroads when concrete was poured a mere six miles away for I-75 and I-70.

Today, downtown Tipp City is bustling with foot traffic around shops of all sorts. A typical hotel sign may read “No Vacancies” but that may well apply to the storefronts stretching from the railroad to the old canal lock. In between tells the story, past and present, from Tippecanoe to Tipp City.

The town’s original name, Tippecanoe, was to honor President William Henry Harrison by using part of his presidential slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” The word City was added a few years later albeit unofficially. But in the 1930’s, the post office all too often mixed mail delivery between Tippecanoe City and an unincorporated village in eastern Ohio named Tippecanoe, which had its own zip code and post office as well. Driven by businessmen at the time, the post office shortened Tippecanoe City’s name to simply Tipp City.

Under any name, the town’s founder, John Clark, laid construction plans that would stand the test of time. He required its original buildings be erected in brick, not log, which was the trend for upstarts in 1840. Since its founding in 1841, there are 89 buildings listed on the National Registry of Historic Places today. An exception to the brick rule was the Tipp Roller Mill built in 1839 out of red stained wood but it too survived and remains at the foot of the original Tipp Canal Lock.  The architectural legacy is diligently preserved by restoration and regulation to maintain the integrity of the charming small town where visitors today outnumber its 6,500 residents.

As the community evolved, so too did its architectural styles. The old hotel has a Late Federal influence. The Opera House features Romanesque architecture. Other styles include Jacobean, High Victorian period, Second Empire and Beau Art. The back stories of all the restored facades are detailed at The Tippecanoe Monroe-Bethel Historical Museum. The attention to architectural details around town make it no surprise that Free Masons had a prominent hand in this communities rise.

Every restaurant and shop has a unique setting and artistry that compliments the town’s past but also transcends it.

As any traveler can attest, a town’s health is often determined by the quality and variety of its restaurants. Tipp City is a foodie haven! Whether you seek an old-fashioned mom and pop diner or uptown cuisine, Tipp City is home no matter what your taste buds. You can dine on sidewalks or inside the gigantic vault of an old bank turned restaurant. If you want an after dinner drink or cup of coffee, Tipp City has that covered too. The ambience of old brick buildings, inside and out, coupled with ornate woodwork offer that quaint nook with just the right lighting.

But eating is just what you do between strolling from one charming old building to another for eclectic shopping pursuits. Venture into the old hotel or former opera house buildings and places with names like “Buggy Whip” and find anything from the Tin Peddler to a wood carver or pottery shop. A two-story fabric store, toy store, bookstore and cyclery illustrate the breadth of offerings. But the art and antique shops are top-notch. You walk their floors like you would a museum. And it’s not just what’s on display that captures attention and imagination; the interiors of these buildings are picturesque. Their design accentuates the historic character of worn and polished woodwork, masonry and more.

When you have come to the end of the better part of a day, shopping and dining, you come to the edge of town where recreation begins.

Once you turn the corner of the weathered Tipp Roller Mill, last in the line of bygone buildings, you see the reason this town came to be – the historic Miami and Erie Canal Lock 15. It’s like peering into a lost era of wanderlust. It’s probably at that point you realize you’re either coming back to Tipp City or spending the night. There’s just not enough time to absorb it all at a relaxed pace. Besides, an afternoon can be lost on walking, bicycling or jogging along miles of the paved Great Miami River Recreational Trail. There are even seven golf courses within 10 minutes of downtown.

Dating back to the rough and tumble entertainment of its canal port town roots; Tipp City still knows how to throw a party and entertain with special events. Every summer a free blues concert is hosted at Tipp City Canal Lock Park. But that’s just for starters. Music in the park, dinner theatre and other productions are offered throughout the year by Tipp City Players Community Theatre. September is when the town puts on one of its biggest productions – The Mum Festival. Yes, “Mums” the word for tens of thousands of visitors to kick off every autumn season. Still, that secret got out more than 30 years ago. The event features all your Americana fest favorites from a parade that is often televised to bands, antique car show and 10K Run for the Mums. There’s even a Mum Queen reigning over everything from the entertainment to the games, live entertainment, arts and crafts, refreshments and more.

But the true go-between connecting the historic town’s heritage to its present entertainment comes from the Tippecanoe Canal Jumpers. This vintage baseball team hosts games in Tipp City and also travels to play other teams reflecting everything 19th Century down to the circa 1860 uniforms.

And that brings us home.

If you want to go “Day Tipping,” plan your trip at www.visitmiamicounty.org or call 1-800-348-8993.

Excerpt from past edition of OhioTraveler by Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler