Ariel-Foundation Park is a fascinating 250-acre park in Mount Vernon, Ohio, that blends industrial ruins with reflecting ponds and landscaped terraces. It makes for a wondrous walk through an eclectic scene of beauty and art mixed with a working town’s history and its ruins dating back to the industrial revolution.
This was formerly the site of the Pittsburg Plate Glass (PPG) manufacturing plant. The complex was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Now, it’s a wonder of Ohio, and it’s free to roam daily from April to November.
The Ruins include the 1900 Coxey Building, an adjoining clay storage building, the 1945 carpenter shop, the 1951 smokestack, an event center, three stair/elevator towers, and the clock house. The PPG ruins spread across a vast grassland of rolling hills so visitors may appreciate the large-scale glassworks operation of Yesteryear. Its preservation and enhancements together pay homage to the town’s industrial legacy.
These ruins are an Americana complex of preserved and modified structures. Among them are the vestiges of the late 19th century Coxey Building pylons. A plaque, plenty describes the sites, and claims that historians report that the structural steel that sat atop the brick pylons was salvaged from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. That repurposed steel found re-use once again over 125 years later. This time, it was used to create sculptures within Ariel-Foundation Park.
There are stunning landforms that surround visitors at Ariel-Foundation Park. They are reminiscent of the ancient burial mound-building traditions of the Adena and Hopewell cultures, who once populated the ancient Central Ohio landscape. That said, the purpose of these terraced mounds is to create sweeping vistas that invite visitors to enjoy an assent to their summits.
Another plaque on-site explains that the contemporary inspiration for The Terraces in the park comes from the work of American landscape architect Charles Jencks. His works are located principally in the British Isles and are monumental in scale, measuring 1,200 feet wide by 100 feet tall with miles of walkways. Ridge trusses salvaged in 1893 from the World’s Columbian Exhibition and in 2013 from the Coxey Building stand guard in a canyon formed by the terraces. Climb to the summit of the park’s highest terrace to experience a dramatic view of the reflecting pools, ruins, terraces, and sculptures crafted of steel salvaged from the historic PPG Glassworks.
No doubt, the most interesting and captivating feature of the park is its surviving 280 feet high chimney. It served PPG from 1951 to the time of the plant’s shuttering in 1976. It was constructed of reinforced concrete by the slip form method. To preserve it as part of The Ruins, it was transformed into an observation tower. The tower is free to climb its 224 steps to the observation deck at 140 feet high. But the tower stands 280 feet high. It’s all open grate, so every step is like climbing the sky. At the top, the view is breathtaking…in more ways than one. This historic chimney is the highest structure in Knox County, Ohio.
Meander every nook and cranny of the park’s ruins and beyond. There are so many angles of view that create “wow” after “wow.” After venturing through the labyrinth of ruins and climbing the vantage points at each end for vast views, cut through the tree line and find hiking trails, lakes, and even a little island to wander, paddle, and picnic. The park also offers pavilions for groups and plenty of grassy areas for Frisbee tossing and kite flying.
Learn more about this fascinating newer Ohio park at https://www.arielfoundationpark.org/.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun