“How about going to Roscoe Village?,” Nails suggested en route to St. Andrew’s. Thinking about his winning idea, it was a challenge to concentrate on Fr. Watson’s homily.
The restored 1830s Ohio-Erie Canal town of Roscoe Village has been one of our favorite Ohio destinations for over 40 years. During Sunday drives with my grandparents, we routinely ate lunch in the Old Warehouse Restaurant, explored the restored historic buildings and gardens, took rides on the canal boat, and even stayed overnight in the former Roscoe Village Inn after one Christmas candlelighting.
It had been over six years since our last visit to Roscoe Village, so we began our tour at the Visitor’s Center. Feeling right at home in a room reminiscent of Sweet Briar’s Elston Inn, with window seats overlooking a garden and a basket of the Kenilworth ivy that grows between the sandstones in the village, we watched a video telling the story of Edward and Frances Montgomery, the founders of Roscoe Village. During the Depression, the Montgomerys founded the Edmont Company in Coshocton, where Mr. Montgomery developed a revolutionary method for treating cotton flannel industrial gloves with latex. In the early 1960s, as Mr. Montgomery was planning his retirement, the couple began restoring Roscoe Village to its earlier splendor.
I’ve always been fond of the restored living history buildings at Roscoe Village in which a blacksmith, a weaver, a cooper, and a broom maker work. My favorite artisan shop is the River Ridge Leather Company, owned by Dennis Knight. I first met Dennis during childhood visits to his leatherworking shop at the Ohio Village, but I got to know him and his family when I worked at the Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library.
Trained in Colonial Williamsburg as an apprentice saddle and harness maker, Dennis drives from his Upper Arlington home to his Roscoe Village shop, where he makes an impressive array of leather products by hand. You can purchase a notebook case like the one he made for Governor Kasich; if you need to carry more papers to and from the office, you can select from handsome briefcases, shoulder bags, and valises and portmanteaus. If you need a new leather belt, Dennis can help you select an attractive one from varying widths. For horse-riders and cowboys, Dennis offers custom holsters, saddles and other equestrian-related items. Motorcyclists who were visiting Roscoe Village yesterday purchased some tooled leather wristbands. Yesterday, my mother selected a Scottie dog ornament modeled after the Knights’ pair of Scotties. I’m partial to the sleigh bells like those that Dennis gave us when he and his family came over to talk about Dresden, Germany before they left for a six-week stint operating a booth at the city’s famous Striezelmarkt a few Decembers ago.
We had a great time catching up with Dennis, seeing his pictures from Dresden and hearing about his daughter’s recent wedding, for which he made some neat coasters imprinted with the couple’s names, an image of a shell, and their wedding date.
Before we left, Dennis remarked that after 40 years as an historic craftsman, this is the first time he’s worked in an actual historic building. Dating from 1847, the building located at 355 N. Whitewoman St. was bought in 1849 by James LeRetilley, who opened a general store and was the first postmaster in Caldersburgh in 1825-1826, shipped grain from a warehouse that he and a business partner built after the canal opened, and later became an associate judge for Coshocton County. The building was also the location of Roscoe’s last post office, which closed in 1961.
It turns out that 355 N. Whitewoman St. has been featured in several family pictures, like one showing my dad and me heading next door to Captain Nye’s Sweet Shop in 1971, and gingerly navigating the steps outside the building in 1974. I posed for our 1973 Christmas card on the sandstone steps in front of the building. I also remember playing with some tiny kittens on those steps during another visit.
Before we left Roscoe Village on Sunday, my dad bought some Door County coffee, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin fudge at the Roscoe General Store, and my mom selected some bittersweet at the Liberty House. Next time we visit, I’d like to stop by Strads Attic, a luthier shop where instruments in the violin family are made, restored and repaired, and buy a handmade broom at the Village Crafter’s Shop.