It’s official – Bridge Street Ashtabula has won this year’s America’s Main Streets Contest! For the northeastern Ohio community of Ashtabula, the title represents a sweet victory. Last year, Bridge Street Ashtabula earned recognition as a semifinalist but couldn’t clinch the coveted title. This year, the community rallied around its downtown organization to claim the top spot, just as the community has rallied around its historic port to revitalize and restore Ashtabula to its former glory.
Ashtabula, Ohio, is located in the northeast corner of the Buckeye State, on the shores of Lake Erie. Like many Great Lakes communities, the town of Ashtabula has long centered around its waterfront property – and, in particular, its historic lift bridge. During the 20th century, Ashtabula maintained the busiest port on the Great Lakes, connecting the steel operations in Youngstown, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the rest of the world. Adjacent to the port, the Ashtabula Lift Bridge spanned the Ashtabula River, allowing vehicles to travel through the city while preserving access to the port for large barges and vessels.
As the steel industry declined into the 21st century, the community of Ashtabula risked losing its luster. Fortunately, the community rallied around its history. In 2008, the Lift Bridge Community Association came together to bolster economic activity around Ashtabula’s waterfront area. The association established annual traditions, including wine festivals and art festivals. At the same time, the association worked to preserve and revitalize Ashtabula’s historic port and lift bridge. Today, Bridge Street Ashtabula keeps the place buzzing, and the bridge that started it all is recognized as one of only two such bridges remaining in service in the state.
In hosting the America’s Main Streets Contest, Independent We Stand is proud to honor communities like Ashtabula and the work they do to stay relevant.
“The America’s Main Streets Contest highlights communities preserve and support their downtown districts. Bridge Street Ashtabula has earned this victory by recognizing what makes its community special and working tirelessly to keep it that way,” says Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “The fact that online voters landed Bridge Street Ashtabula in the top 10 last year and in the top spot this year perfectly demonstrates the profound impact that hardworking Main Street groups can have on their communities.”
Each year, the America’s Main Streets Contest honors a deserving community. Previously, Downtown Lynden took home the title after helping its Washington community rebuild an iconic downtown building after a devastating fire. MainStreet DeLand pioneered the Main Street movement, earning its Florida community the first Main Street program designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As this year’s honoree, Bridge Street Ashtabula is in good company.
For its win, Bridge Street Ashtabula will take home $25,000 cash and additional sponsor-supported prizes aimed at helping the community continue its work. Those additional prizes include a $1,000 STIHL outdoor power equipment certificate, a $500 Do it Best Corp. shopping spree, a $500 PPG Paints® shopping spree and recognition through public relations and social media promotion.
Learn more about Bridge Street Ashtabula and the America’s Main Streets Contest at www.mainstreetcontest.com.
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