November 2012 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013: Gallipolis
Every year, Ohio Magazine honors five communities across the
state for their livability, as measured by education, parks and
recreation, arts and entertainment offerings, services and, most
important, citizen involvement.
The 2013 Best Hometowns meet and surpass these criteria. In the
following pages, you'll get a glimpse of Findlay, Gallipolis,
Greenville, Grove City and Peninsula — and some of their proud
Gallia County, 50 miles southwest of Marietta
3.8 square miles
Type of government:
City manager and five-member city commission
Bob Hood knows how to knock a visitor’s socks off.
He points his Jeep up the nearly vertical driveway to Fortification Hill
and on toward the sky. It’s where Union artillery once kept watch over
the Ohio River Valley, and where the Gallia County Convention and
Visitors Bureau executive director likes to begin every tour of his
The hilltop picnic area and adjoining Mound Hill Cemetery offer
breathtaking, bird’s-eye views of the Ohio River — with downtown
Gallipolis on one side and pastoral West Virginia farmland on the other.
Massive barges look like bathtub toys as they float gracefully through
the bends in the big river.
“I think it’s the prettiest view in all of Southeast Ohio,” Hood says.
If you’re looking for a laid-back, down-home vibe, you’ll find it in
Gallipolis — but don’t let its clever disguise as a sleepy river town
fool you. Its frontier heritage, culture and entrepreneurial spirit make
The Old French City a rewarding place to live — or to tie up your raft
at the downtown dock for a visit.
Founded by French immigrants in 1790, Gallipolis is the second-oldest
settlement in the Northwest Territory. The French aristocrat and
Revolutionary War hero Gen. Marquis de Lafayette himself visited in 1825
— and, luckily for us, forgot his jacket. Today it’s on display at the
Our House museum along with many fine pieces of early Americana.
The heart of Gallipolis is its sycamore-filled public square, City Park.
Framed on three sides by stately brick homes and storefronts, its
remaining side offers a clear view of the Ohio River. Public access for
boaters is just down the bank from the square. Anglers can find a
fishing tournament there just about every summer weekend.
City Park hosts everything from car shows to the annual River Recreation
Festival, a four-day Fourth of July celebration. This year, the
Gallipolis-based Ohio Valley Symphony — Southeast Ohio’s only
professional orchestra — accompanied the fireworks.
Gallipolis is also the town where an entrepreneurial young farmer named
Bob Evans bought a 12-stool diner in 1948. When customers began asking
for 10-pound tubs of his freshly made sausage to take home, Evans knew
he was on to something. He went whole-hog into the sausage business on
his farm in Rio Grande, just eight miles west of Gallipolis. Today, Bob
Evans is an iconic Ohio business with more than 600 restaurants in 18
Overlooking the farm is the University of Rio Grande, which offers a
liberal arts education on a 160-acre, 2,400-student campus. Among its
strengths are the Holzer School of Nursing and a national-powerhouse
men’s soccer program.
Support for education is strong here. Gallia County Local Schools and
Gallipolis City Schools each are engaged in major building and
renovation programs — made possible by the approval of recent bond
issues by local voters.
Gallipolis Career College is an independent two-year college that
partners with businesses to provide job and career skills. Local
employers include Holzer Medical Center, American Electric Power and
Ohio Valley Electric.
For seven years, Gallipolis has participated in America in Bloom — a
national community-beautification project. Visiting judges score
municipalities in six areas, including floral displays, heritage
preservation and overall impression. In 2011, Gallipolis won first place
in the nation in its population division.
If all this makes Ohio’s Old French City sound like a place where people, ideas and streetscapes blossom, you’re right.