Town and Gown: An Ohio University history

As an historic “college town,” Athens, Ohio, and the university in its midst have had to find ways to collaborate during the past 211 years to ensure both entities thrive. But sometimes, conflict happens. An errant circus. A near riot. An attempted rent increase. These are a few of the disputes that have put town and gown at odds over the years.

Ohio University history started when the Ohio General Assembly passed an act establishing  the college on Feb. 18, 1804. The state granted the land because the city had exceeded 5,000 population  – a requirement before any town could establish a university. The city of Athens became a town in 1801.

“Parents and guardians may rest assured that the morals, as well as the education of youth at this academy, will be particularly and strictly attended to by the principle and trustees,” according to an article in the Ohio Gazette and Virginia Herald on Aug. 11, 1808.


This map shows Ohio University’s preliminary plat in 1800. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection by Levi Whipple.

In 1806, Jacob Lindley, an active trustee, drew a plan for a two-story brick academy building 24 by 30 feet, constructed on the east side of College Green. By 1808, the brick building was completed. This modest building would establish Ohio University as a college, but more work had to be done to ensure the university would be operational.


This sketch shows what the first Academy Building might have looked like. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection.

Ohio University’s financial struggles in the early 1800s

In the beginning, the college had one main channel of financial support: rent. OU’s lands were granted by the state of Ohio. In 1804, 150 families lived on university-owned land.


This map shows how Ohio University looked in 1800 to 1813. The image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection by William E. Peters.

By 1812, the number of students began to increase (from three to 14). A new building was needed. By 1812, Cutler Hall was built for $17, 806.

Cutler Hall and Fence

This photo is a drawing of Cutler Hall. In the center of the building is the bell tower, which was added in 1820. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection.

As the student body and college buildings expanded over the years, so did the amount of debt. By the late 1820s, students paid $5 per semester, which brought in around $1,000 yearly. Annual rents from lands were around $2,700, more than double the revenue from tuition. Operational costs were estimated at $3,850 yearly, around $150 more than what OU was taking in. OU was having some financial issues. Regardless, additions continued to be made …

Town and Gown relations today: rowdy weekends

From city roads to enforcing public safety during large event weekends, the Athens City Council and Ohio University often have to work side-by-side.

Athens Councilwoman Christine Fahl said that in general being a council member in Athens is not that different than being a council person in any other city.

“As a council person you are always balancing your decisions, actions and policies between various players and issues,” she wrote in an email.

Still, demographics do play a role. Fahl explained that the city incurs a lot of extra expenses because of the high student population.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city of Athens has a population of around 23,000. Ohio University has a student body of around 22,000.

“Other towns of similar size are not having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to public safety for overtime due to huge parties for weeks in the spring,” she said.

The parties include bashes such as Palmer Fest. The annual block party is hosted every May and has around 8,000 attendees. Incidents such as the near-riot in 2009, where furniture was set on fire, tasked the Athens City police with working overtime. During the 2015 fest, there were 57 arrests, according to The Post.


This photo shows the police force at Palmer Fest. The photo appeared in an article on The Cleveland Scene in 2012 by Kyle Swenson.

Mike Canterbury, Athens city councilman, said the university and the town often have to come together to work on projects.

Sometimes this cooperation can be difficult when the city and council don’t agree on a project …

Fight over the Green in the mid-1800s

The combination of selling off lands to pay for rising costs and expansion efforts escalated conflict between the town and the college.

On Sept. 16, 1827, OU’s third president, Robert Wilson, recommended to the board of trustees that a fence be built to safeguard what is now called College Green. Wilson believed the dirt from the town was the root of sickness and epidemics that had been affecting the small student body. The fence would keep out the “filth” from the cattle, sheep, and livestock, Wilson argued.

However, there was one major problem: Wilson asked for the removal of College Street to implement this plan. No action was taken. But Wilson was determined to have his fence. On April 15, 1835 — eight years later, Wilson and Rev. Amos Miller attempted to seek a deed from Athens town council relinquishing the Green for the enclosure.

The townspeople appear to have ignored this request.

On June 30, 1835, the circus was in town. Despite Wilson’s warning to keep away from the college campus, a tent was erected in the middle of College Green. This incident led to a lawsuit. Wilson won his case, but he also fueled the already brewing tension between the college and the residents again over the Green, a suit which ended up at the Ohio Supreme Court.

Eventually, a compromise allowed the college to rebuild a fence to cover as much of the area as deemed “necessary” to preserve the sanctity of the college. The fence was built in 1838, 11 years after it was first proposed.


Cutler Hall

This photo is a drawing of Cutler Hall in 1848. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection.

The civil war monument that sits on College Green is a tribute to two battles: the actual Civil War and the one between town and gown. The monument was built by the city, and shows the 94 foot wide strip that used to be considered town commons.


This photo is of the civil war monument. The photo was taken from

Town and gown relations today: Bobcat Lane’s 7-year closure

Bobcat Lane is a road off Richland Avenue running to Baker University Center. The university built the road to improve access to campus for visitors and emergency response vehicles as well as to become a new drop off/pickup site for public transit vehicles, according to Ohio University’s Compass.


This is Bobcat Lane. The photo is from an article in The Athens Messenger. 

The road was constructed in 2008, but it didn’t open until 2015. Athens city officials expressed safety concerns, according to The Athens Messenger. Council members still have those concerns.

Councilman Canterbury said he was concerned that pedestrians wouldn’t look before crossing the road, and the university should help increase public awareness. Councilwoman Michele Papai also was concerned with pedestrians crossing the road but said the situation was difficult because the college wanted it and a written memorandum of understanding between Mayor Paul Wiehl and University President Roderick McDavis that had already been signed years ago.

Attempted rent increase sparks tensions in the 1840s

In 1843, the college tried to resolve its bad financial situation by reappraising its lands. This reappraisal would mean a rent increase for residents living on college land.


This map shows what Ohio University looked like in 1844 to 1910. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection by William E. Peters.

The issue was brought before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1842. Leaseholders argued that their rental agreements were not subject to re-evaluation.

Tensions reportedly rose to the point where Athens townspeople stoned McGuffey in the streets, but there is no proof that this in fact occurred.

In 1843, the court ruled that OU could not reappraise its lands. Furthermore, a limit was imposed on how much rent OU could collect annually. Today, that limit is $4,500 per year.=

Eventually, the college was able to solve its financial problems and the college became a symbol of Athens. During the Hocking Valley Flood in 1873, the townspeople and the university helped rebuild the lands destroyed by the natural disaster.


This photo shows the 1873 flood. The Ridges can be seen in the background. This image was taken from

Athens in the 1900s

During World War II, the city placed more than 2,000 student veterans in homes. After the war, the student population increased to the extent that the college could not provide housing for the influx.

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East Green’s Veteran Housing. This image was taken from Ohio University’s Mahn Center in the Ohio University Archives Collection.

But the main difference between relations in the 1900s is the beginning of active involvement between the city residents and the university in resolving conflicts.

Harry Crewson was OU’s 17th president and prior he was the president of the Athens City Council, elected six times. Crewson was known for resolving conflict between the city and the college.

In September 1971,  OU employees were on strike and near riotous. The mayor of Athens was away at a convention for sister cities in Athens, Greece. Crewson as the acting mayor, had to step in to resolve the conflict.

This recording was used with permission from the Mahn Center Archives oral history tapes by Archivist, Bill Kimok in 1997. The tapes and oral history collection have never been published. Kimok’s article can be found on Ohio University’s Ohio Today. Harry Crewson passed away in 2003.

 Town and gown relations today: memorandums of understanding

“If it weren’t for the university, you wouldn’t have the city,” Councilman Canterbury said.

He talked about the $250,000 pledge that OU gave towards a new fire truck. OU relies on the city’s fire service. The new fire truck will help improve the safety of all residents in Athens.

“Their needs are our needs too,” Canterbury said.


 This image is a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed by Mayor Paul Wiehl and OU President Roderick McDavis. It details the agreement that the college and city work together on accessibility planning for people with disabilities. Taken from Ohio University’s site.

Councilwoman Papai said that in the past 10 years she has seen a lot of improvement in communication between the city and college.

Papai referred to the public meeting in which OU talked about its 2016 Master Plan for expanding the campus.

“In past years it was done in a vacuum,” she explained. The last Master Plan was released in 2006.

Papai also discussed memorandums of understanding between Mayor Wiehl and OU President McDavis. Bobcat Lane and the new fire truck pledge resulted from having memorandums of understanding. Other examples include helping enforce safety procedures for big event weekends like the annual Halloween block party.

“It legitimizes the position by having this agreement,” she said.

All the councilmembers agreed that having the university around provides another source of ideas, and when there is transparency between the two governing bodies (the council and university), the city population as a whole sees the benefit.

OU_VisionOhio_Masterplan_Rendering_550x250 This image shows the 2016 Master Plan. It was taken from OU’s site. 

To trace Ohio University and Athens history, the author used material from Ohio University Mahn Center archives’ building files in addition to two well-known historical books on Ohio University: Betty Hollow’s “Ohio University, 1804-2004: the spirit of a singular place” and Thomas Nathanael Hoover’s “The history of Ohio University.”

The best TV shows of 2015 are pretty underrated

As the semester draws to a close, you might happen to find yourself with some extra free time, especially once finals are over.

And what better way to spend your newfound freedom than binge-watching a few TV shows? Many viewers will turn to mainstream atrocities like The Big Bang Theory or The Voice. Others will turn to popular epic series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, which certainly have their value.

But when it comes down to it, the best TV shows of 2015 are actually quite underrated. You may have heard of them, but it’s likely that you haven’t seen them. So without further ado, here are three great shows on TV this year that you could watch over Winter Break.


Via FX Networks

Fargo is the best kind of spin-off. The premise for the show is loosely based on the 1996 Coen Brothers movie of the same name. The plot of the movie, and each season of the TV show, centers around the people living in the region surrounding Fargo, North Dakota. The show serves as both a dark comedy and a crime drama, rendering it both hilarious and gripping. It’s an anthology series, so each of the two seasons tells a different “true story” from a different year. Despite the fact that each episode begins with the disclaimer “this is a true story,” the series is completely fictional, setting up the comical tone from the get-go.

Both seasons of the show, which are equally excellent, focus on a murder and the chaos and violence that occur as a result of them. I’ve never seen drama and humor combined in such a well-done way that Fargo does. While character development is an intriguing element of the show, the plot, in my opinion, is what makes this show so thrilling to watch. Yet the show is also very deep, and has complex and reoccurring themes that are enjoyable to analyze. If you’re a fan of Coen Brothers films, dark humor, crime shows, or just good television, you’ll enjoy Fargo. I can’t recommend it more.

You can watch Fargo on FX, or for free on FX’s website by logging in with a cable provider.


Via USA Network

Mr. Robot is truly unlike anything else on television. Its first season premiered this year and is, in my opinion, a work of genius. It follows the life of a cyber-security engineer and hacker named Elliot who is, frankly, pretty messed up. As you discover watching the show, Elliot has a form of mental illness that changes his perception of reality. What makes this show so unique is that, just as Elliot’s own mind deceives himself, the show essentially deceives the viewer. We see Elliot’s dark, cruel world from his own depressed and anxious mind.

The plot of the first season focuses on Elliot joining the hacker group fsociety (similar to Anonymous) to try to take down one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp. The show examines the relationships between Elliot and the people in his life: his coworker and childhood friend Angela, a man from fsociety named Mr. Robot, another hacker named Darlene, and a struggling executive at E Corp. There are many excellent twists in the show’s story, which I can’t get into without spoiling. It’s also worth noting that the show’s visuals are stunning and extremely unique. The cinematography is great, but what sets Mr. Robot apart is that almost all of its shots are slightly off center, reflecting Elliot’s mind.

The show’s first season is not only one of the best works of television this year, but I would say of the decade. I’m very much looking forward to its next season in 2016. You can watch every episode of Mr. Robot for free on the USA Network’s website with a cable login, or just on TV.



Master of None takes Aziz Ansari’s life and comedy and turns it into a compelling piece of art. The freedom of streaming services like Netflix have made unique and compelling shows as Master of None possible. The show, created by and starring comedian Aziz Ansari, is about the life of 30-something actor Dev Shah, who is intended to be a reflection of Aziz in his early career. Each episode has a different theme with aptly-named titles, such as “Parents,” which focuses on the relationship between Ansari and his parents, and “Indians on TV,” which looks at the stereotypes and discrimination Indian-American actors face in the television industry. As a whole, however, the story depicts the relationship between Dev and his eventual girlfriend Rachel.

It’s also downright hilarious. I’m a big fan of Aziz’s comedy, so I knew I was going to love this show going into it. His observations about the absurdities of modern life resonates with many, which adds to the show’s appeal. Aziz’s entourage of friends are equally hilarious, which is what you would expect for a good comedy. But what I really love about this show is how it combines it comedy with a such poignant, artistic form of storytelling that can’t be found anywhere else.

You can watch the first season of Master of None on Netflix.


Q&A: Ohio swimmer qualifies for Olympic Trials

When competitive swimmers have the choice of what goggles to swim with, there are Speedo people and TYR people. Tori Bagan, a senior studying education, said she is most definitely a Speedo person.

“I’ve always swam with Speedo goggles, so it’s the only thing I have ever known,” she said. “For some people, the brands are an emotional attachment.”

Bagan finished up her swim career on the Ohio University swim team last year, so this year she is training with the team until she graduates after the Fall Semester. Bagan qualified for the Olympic Trials for a third time and will swim at Omaha in June of 2016. Her specialty is the 100-meter breaststroke with a personal best of 1:11.27.

Court Street Stories sat down with Bagan on how her experience on the team has affected her, and what her plans are for the Olympic trials in June.

Court Street Stories: How has your training and the team’s season been going so far?

Tori Bagan: I still train with the team, and they’re season has been going pretty well. They started in November. It’s great still being able to train with them.

CS: What is the more challenging part of perfecting breaststroke?

TB: Each stroke has its specific challenges, but for breaststroke I really try and work on my walls and underwaters. That’s where you can get the most power and speed. It’s also really important to make sure you’re on top of the water when you break out from your underwaters as well.

CS: What has your experience been like qualifying for the Olympic Trials going on three times now?

TB: The first time when I went in 2008 when I was a freshman in high school was mostly for experience. The second time when I went in 2011 I wasn’t able to compete because I broke my foot. Now this year it’ll be incredible, because I can train for June, be rested and ready. The feeling is unlike any other being there.

CS: What are some goals you have for yourself this season?

TB: Just be the best that I can be. I’d like to go under a 1:10.00, but just trying my best is all I can work for.

CS: Did anybody in your family swim?

TB: I have an older sister two years ahead of me  and she swam at the University of Toledo. We would sometimes compete against each other, but for the most part, we swam different strokes.

CS: Do you pay for your own fastskins (swimsuits) or gear or does somebody sponsor you?

TB: I do not have a sponsor at this time, so I am paying for my own suits and swim gear.

CS: What’s the most you’ve paid for a fastskin?

TB: Fastskins can range from $200 to $600 a suit. You can only wear them a few times because of the material they are made out of. The technology for these suits is developing so quickly, so the pricing fluctuates.

CS: What kind of dry land workouts do you do to help with your training?

TB: I do a ton of dry land. My events are more sprint-oriented, so I do a lot of power workouts. I workout very hard for short periods of time just like in a sprint.

CS: Because this is your last time training with the Ohio team, what will you miss about being with the team?

TB: I will just miss being on the team in general. It’s very different training by yourself without a team behind you. They definitely push me in ways I cannot do. Though being an alumna, I will always be a part of the team. Nothing will change that.  

5 essential cooking apps for college students

Finding time to cook real, tasty food in college can be really difficult. Between heavy course loads and extracurricular activities it is often tempting to resort to fast food which can be unhealthy and expensive. Fortunately, there are tons of apps that help students embrace their inner chefs. Here is the best of the best.

  1. BigOven – This app has a recipe for literally anything you could be hungry for, with over 350,000 recipes. It also includes a menu planner, grocery list, and a place to save your favorite tried recipes. The recipes are divided by season, holiday, course, diet etc. making it super easy to find exactly what you are looking for. As an added bonus, this one is completely free.

    2. Allrecipes Dinner Spinner – One cool thing about this app is that it lets you know which ingredients are on sale in stores near you. It also makes it even easier to learn new recipes, because there is over 1000 step-by-step videos. You can search for specific recipes, but you can also utilize the “Dinner Spinner” when you are looking for something more out there. You give your phone a shake and it chooses a dish type, an ingredient and a cooking time, then gives you matching recipes. This app is also free.



Graphic by Erik Zitzermann

3.  Epicurious – Epicurious is well-known as one of the best cooking resources out there and their app is no different. The app generates grocery lists ans has a seasonal section to help with healthier and more local cooking. Epicurious pulls recipes from a lot of different websites so there are over 100,000 recipes. Plus every recipe is rated by other users on a four fork and “would cook again” scale, so you know when you’ve found a good one.

Photo from iTunes App Store

4. Yummly – Yummly has tons of search filters so you do not waste any time weeding out ones that do not fit your needs. This app is a great curator, it pulls recipes from Allrecipes, Epicurious, Food52 and popular food blogs. It also has an ingredient scanner, so if you find a cool new ingredient on sale, but do not know what to cook with it, you can scan the item and it will suggest recipes.


5. Kitchen Stories – This app adds new recipes every week and each episode comes with HQ pictures, how-to videos, step-by-step instructions, downloadable grocery lists and even a list of wine pairings for the 21+ crowd. As always, the app is free!  Kitchen-Stories-App-658x370-f40d900bd417ad86

5 non-perishable foods for busy college students

As a college student who takes 16 credit hours, is the Editor-in-Chief of a campus publication, a blogs editor for another campus publication, an editorial intern for a local newspaper and finally, a supervisor at a local fast-food restaurant who works anywhere from 20 to 30 plus hours a week, I don’t have a lot of time for anything in between all of that. This means that I’m typically eating on the go, which also means that any sort of produce that I may have will spoil before I can sit down and eat it.

Bananas for example. Bananas! I’m not a huge banana fan but they’re a great and quick source of potassium, especially for someone on-the-go like me. My only problem with bananas is that I don’t want to eat them for every meal, and so when I put off eating them, eventually they go bad.

An even better example of something that will spoil before I can finish it is milk. For the first month of living on my own this semester, any carton of milk I would buy, even the smaller ones, would spoil before I could use it all. So I’ve stopped buying milk.

So what’s a busy college student to do? Resort to non-perishables, that’s what! But what kind of foods are good for a balanced diet?

Maintaining a balanced diet while only eating non-perishables is difficult, but I think I’ve finally figured out a good system. So, without further ado, here are five non-perishable foods in no particular order that give you variety as well as nutrition while you try to survive your busy college lifestyle.

1. Ramen
Yeah, you expected this, didn’t you? Well it’s not exactly healthy to eat a lot of ramen, it’s cheap and not incredibly god-awful for you. You’ll never have to worry about a sodium deficiency!
In all honestly, though, keeping ramen around is a smart move. Make sure your spice collection has a little variety in it, that way you can add some different flavors to your ramen from time to time (hint: cayenne powder is amazing if you like your food spicy).

Also try adding veggies when you have them! That will give your ramen some nutritional value.

2. Instant Rice
It’s essential that you load up on instant rice packages, especially when they cost a dollar or less! Rice will satisfy your hunger and fill you up so fast that you won’t need to eat for a while (unless you have the munchies).

You can find a lot of variety in these cheap suckers. I suggest trying Knorr’s Fiesta Sides.

3. Canned Food
Well it can’t get any broader than this, can it? Whether you’re in love with Campbell’s tomato soup or enjoy eating a lot of corn, canned food is the way to go. You can stock up on the canned veggies and fruits that will add some nutrition to your diet but also enjoy treats such as Chef Boyardee ravioli!

4. Instant Oatmeal
This might not satisfy the taste buds of some picky eaters, but it’s worth a shot. You can find a lot oatmeal with dried fruits already in the mix that will add some flavor to it, such as Quaker Instant Oatmeal.

5. Potatoes
Even though potatoes are technically perishables, they last a really long time. It often depends on the temperature and area where they are stored, but potatoes can last up to three months if kept in cooler, darker areas.

The Union Bar holds a cherished history

A Saturday night in the beloved city of Athens is one of a kind. Whether it be spent with friends at your favorite bar, at the historic Athena, or with a Whitzer in hand, nightlife in Athens draws people together.

But for many, it is The Union Bar and Grille that sets nightlife in Athens apart from the rest – the wooden interior and the resulting aroma, the beloved history of the building itself, the eclectic collection of townies and hipsters resembling townies, and the sense of closeness and acceptance exchanged between bar regulars. It is these things and many, many more that have shaped The Union into what has grown to be so cherished in the hearts of the Athens community.

On November 16th, 2014, news broke of the devastating fire that destroyed several buildings along Union Street at 4 a.m. the day, including the beloved Union Bar and Grill. The Union reached out to the Athens community regarding the news via Facebook.

To the Union extended family, I’m sad to report that early this morning a fire started on our block of Union Street. Though firefighters made heroic efforts to contain the blaze, it quickly spread down the street to us. I currently don’t know the full extent of the damage but it is very extensive. Thankfully no one was injured, but The Union as we knew it is no more. I truly appreciate all the offers of help and warm sentiments. The Union was a second home to so many of us (including myself), it makes my heart ache. As I know more I will try to keep this page updated. Hopefully the place will have a good phoenix story coming soon.

In March of 2015, Athens City council members made the decision to declare the buildings destroyed in the fire a “historic district”.

The charm of the Union Bar and Grille can be attributed to its cherished and diverse history. The building itself has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest buildings destroyed in the fire. According to Athens News, the building was purchased in 1945 by the father of The Union’s previous, the Couladis brothers. Before Mr. Couladis purchased the building, it was home to a variety of businesses, includingThe Elk Hotel and a bar/restaurant called The Hot Dog.

In 1924, according to Athens Messenger, it was converted into a residence hall for Ohio University students. Eric Gunn, current owner of The Union Bar and Grill told Athens Messenger, “Around the 1960s, upstairs became what it is now. Downstairs has pretty much stayed the same up until the remodel in 2008.”

To current residents of Athens, The Union Bar and Grille was known for its music scene. Over the years, The Union has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including The White Stripes and The Black Keys, according to The Athens News. But what sets The Union apart is its loyalty to local musicians. Blond, a “reverb rock” band based in Athens, was the last band to play at The Union before the November 16th fire, according to The Union’s Facebook page.

As far as the rebuilding of the Union, progress has been slow. Several local news affiliates believed the rebuilding process to have been completed by the end of summer 2015, but a portion of W. Union remains blocked off.

What are you favorite memories of The Union Bar and Grill? Let us know!

Maya Lin and OU’s Bicentennial Park

Many remarkable people have passed through the small town of Athens. Perhaps one of the greatest is artist and architect Maya Lin. Lin, whose parents were professors at Ohio University, was born and raised in Athens. Lin became a household name when she won the contest to design the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. when she was still an undergraduate student at Yale.

She has gone on to create many stunning pieces of art and other beautiful memorials. But Lin didn’t forget her Athens roots. In 2004, the university’s bicentennial year, Lin designed an earthwork installation called “Input” for Bicentennial Park, which is located directly in front of Walter Hall on West Green. The installation consists of 21 rectangles, some are raised and some sink into the ground. The shapes resemble early computer punch cards that were used in programming courses. While she was in high school, Lin took a basic computer programming course at OU, which inspired her design.

Lin said, “Hopefully, it will touch anyone who has spent much time in Ohio University or Athens. I wanted to draw a map of memories.”


Students walking by may notice the inscriptions on many of the rectangles in the piece. Lin worked with her poet brother, Tan Lin, to create a “landscape of words” in order to show “their shared memories of Athens and Ohio University.” The words cause many to pause and reflect on their own experiences of their time at OU. There are also plaques in the grass along the sidewalk that leads to Walter Hall that display the name of previous university presidents, and current president Roderick McDavis, as well as other remarkable previous OU faculty members.

Nowadays, Bicentennial Park is often used to host tailgates before home football games. Students sit among the depressed parts of the “Input” installation eating, drinking and talking with friends. Even more than a decade after its dedication, the outdoor art space still brings students, faculty and the people of Athens together.

Featured image and the image in the text came from Ohio University’s website.

7 sustainable Christmas gifts

Christmas should be fun … but it should be fun for our wallets and our planet, too.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste in the U.S. increases more than 25%. This waste consists of uneaten food, shopping bags, packaging, bows, ribbons, and wrapping paper. Not to mention all the trees that we kill to sustain our holiday cheer. But the waste doesn’t stop after New Year’s: our overwhelming consumption of goods during the holidays results in throwing out perfectly good household products and clothes throughout the rest of the year.

So here are seven gifts you can give this Christmas to have a great time and still feel good about yourself:

1.) Buy a living Christmas tree

If you want the look, feel, and smell of a real Christmas tree, then try out a potted, living tree! You can dress it up so it looks just as regal as a traditional, dead tree. Enjoy it in you living room now: plant it and enjoy it in your yard later…

book tree
Photo by Greg Rutty

2.) Make your own “Funky Tree”!

A funky tree is a tree that anyone can make on a low budget just by putting together things you find around the house … like books or egg cartons!

When you use items that would have been thrown out or recycled and make something functional out of them, it’s called Upcycling. It’s the even-better alternative to recycling because by using the objects in their current form (like, say, making a Christmas tree out of egg cartons or plastic tubing) you save the fossil fuels it would have required to convert the objects back into raw materials again. Check out this funky, up cycled tree to the left.

shrek hat

3.) Knit Mom a hat!

What better way to thank the woman who birthed and reared you than to knit her a cute little hat to keep her head warm this Christmas?

The only person who would appreciate a handmade hat as much as your own mom is the mom of a cute little kid if you make him/her one of these children’s Shrek hats!



4.) Give that smelly friend some eco-friendly soap.

Maybe that guy who sits next to you in Psych 101 is just allergic to the harsh chemicals and parabens in most commercial soaps. This holiday season give the gift of hygiene that’s gentle on the skin and the planet. Mountain Laurel Gifts on Court Street is selling Space Cadet soap bars for $6. They feature unique scent-combos like “lavender, rosemary, chamomile,” and “peppermint, orange.” And this local Athens business isn’t messing. Check out the ingredients label on Space Cadet Soaps: nothin’ but nature’s goodness!



5.) Purchase some eco-friendly salve that saves homeless puppies.

Appalachian Earth Sisters makes hand-crafted, organic salve (it’s a natural version of Vaseline) out of organic extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax. They are a “full nonprofit”: all proceeds from the salve sold in Athens, OH goes to Athens County Humane Society to house and care for stray dogs and cats. You can find Appalachian Earth Sisters salve at Import House and Mountain Laurel Gifts on Court Street.


IMG_02446.) Paste together a collage.

Pull together some pictures, print them out at Minutemen Press on West Washington, and paste them in a crazy pattern with glue and pasteboard from College Bookstore on Court Street.

To the left is a collage I put together for my Dad one Christmas. Feel free to cut some photos out in rectangles, and cut others on the outline of the subject of the photo — this way you’ll make certain photos pop.



7.) Give the gift of a warm home by rescuing a stray cat or dog!



If you or someone you know is in the position to take care of an animal long-term, then go through Athens County Humane Society to rescue a little buddy to curl up by the fire with. And remember, don’t buy an animal through Petland or other businesses that buy from abusive puppy mills. Adopt your friend through your local shelter or humane society.


 And one last tip: wrap your gift with newspaper instead of wrapping paper!

Wrapping paper is so early 2000s. Impress all your friends with this creative alternative. Re-use paper such as newspaper and customize the content of the newspaper to your friend!





7 gifts you can buy Mom at Import House

When you think of the Import House on 68 N. Court St, “Mom” is not the first person who comes to mind. But with Christmas approaching, the countdown for finding Mom the perfect gift is in full swing. Intricate tobacco and hookah pipes, glass-blown bongs and wild tapestries don’t exactly scream “Mom.” Lucky for you, this local emporium is not limited to these options. Walk inside and you will be overwhelmed by a plethora of local and often fair trade merchandise that your mom will be delighted to unwrap on Christmas.

Here are seven gifts you can buy for your mom this Christmas:

1) Silk-woven Scarves: $32

Import- Scarve

2) Wild Berry incense sticks and cones: 10 for $2

Import- Inscents

3) Stress-relieving coloring books: $10-$20

Import- Color

4) Athens’ own Herbal Sage Tea Company loose leaf tea: $9

Import- Tea

5) Seeking Balance candles: $15


6) Powers Family Farm soap: $7

Import- Soap

7) The fanny pack: $10-$20

Import- Fanny

There you have it folks, Christmas gifts for your mom are made possible thanks to Import House.

Where is OU’s Bobkitten?

Source: OU Archives
Bobkitten and Bobcat

Did you know that the Ohio University mascot, Bobcat, had a wife called Bobkitten? Documents from Ohio University’s archives reveal that, the issue surrounding Bobcat and Bobkitten  is one of “the most highly guarded secrets.”

A Howard Hall senior, Fran Femia was the Bobkitten. Unfortunately, their ‘marriage’ was put asunder after two years by university officials, who said that character was not approved. Femia was disappointed and tried to give reasons why she should be allowed to continue alongside Mr. Bobcat because she had been in existence for at least 24 months. Moreover, Dad’s Weekend was approaching, and it was one of occasions she ceased  to entertain parents and guests. But that chance was taken away by the powers that be.

Their marriage, appeared to be a fruitful one as she even appeared with her husband, Mr. Bobcat on a New York show called “The World of Cats.” But Bobkitten was not needed in the world of cats by Ohio University authorities. Her end was near. The destruction of the kitten character succeeded when the all female Howard Hall was demolished in 1972. The Chi Omega sisters took on the dress back then but little is known of it now.

Photo Credit: Ohio University Archives