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Athens, Ohio

Athens is a small city and the county seat of Athens County in southeastern Ohio. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 21,342.

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History The first permanent European settlers arrived in Athens in 1797. In 1800, the townsite was first surveyed and platted, but was not incorporated as a village until 1811. In the meantime, Ohio became a state in 1803, and Ohio University was chartered in 1804. Previously part of Washington County, Ohio, Athens County was formed in 1805.

Athens did not receive city status until 1912 (in Ohio, 5,000 permanent residents are required to receive city status).

Originally, large tracts of land -- Athens and Alexander Townships -- were set aside under the ownership of Ohio University. At first, lands were mostly leased out, but the failure of many lessors to pay their rents resulted in most of the land being sold. The sale of these lands funded the growth of Ohio University. Today it is one of the larger institutions of higher learning in Ohio, with an enrollment of about 20,000.

The earliest industry in the area was salt production, followed by iron production and coal extraction. Today, the largest employer in the county is Ohio University.

In 1843, the Hocking Canal opened, enabling shipping from the Ohio River up the Hocking River, which passes through Athens, to Nelsonville, Ohio, and points beyond. However, the canal was closed during cold winters when it froze over. The first railroad reached Athens in 1857. In the late 1800s, an interurban line opened between Athens and Nelsonville and operated for some years.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, later the Ohio State Hospital, opened in 1874. This was located on high ground to the south of town and to the south of the Hocking River, and in the late 1800s was the town's largest employer.

Starting in 1969, the Hocking River was partly relocated and partly channelized for a stretch of several miles around the town, moving the river hundreds of feet to the south so that the floodplain, formerly south of the river, was now north of the river and since has been extensively built on by Ohio University. Much of these floodplains was originally agricultural land for the state hospital, but also included park-like areas open to the public. There was an outstanding virgin grove of sycamores near the present Richland Avenue bridge that was destroyed by a tornado in the late 1800s.

The old state hospital was eventually decommissioned and the property given to Ohio University. It is now known as The Ridges. Much of the building space has been renovated for offices and research space, and most of the grounds has been set aside as open space, including a land lab.

The only battle ever to take place in Athens occurred in 1904 when both the U.S. Army and the Ohio National Guard were conducting training exercises at the same time at the city. When some guardsmen became drunk and caused a disturbance, they were arrested by Army MPs. The ensuing quarrel escalated into a battle on Washington Street, during which one guardsman was killed and several combatants were wounded.

Geography Athens is located in the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau[?]. The county extends west from the Ohio River.

Athens is located mostly on and around a south-jutting ridge bordered by a loop in the Hocking River. The underlying geology is mostly sandstone and shale, including "redbed" shale that presents a severe slip hazard when structures are built over it on hillsides.

The city receives all its water supply from wells in unconsolidated river aquifers, and is reputed to be the largest city in the United States to do so.

Strouds Run State Park is located just outside the city, bordering the city line. This park features 2,606 acres of wooded hills, including many bluffs[?] and rock shelters, centered around a man-made lake. Camping is available.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.6 km² (8.3 mi²). 21.6 km² (8.3 mi²) of it is land and none of the area is covered with water.

Economy Ohio University is now the largest employer in Athens County. McBee, a producer of business forms and related materials, is also a significant employer. Coal was once a huge source of employment in the county, but is now a very minor source, as the best and most available coal has been extracted. In 2002, a Wal-Mart opened in Athens amid substantial opposition.

Athens is known for its local food economy, featuring a significant amount of organic produce, sold largely through a farmer's market.

Demographics Athens is a university town, with a population slightly over 21,000, of which most are university students. The total permanent population is just over 6,100.

As of the census of 2000, there are 21,342 people, 6,271 households, and 1,906 families residing in the city. The population density is 988.0/km² (2,560.4/mi²). There are 6,715 housing units at an average density of 310.9/km² (805.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 89.16% White, 3.82% African American, 0.15% Native American, 4.47% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.74% from two or more races. 1.41% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 6,271 households out of which 12.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.9% are married couples living together, 5.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 69.6% are non-families. 34.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.25 and the average family size is 2.72.

In the city the population is spread out with 6.7% under the age of 18, 66.7% from 18 to 24, 13.7% from 25 to 44, 8.0% from 45 to 64, and 4.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 22 years. For every 100 females there are 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $17,122, and the median income for a family is $53,391. Males have a median income of $35,849 versus $28,866 for females. The per capita income for the city is $11,061. 51.9% of the population and 14.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.1% are under the age of 18 and 7.2% are 65 or older.



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