In the early days of Ohio statehood, one of the primary missions of the state government was to sponsor the development of transportation systems, such as roads and canals, throughout the state. One of the early highways in Ohio was the Columbus and Sandusky Turnpike, created via legislation of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio in 1826. The road followed a route that is roughly the same as routes 4 and 23 today.
James Kilbourne, Ohio Pioneer, surveyed and laid out the several towns and one hundred miles of roadway for the Columbus and Sandusky Turnpike. It took almost eight years to construct the 106 mile long roadway, which consisted primarily of wood planks or logs laid cross-wise directly on the ground (commonly called a "corduroy road"). Henry Howe stated that for many years the Columbus and Sandusky Pike was “the great thoroughfare of the State from the river to the lakes.” It is believed that Charles Dickens travelled along this road in his travels through America, described in his book, American Notes. (He was not very pleased with this corduroy road however: "The very slightest of the jolts with which this ponderous carriage fell from log to log, was enough, it seemed, to have dislocated all the bones in the human body.")
In Seneca County the Columbus and Sandusky Pike was the main route for the Underground Railroad. Many runaway slaves were hidden in the Omar Tavern until nightfall, when they were transported to the Seven Mile House in Erie County.
In Erie County the Pike was also known as Hayes Avenue. Charles Frohman tells us in Sandusky's Third Dimension that “upon no road in the city was there more travel.” Many businesses, churches, and hospitals were located on Hayes Avenue. The Schweinfurth Brothers grocery store is an example of business along the Pike in Sandusky. The store was on the southwest corner of Hayes Avenue and West Park Street, from about 1898 to 1923.
By 1873 conditions on the Columbus and Sandusky Pike had deteriorated. (Although the road had many critics, other than Dickens, from its early days -- some believed the road was constructed shoddily, using inadequate materials.) It was hazardous to drive on the road at night because of the dangerously deep ditches. When it rained the road was referred to as the “mud pike.” Eventually the portion of the Columbus and Sandusky Pike in the city of Sandusky was transferred to the city, so necessary improvements could be made.
To learn more about life in early Sandusky, visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library where you will find many books, files, newspapers and other resources about local history.