A Proud History
Benjamin Tappan, Jr., was the community’s first permanent resident. Ravenna was founded in 1799, and Tappan named the town after Ravenna, Italy. The community grew and had approximately 1,200 residents by 1846. In that same year, the town also had four churches, ten stores, one private school, and two newspaper offices. Ravenna residents were especially well-known for the high quality of the carriages that were manufactured in the town. During the early nineteenth century, Ravenna was home to Jesse Grant, a tanner, and father of President Ulysses S. Grant.
Ravenna continued to grow during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1880, 3,255 people lived in the town and nearly one-third of the residents were school-aged children. By 1890, the population had increased to 3,417 people. In 1886, Ravenna had two newspaper offices, eight churches, and two banks as well as several manufacturing establishments. Most businesses provided services or products to farmers in the surrounding countryside. The community’s largest employers were the Quaker Mill Company, which produced oatmeal, and the Ravenna Glass Company, which made glass bottles. With access to two railroads, the town also became an important agricultural center and shipped crops across the United States.
During World War II, Ravenna was the site of the Ravenna Arsenal. Workers at the Ravenna Arsenal produced more weapons for the war effort than at any other plant in the United States. More than 14,000 Ohioans found employment here during World War II. The arsenal eventually included 1,371 buildings on 21,418 acres. The complex ceased arms production at the end of World War II and began making fertilizer. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Ravenna Arsenal resumed production of arms under the direction of the Firestone Company. In 1957, the Arsenal ceased munitions production. During the Vietnam War, it was again a munitions production center. Much of the Ravenna Arsenal is now the Ohio National Guard’s Ravenna Training and Logistics Site.
In 2000, Ravenna was the fourth largest community in Portage County, with 11,771 residents. Portage County has experienced a population increase since the 1950s. Numerous Portage County residents commute to Cleveland to work.
Information provided by Ohio History Connection.
Learn more about Downtown Ravenna’s Historic District HERE.