Wooster Digital History Project creates food history walking tour

Katie Harvey

Senior Features Writer

There’s no doubt that the town of Wooster has a rich local food scene, from favorites like Spoon Market & Deli and Broken Rocks to gems like Local Roots Market and Café and Olde Jaol. To highlight this, the Wooster Digital History Project (WDHP), The College of Wooster history department’s annual summer internship, took to downtown Wooster to make this food history accessible to all.

Spending much of the summer in Wooster, the WDHP student team, including Sofia Biegelseisen ’21, Kate Padavick ’19, Abigail Blinka ’19 and Spencer O’Keefe ’19 engaged with the community by researching and interviewing members of the town about local eats.

The city of Wooster prides itself in its history of agriculture, meat and dairy production. According to Padavick, per request of community members, the WDHP “found eight physical eateries in downtown Wooster and used them to highlight a specific part of Wooster’s local food history.”

The final project, which is available online and on the Clio mobile application, walks participants around downtown Wooster, explaining importance of the architectural, agricultural and communal history of the space. Complete with historical analyses, photos, maps, interviews with local eatery owners and more, each stop on the walking tour is a comprehensive investigation of the impact of the community on the current food scene as well as the impact of the food scene on the community.

The themes of the project include supporting local agriculture, maintaining quality in food production, building a sense of community and embracing Wooster’s history.

Padavick explained that the Clio application itself is used “when you travel so you can know about cool, historically important destinations that perhaps you weren’t previously aware [of].” Historians use the platform to share information on sites across the country.  In the context of this project, the platform has made all of the research done by the WDHP not only available, but easily accessible and understandable to all members and visitors to the Wooster community.

When asked about the impact of the project on his business thus far, Adam Nussbaum, the owner of Meatheads Union of Ohio on South Market St. and one of the interviewees in the project, explained that he has not personally seen any changes thus far. He does, however, hope that projects like these will help to bridge the gap between the community and the College.

The culmination of the project will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Local Roots Market & Café on South Walnut St. downtown. The presentation, titled “Wooster Food History: A Community Presentation,” will allow participants to “learn more about Wayne County’s agricultural past and how it has shaped Wooster’s current food culture,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

To find out more about the project or to take the walking tour, visit woosterhistory.org.