Historic Zoar Village198 Main St
Zoar , OH 44697
330-874-3011 | historiczoarvillage.com
Zoar: A World Apart
Since its founding in 1817 by a group of German “Separatists,” to its disbanding in 1898, Zoar Village tells a distinctive American story of faith, community, and the inevitable changes that come to rural places in the modern age.
Zoar has always been a world apart. Created by a purist sect of Germans from Württemberg, it became one of the longest surviving and most prosperous communal societies in American history. It also tells a distinctive Ohio story of faith, community, and the inevitable changes that come to rural places in the modern age. Like the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation in the 1620s, the Separatists fled Europe to seek religious freedom in the New World, leaving behind a society still largely shaped by a medieval worldview. And for several generations in America, they held to their religious practices and spoke their German dialect. With funds borrowed from Philadelphia Quakers, the group’s founder, Joseph Bimeler (1778 – 1853), purchased for his followers a large holding along the Tuscarawas River in 1817. To prosper on the Ohio frontier, they banded together to form a corporation in 1819. And prosper they did. Successful agriculture, craft industries, and 1820s canal building brought the Society considerable wealth. When the railroad came in 1882, the modern world drew nearer. Zoar became a picturesque destination for urban travelers and devotees of the new bicycle craze, who filled the newly enlarged hotel in the 1890s. Exposure to the outside world led to change. In 1898 the members voted to disband the corporation.Read More
Notes for Travelers
The guides at Zoar are expertly trained and highly informative, and the Village is best experienced by taking the official tour. This includes access to many of the original buildings as well as behind-the-scenes at the bakery, blacksmith, and other craft buildings. Tickets and tour reservations can be acquired at the visitor center located in the Zoar Store at 198 Main Street. If you prefer a self-guided visit, start at the Zoar Garden in the center of the Village and seek out the allegorical symbolism of its unique design. To experience how Zoar developed in the early years after settlement, compare Joseph Bimeler’s two residences: “Number Ten House/Bimeler Cabin” of 1817 (the original Zoar structures had numbers for ease of food distribution) and “Number One House” built in 1835. Complete your self-guided visit with a stop at the Bimeler House Art Gallery which is free to the public and features topical art exhibitions.
CreditsCurator: Rob Colby
Additional ResourcesA Singular People: Images of Zoar, Kathleen M. Fernandez.
The Separatist Society of Zoar: An Experiment in Communism from its Commencement to its Conclusion, E. O. Randall.
Constance Fenimore Wooslon, "Wilhelmina," The Atlantic Monthly 35 (January, 1875): 44-55.