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About Bellefontaine, OH

The name Bellefontaine means "beautiful spring" in French, and is purported to refer to several springs in the area. However, locally, the original French pronunciation is not used, and it is pronounced "bell fountain."

Around 1777, the Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket (Weyapiersenwah) built a settlement here, known as "Blue Jacket's Town". Blue Jacket and his band had previously occupied a village along the Scioto River, but the American Revolutionary War had reached the Ohio Country. Blue Jacket and other American Indians who took up arms against the American revolutionaries relocated in order to be closer to their British allies at Detroit.

After the United States gained independence, its forces continued warfare against former Indian allies of the British. Blue Jacket's Town was destroyed in Logan's Raid, conducted by Kentucky militia in 1786 at the outset of the Northwest Indian War. The expedition was led by Benjamin Logan, namesake of Logan County. Blue Jacket and his followers relocated further northwest to the Maumee River.

Beginning in the 1800s, American Revolutionary War veterans and others from Virginia and elsewhere began settling in the area of Blue Jacket's Town. Bellefontaine is on or near the edge of the Virginia Military District, where the cash-poor government granted tracts of land to veterans in payment for their services during the war. The Treaty of Greenville defined lands to be held by European Americans as separate from those to be held by natives but it was poorly administered in the area and whites frequently encroached on native lands.

Bellefontaine was platted by European Americans in 1820 and incorporated by the legislature in 1835.
In 1837, the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad built the first railroad to Bellefontaine. This began its reputation as a railroading town. In the 1890s the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (also called the Big Four Railroad) built a main terminal in the city. This terminal boasted the largest roundhouse between New York and St. Louis.

Though railroading hit hard times and the industry went through radical restructuring in the late 20th century, and the Big Four terminal ceased operations in 1983, Bellefontaine remains a landmark on America's railways. The city is now just a thoroughfare for CSX.

In 1891, Bellefontaine became the location of the first concrete street in America. George Bartholomew invented a process for paving using Portland cement, which until then had been used in stone construction. A small section of Main Street, on the west side of the Logan County Courthouse, was the first to be paved using that process. When that proved successful, Court Avenue, which runs along the south side of the courthouse, was paved with concrete. While Main Street is now paved with asphalt, Court Avenue has retained its original concrete pavement for more than 100 years. At its centennial, the street was closed to vehicular traffic and a statue of Bartholomew placed at its Main Street end; it became a pedestrian way. Since then one lane has been reopened for eastbound traffic.

In 1979, Honda began manufacturing motorcycles in the nearby city of Marysville, Ohio. Since that time, Honda's operations in the Bellefontaine area have greatly expanded. Bellefontaine is a central location among Honda operations in Marysville, East Liberty, Russells Point, Anna, and Troy, Ohio. Honda is Bellefontaine's largest employer in the early 21st century.

U.S. Route 68 intersects with State Routes 47 and 540 in Bellefontaine. U.S. Route 33, a freeway that has interchanges with US 68 and SR 540, skirts the northern edge of the city.

To European settlers, Campbell Hill was first known as Hogue's Hill, perhaps a misspelling of Solomon Hoge's surname, the person who first deeded the land in 1830. In 1898, the land was sold to Charles D. Campbell, in whose name Campbell Hill is now known. Campbell sold the hill and surrounding land to August Wagner.

In 1950, the family of August Wagner deeded Campbell Hill and the surrounding 57.5 acres to the U.S. government. The government stationed the 664th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron on the hill in 1951. This military unit was responsible for monitoring for possible aerospace attacks from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The 664th AC&WS and similar military units were eventually superseded by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (or NORAD). The base in Bellefontaine was closed in 1969.

The Ohio Hi-Point Vocational-Technical District opened a school atop the hill in 1974. The school is now known as the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center.

In 2012 local real estate developer Small Nation purchased and renovated the former J.C. Penney building. Since then, the organization invested over $33 million in renovating over 56 downtown buildings and attracting new businesses to the area. The investment into the properties created roughly 200 jobs in the city. In 2018, Bellefontaine was classified as an Opportunity Zone to further attract investors to the area. Neighboring areas have begun using Bellefontaine as a model to attract more investment in their own towns.

In 2022, Bellefontaine was named one of Ohio's Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine for its downtown redevelopment efforts, thriving sense of community and appreciation for preserving local history.

In 2022, Bellefontaine's Christmas parade included a drag queen and over 60 residents opposed their appearance at a City Council meeting, prompting drag queens and supporters attending a later council meeting in support. In 2023, the opposing residents began pushing for a city ordinance that would classify drag performances as ‘adult entertainment,' making it one of the first municipalities in Ohio to do so. The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled to remove the measure from the ballot when petitioners changed the ballot language after circulating petitions.

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 10.04 square miles (26.0 km), all land.

The city of Bellefontaine is at the convergence of the humid subtropical (Köppen Cfa) and humid continental (Köppen Dfa) climate zones according to the Köppen climate map. The region is characterized by four distinct seasons. Winters are cool to cold with mild periods, and summers are generally hot and muggy, with significant precipitation year-round. The city is too far south to experience lake effect snow from the Great Lakes region, however it does experience more snow than surrounding areas due to the city's elevation. Traditionally, Bellefontaine's elevation excludes it from tornadoes and floods that affect the majority of the Miami Valley.

As of the census of 2000, there were 13,069 people, 5,319 households, and 3,436 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,491.3 inhabitants per square mile (575.8/km). There were 5,722 housing units at an average density of 652.9 per square mile (252.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.82% White, 5.13% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.53% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.12% of the population.

There were 5,319 households, of which 34.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city the population was spread out, with 28.1% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,189, and the median income for a family was $43,778. The per capita income for the city was $20,917. About 19.9% of families and 23.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.9% of those under the age of 18 and 10.9% of those ages 65 and older.

As of the census of 2010, there were 13,370 people, 5,415 households, and 3,420 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,331.7 inhabitants per square mile (514.2/km2). There were 6,115 housing units at an average density of 609.1 per square mile (235.2/km). The racial makeup of the city was 90.1% White, 4.3% African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 3.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.

There were 5,415 households, of which 35.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.8% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.01.

The median age in the city was 34.8 years. 27.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.3% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 12.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

Bellefontaine is the center of the Bellefontaine Micropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. This micropolis consists solely of Logan County, Ohio. The 2000 census found 46,005 people in the micropolis, making it the 260th most populous such area in the United States. Among all U.S. statistical areas (CBSAs), the Bellefontaine micropolis ranks 622nd. In Ohio, the Bellefontaine micropolis is the 37th most populous CBSA, and the 21st most populous micropolitan statistical area.

By comparison, the least populous metropolitan area in the United States, Carson City, Nevada, has 52,457 residents. The least populous metropolitan area in Ohio is Sandusky, with 79,555 residents. The Bellefontaine micropolis is not as populous as these, but does have a greater population than some micropolitan statistical areas traditionally considered to be small regional cities. (Examples: El Dorado, Arkansas; Clovis, New Mexico; and Red Wing, Minnesota.)

Though official definitions of micropolitan statistical areas did not exist until 2003, the area now constituting the Bellefontaine micropolis grew in population by 8.7 percent between 1990 and 2000.

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