Nelsonville is a city in northwestern Athens County, Ohio, United States. The population was 5,392 at the 2010 census. Hocking College is located in Nelsonville. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.0 square miles (13 km2), all of it land. Nelsonville is located on U.S. Route 33. Currently, a bypass is being constructed for the city.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway began as part of the historic Hocking Valley Railway in the early 1870s. Today, the railway offers scenic excursions from Nelsonville to Logan, traversing the Hocking Hills. Known for their specialty trains, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway hosts thousands of passengers each year. Seasonal train rides include: Easter Train, Robbery Trains, North Pole Express, Fall Foliage Trips, Haunted Hills Train, Santa Train, Caboose Train, Great Hocking Valley Train Pull and wine trains. During World War II, the original Hocking Valley Railroad ran 138 steam locomotives, 70 passenger cars and 15,000 freight cars along 340 route-miles of track. Today, the trains of the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway again pull out of Nelsonville, for pleasure this time, to take passengers on leisurely glides through beautiful, historic Southeastern Ohio. Two train rides depart from the railroad depot at U.S. Rt. 33 and the Hocking Parkway Drive on Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day Weekend through the end of October, in addition to the seasonal train rides. The Nelsonville Yards was once the busiest railroad yard in the entire state of Ohio.
Stuart's Opera House, built in 1879, is one of Ohio's last remaining fully operating opera houses, and is located in Nelsonville's Historic Square Arts District. Stuart's hosts over 75 events a year including: concerts, plays, films, art and more. Several theater groups perform at Stuart's, including the local Athenian Berean Community (ABC) Players. The Dew Hotel is also located on the Historic Public Square. The former hotel is famous for its balcony where presidents Taft, McKinley, Harding and Roosevelt all campaigned.
Nelsonville's Historic Square Arts District, also known as the Public Square, is a thriving art-lovers paradise. Nelsonville's Historic Square, adorned with their classic Star Bricks, is home to over a dozen retail shops and restaurants and some of the most unique products Ohio has to offer. Many shops offer classes or workshops to help you find your inner artist. A fountain at the center of the Public Square is an iconic landmark.
Rocky Brands, Inc. was founded in Nelsonville in 1932 and the corporate headquarters are still located in the city. The former shoe factory now serves as the Rocky Outdoor Gear Store, and features three floors of outerwear, clothing, home interiors, specialty food products and boots.
The Nelsonville Cross was erected on Kontner's Hill in April, 1973. It is a Memorial Cross to Mrs. Elizabeth Smith Schwartz by her husband Mr. Walter L. Schwartz. The body of the cross is 4 feet by 4 feet, the cross arm is 25 feet in length and the body is 65 feet tall, anchored to a base of concrete which rises 8 feet above the hilltop. Manufactured of metal of special composition which includes steel and aluminum, it bears a porcelain white color. Newspapers in all parts of America and Europe have carried photographs of it as the "World's Largest Metal Cross", illuminated by mercury lights during the nights. Nelsonville has received much publicity from its location.
Hocking College provides several tourist opportunities in Nelsonville. The most popular stop at Hocking is Robins Crossing, a restored pioneer village located on both the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway train route and the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. This collection of restored log cabins showcases pioneer life, and includes a general store, school house, and a blacksmith's shop. During the warm season, you can find demonstrations at Robins Crossing on most Saturdays and Sundays, and the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway makes a special stop for passengers to experience the village. Hocking College also is home to Hocking Woods Nature Center where visitors can learn about wild animals.
The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, an 18-mile (29 km) long bicycle path, connects Nelsonville with the county seat of Athens. The Nelsonville portion of the bikeway runs from the Inn at Hocking College to the Rocky Outdoor Gear Store. It is designed for walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, skating, and wheelchairs.