Here are the 2017 results for The Athens NEWS' Best of Athens reader survey in the places category.
Best Small Town
We’re fairly certain that this year’s winner for best small town, Nelsonville, does in fact qualify as a city, but that hasn’t ever stopped the northern Athens County destination from exuding all manner of small-town charm.
Nelsonville is home to some of the best and the brightest events, restaurants and attractions in Athens County, including the Nelsonville Music Festival, Stuart’s Opera House, Hocking College and a variety of art galleries in and around Public Square.
Nelsonville is also the birthplace of actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and was the setting for the 1985 film, “Mischief,” staring Kelly Preston. It is also the burial place of former Major League Baseball player Estel Crabtree, in case you were wondering just where in fact Mr. Crabtree was buried.
Really and truly, Nelsonville boasts a wonderful Public Square with all manner of shops and eateries, and it’s an invaluable slice of Americana in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio.
In second place for best small town is the village of Albany, which was once was one of several stops in Athens County for the underground railroad, and was the home of the William S. Lewis Academy, founded in 1848, which admitted students regardless of race or gender.
The academy morphed into the Albany Manual Labor Academy and had as members of its board famed abolitionist John Brown and Salmon P. Chase, governor of Ohio, treasury secretary under Abraham Lincoln and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Third place for best small town goes to the village of Amesville (last year’s winner). Honorable mentions go to The Plains in fourth place and Coolville in fifth place.
Best OU Campus Site
This category was close this year, with The Ridges edging the College Green by 19 votes. This is a well-deserved honor for The Ridges property, which includes several hundred acres of recreation/nature preserve land, plus the historic, eminently interesting former campus of the old Athens Asylum. If you want to get away from it all with Fido or Fang, you can’t do any better than The Ridges.
Yet, second-place finisher College Green is no slouch either, providing an idyllic campus crossroads for many successive generations of Ohio University student (plus a variety of famous people, including Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama and LBJ speaking at the West Portico of Mem Aud).
Third place goes to Emeriti Park, with fourth and fifth honors falling to Baker University Center (love those escalators!) and the College Gate, respectively.
Construction on West Union Street
Boy, my eyes really hurt; they’re sore if you want to know the truth. And why are they sore? It’s because of certain eyesores in Athens County, and Best of Athens respondents recently alerted us to the places in our county that hurt their eyes the worst.
First in this dubious category is the West Union Street post-fire construction area; the same area won first place in this category last year, too. This isn’t such a negative choice, since the block is mostly rebuilt at this point outside of one building, which will house a taco restaurant as well as student apartments. Yet, some Athenians are frustrated with the amount of time it’s taken to complete that construction, considering a large fence is still in place around the building and part of the street. Still, The Union and Jackie O’s on that block have come out of the fire stronger than ever – The Union boasting a new patio and Jackie O’s with its revamped kitchen facilities.
Second place in this category goes to the hillside across the river from Walmart, just off U.S. Rt. 50/Ohio Rt. 32, that was clearcut in recent years.
Not far behind the hillside, in fourth place, is Walmart (oh, so now we Athenians expect Walmart to design a special building for us?!), and fifth place goes to East State Street, in general, which is a pretty sweeping generalization (it’s a long road, guys).
Best medical facility or practice
How do you judge the quality of health care? Ratings by consumer groups? Experience and success with your condition? Is it covered by your health plan? We submit one fine way is to trust the totally anonymous, totally unscientific Best of Athens voting results.
And according to those results, the best medical facility or practice in Athens County is Holzer Athens on East State Street, just as it was last year. The facility is top-notch, crème de la crème, beautiful, scenic, a fine place to spend some time being poked and prodded into good health.
In second place this year is OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, located, appropriately enough, on Hospital Drive. We’re fairly certain the road was named after the hospital was constructed but you just never know with these things.
In third place this year is University Medical Associates, which up until recently was the location for Ohio University’s faculty practice plan for the OU Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Fourth place this year is River Rose, OB/GYN, followed by Hopewell Health Center, which both have locations on Hospital Drive in Athens.
Best Place for a Fancy Date
Zoe Fine Dining
In this new category this year, Zoe Fine Dining on East State Street takes home the first-place prize for being a great place to take that special someone. Zoe is the total package – the atmosphere, the fancy but affordable menu, the wine…
Second place in this category goes to Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant Restaurant Salaam on West Washington Street in Athens, followed by Cutler’s Restaurant at the Ohio University Inn in third place. Purple Chopstix, just down the road from Cutler’s on Richland Avenue, is a unique and fun choice for a date at fourth place, followed by restaurant/bar Stephen’s on Court located on, you guess it, Court Street.