MOUNT VERNON -- Most of the hamlets of Knox County have histories that stretch back well into the 1800s. Not Artanna.
Nor does its name have any pioneer connections, unless you count the pioneers running a gas station at the rural intersection of Ohio 62 and Bladensburg Road in the 1930s.
That was Art and Anna Wolfe; thus, voila, Artanna, the cluster of houses and travel cabins that sprang up around the gas station. According to a detailed and colorful history of the Wolfes written by my Knox Pages colleague Cheryl Splain in 2009, back when she was at the Mount Vernon News, young Anna Fawcett was taken for a ride by a friend of hers one warm July evening in 1935.
They drove to the new gas station which Art Wolfe had been working at for over a year. Neither Art nor Anna was surprised at the sister's matchmaking efforts. In fact, they were quite pleased, and started dating. Less than a year later, Art and Anna were married.
Those early years — at the height of the Great Depression — were touch and go, but there was a value in being the only service station and store for several miles around, especially in those days of big, gas-guzzling automobiles. Both Art and Anna supplemented their income with side jobs; Art working for an undertaker, and Anna as a substitute mail carrier for the Gambier post office.
With all that activity and a growing gaggle of young 'uns, Art and Anna were plenty busy. But in 1940, they started a new activity, building several tourist cabins which travelers could rent for overnight or longer stays. At its height, the Artanna Tourist Court boasted 10 cabins, and made the couple even busier.
Or, as Anna noted in her 2009 interview with Cheryl Splain, it was Art that came up with the ideas.
“I had the work to do,” she said.
With all their inventive industriousness, the Wolfes were able to buy the gas station outright from the original investors, and that only boosted the success of their activities. By this point, store, station, cabins, and nearby houses had created a community. So, naturally enough, they asked the highway department if a sign could be erected, naming the place.
On July 13, 1945, Anna discovered that they were now a place when a traveling young soldier stopped at the store and said, “I didn't know you had a town named after you.”
Turns out the highway department quietly installed the signs and left before Anna even noticed. She excitedly showed the signs to Art when he got home.
In 1946, Cincinnati newspaper humorist Ollie James did a feature on WLW radio talking about Artanna.
“Sohio dealers Art and Anna, as they're known around these parts, are a friendly young couple who are justly proud of their village and its new name. Dignified as an undertaker and friendly as a farm boy, Art Wolfe has been both and gives full credit to his former employer and good friend Mr. Alva J. Harris, Undertaker, Bladensburg, Ohio, who suggested the name of the village and has helped him in every way possible.”
James went on to describe Anna as a double for Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr.
A familiar site along Route 62 in the old days, the store and station was in business for decades, both under the Wolfes and later owners. A classic aerial photo of the store in 1972 can be found at VintageAerial.com: https://vintageaerial.com/photos/ohio/knox/1972/LKN/51/7.
But after Art and Anna sold the businesses and retired, Artanna gradually wound down. Today, little remains but the long-empty gas station/general store.