Gambier Hill Road

This vintage postcard from 1910 shows the then-unpaved road out of Mount Vernon heading toward Gambier along the ridge known as “The Bishop's Backbone.”

MOUNT VERNON -- We get so used to the roads we see daily, that it is easy to forget they weren't always so. This 1910 postcard features “the hill road” to Gambier from Mount Vernon.

This road was nicknamed The Bishop's Backbone because it was the most direct route from Bishop Chase's Kenyon College into Mount Vernon, though the easier road for vehicles was the low-lying route along the river. The high road is today, for part of the way at least, Ohio 229, and the river road is the now relatively little-used Lower Gambier Road.

The postcard was published by Woolson's Racket Store, a Mount Vernon retail establishment, and printed in Germany. The reverse of the card shows that it was sent by someone identifying himself only as “Edd,” to a Mrs. M. Lloyd in Franklin, New York.

“Hello and good-by,” Edd says. “Going and gone.” Was he perhaps a student at Kenyon, showing the route he took into to town to party on Saturday nights? Or was he merely a traveler passing through Mount Vernon quickly grabbing the nearest card at hand in a local store to keep in touch with family or friends as he traveled?

We may never know.

Woolson's Racket Store was at the corner of Main and Gambier Streets, according to the 1903 city directory. Their small advertisement, creeping along the side of selected pages, advised that Woolson's had “everything for the housekeeper.” By 1910, housekeepers apparently needed postcards, for Woolson became a major marketer of local scenery cards.

More likely, this was part of the gradual expansion of goods that rebranded Woolson's as a department store by 1915.

The store had been founded just after William Woolson and his wife Jennie Culbertson Woolson moved to Mount Vernon in 1900. They had originally lived in Fulton County, Ohio, where they met and married, before moving south to Tennessee for a spell. The new century saw them returning north.

Jennie apparently oversaw the business after her husband's death until she herself passed away in 1920. A number of the Woolsons' postcards are collectible historical images today.

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