Lancaster ( LANK-(ə-)stər) is a city in Fairfield County, Ohio, in the south-central part of the state. As of the 2020 census, the city population was 40,552. The city is near the Hocking River, about 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Columbus and 38 miles (61 km) southwest of Zanesville. It is the county seat of Fairfield County.
The earliest known inhabitants of the southeastern and central Ohio region were the Hopewell, Adena, and Fort Ancient Native Americans, of whom little evidence survived, beyond the burial and ceremonial mounds built throughout the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. Many mounds and burial sites have also yielded archaeological artifacts. Serpent Mound and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, though not in Fairfield County, are nearby.
Before and immediately after European settlement, the land today comprising Lancaster and Fairfield County was inhabited by the Shawnee, nations of the Iroquois, Wyandot, and other Native American tribes. It served as a natural crossroads for the inter- and intra-tribal wars fought at various times. Frontier explorer Christopher Gist reached Lancaster's vicinity on January 19, 1751, when he visited the small Delaware town of Hockhocking nearby. Leaving the area the next day, Gist rode southwest to Maguck, another Delaware town near Circleville.
Having been ceded to the United States by Great Britain after the American Revolution in the Treaty of Paris, the lands north of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachian Mountains were incorporated into the Northwest Territory in 1787. White settlers began to encroach on Native American lands in the Northwest Territory. As the new United States government began to cast its eye westward, the stage was set for the series of campaigns that culminated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. With pioneer settlement within Ohio made legal and safe from Indian raids, developers began to speculate in land sales in earnest.
Knowing that such speculation, combined with congressional grants of land sections to veterans of the Revolution, could result in a lucrative opportunity, in 1796 Ebenezer Zane petitioned Congress to grant him a contract to blaze a trail through Ohio, from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Limestone, Kentucky (near modern Maysville, Kentucky), a distance of 266 miles (428 km). As part of the deal, Zane was awarded square-mile tracts of land at the points where his trace crossed the Hocking, Muskingum, and Scioto Rivers. Zane's Trace, as it is now known, was completed by 1797. As Zane's sons began to carve the square-mile tract astride the Hocking into saleable plots, the village of Lancaster was founded in 1800. Lancaster antedated the formal establishment of the state of Ohio by three years. Many villages and townships right outside Lancaster, such as Lithopolis, Royalton, and Greencastle, were settled around the same time, which contributed to the village's success.
Initially known as New Lancaster, and later shortened by city ordinance (1805), the town quickly grew; formal incorporation as a city came in 1831. The connection of the Hocking Canal to the Ohio and Erie Canal in this era provided a way for the region's rich agricultural produce to reach eastern markets.
The initial settlers were predominantly German immigrants and their descendents, many from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ohio's longest continuously operating newspaper, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, was born of a merger of the early Ohio Adler, founded around 1807, with the Ohio Gazette, founded in the 1830s. The two papers were ferocious competitors since they were on opposite sides of the American Civil War, with the Adler antislavery and pro-Union. The city also had numerous migrants from the Upper South who sympathized with the Confederacy. The papers merged in 1937, 72 years after the war's end. This was shortly after the Gazette was acquired by glassmaker Anchor-Hocking. The newspaper is currently part of the Newspaper Network of Central Ohio, a unit of Gannett Company, Inc.
Lancaster is located at 39°43′N 82°36′W / 39.717°N 82.600°W (39.7193, -82.6053). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.90 square miles (48.95 km2), of which 0.06 square miles (0.16 km) is covered by water.
The city's median household income was $44,794 and median family income was $59,930. Males had a median income of $36,169 versus $24,549 for females. The city's per capita income was $25,230. About 12.0% of all families (4.4% of married-couple families), and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.0% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those over 65.
As of the census of 2020, 40,438 people, 16,451 households, and 9,951 families were residing in the city. The population density was 2,058.3 people per square mile (794.7 people/km). The 18,250 housing units had an average density of 879.6 per square mile (339.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.5% White, 1.8% African American, 0.3% Asian, 0.20% Native American, 0.2% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.8% of the population.
Of the 16,451 households, 30.9% had children under 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were not families. About 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.39, and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city, the age distribution was 22.3% under 18, and 17.4% who were 65 or older. The median age was 39.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.
As of the census of 2010, 38,780 people, 16,048 households, and 9,937 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,955.9 people per square mile (755.2 people/km). The 17,685 housing units had an average density of 879.6 per square mile (339.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.9% White, 1.0% African American, 0.5% Asian, 0.30% Native American, 0.6% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.6% of the population.
Of the 16,048 households, 27.8% had children under 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were not families. About 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.8% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.36, and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the age distribution was 24% under the age of 18 and 15.7% who were 65 or older. The median age was 37.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.
According to the city's 2021 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Lancaster's top employers are:
Lancaster is home to the Fairfield County Fair, a weeklong fair and the last (88th) county fair in Ohio each year, always in the second week of October. It features a variety of attractions, including truck, tractor, and horse pulls, demolition derbies, concerts, bands, and horse races. The Fairfield County Fair also includes food, animals, exhibits, games, and rides for people of all ages.
AHA! is a children's museum founded in 2006. Its mission is to provide a hands-on, interactive, playful, and educational environment that invites curiosity, allows exploration, encourages participation, and celebrates the child-like wonder in everyone.
Originally built in 1832 for the Maccracken Family, this Federal-style home is constructed predominantly of brick and local limestone. Converted into a museum, it is now furnished as it would have been in the 1830s with some original pieces and numerous early Fairfield County items. Located in one of Lancaster's three national historic districts, the structure mixes elements of American, Georgian, and Regency architecture.
The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio is a nonprofit museum whose mission is to foster knowledge and appreciation of the decorative arts, celebrate the architecture and heritage of the Reese-Peters House, and enhance historic Lancaster's vitality and integrity. It provides exhibitions, public programs, art classes, and workshops for all ages, and a focus for research and communication about the decorative arts of Ohio.
Opened in 2002, the Ohio Glass Museum is in historic downtown Lancaster and dedicated to recording the history of the glass industry, which for over 100 years has been one of the mainstays of Fairfield County's economy.
Lancaster was the birthplace of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and his brother, Senator John Sherman. The house where they were born, built in 1811, has been converted into a museum, housing articles related to General Sherman's life and Civil War artifacts. The Sherman family expanded the frame house in 1816 and again, with an additional brick front, in 1870.
The Robert K Fox Family YMCA Swim Team (LYST, or Lancaster YMCA Swim Team), is a competitive, year-round swim team coached by Axel Birnbrich and a team of experienced assistant coaches. Birnbirch is in his 39th year of coaching and his second year at LYST. The team has swimmers from ages 5–18 and around 130 members per year. They regularly attend the YMCA Short Course and Long Course national meets. They are also a USA Swimming team, attending many USA meets per season.
The city's main shopping district is centered around River Valley Mall, or downtown Lancaster.
Lancaster City School District operates Lancaster High School. Lancaster has a public library, a branch of the Fairfield County District Library. Additionally, Ohio University-Lancaster is a branch campus of Ohio University that operates in the area.
Lancaster has a daily newspaper, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette.
Lancaster has a monthly magazine, the Lancaster Living Magazine, published by Cher Jaurigue.
Lancaster is the birthplace and/or hometown of: