WASHINGTON, D.C.—Standing with Ohioans in Tuscarawas County and beyond in calling for the Village of Zoar to be preserved, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the Village of Zoar as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) studies ways to manage the town’s aging levee. The Ohio senators’ bill would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to preserve the historic integrity of Zoar in any study or construction activities related to the village’s levee.
“The Zoar levee was built to help one of Ohio’s historic communities thrive along the Tuscarawas River, but this aging structure is in urgent need of repair or replacement. In my visits to Tuscarawas County, I have heard from dozens of Ohioans who want the Village of Zoar to be preserved. This legislation ensures that Zoar is protected by requiring the U.S. Army of Corps to preserve its historic integrity—either while studying the levee, or while rebuilding it,” Brown said. “There is widespread, bipartisan support for protecting Zoar, and I am committed to ensuring that this extraordinary village remains intact.”
“Nearly 200 years ago, immigrants in search of religious freedom and boundless opportunity founded the village of Zoar. This village stands as an important reminder of the powerful story of people coming to America in search of a better tomorrow and is a testament to Ohio’s rich cultural heritage,” Portman said. “The legislation we have introduced today will play a small part in helping the community flourish while protecting Zoar’s historic structures. I look forward to working in partnership with local, state and federal stakeholders to preserve Zoar for future generations.”
“For nearly 200 years, Zoar has stood as a symbol of freedom from religious persecution and independence. We must all work together to save our village—an important part of our nation’s history—from demolition or destruction,” Village of Zoar Mayor Larry Bell said. “I thank Senators Brown and Portman for their attention to the Village of Zoar and for working to keep intact our unique and priceless village.”
“The Village of Zoar is a one-of-a-kind village and a remarkable part of our history that provides us an authentic glimpse of what life was like at another time," said Stephanie K. Meeks, president, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). “The National Trust placed the Village of Zoar on our list of ‘America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places’ this year because we believe with some focused attention there is a solution that can spare this special place from catastrophic flooding or demolition. We applaud Senators Brown and Portman for taking this important step to protect the village and for their leadership in introducing legislation that preserves the historic integrity of Zoar.”
The Village of Zoar was founded in 1817 by a group of separatists who fled Germany in search of religious freedom. In June 2012, the Village of Zoar was newly listed on the NTHP’s list of “most endangered historic places.” According to the NTHP, the historic Village of Zoar, home to nearly 200 residents, is protected from flooding by a levee built in the 1930s. Record floods in 2005, however, raised concern about the levee’s integrity. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started a three-year study to assess the levee’s future. One of many alternatives under consideration is removing it entirely, which could require the relocation or demolition of 80 percent of the historic village. Brown and Portman’s bill would prevent this by requiring the Army Corps to find a solution that maintains the historic integrity of the village.