STEAM CORNERS — From a steam-powered sawmill that provided a few jobs in 1849 to a top tourism draw with Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, this hamlet tucked away in the northeast corner of the county continues its evolution.
It drew its name from that sawmill and takes today’s fame from the thousands who flock there annually to watch auto racing from May through August.
Dan Rhodebeck wrote in “The Threads of Time: A History of Morrow County” that a post office named Hilton’s was established in the 1860s, but the name was changed to Steam Corners in 1865.
The post office operated sporadically until it closed for good on July 31, 1901.
David Baker, a Troy Township trustee, has lived here 53 years.
“It’s most times pretty quiet. But it gets a little noisy on race weekends,” he said.
The track was opened in 1962 by Les Griebling and several Mansfield-area businessmen as a location for weekend sports car racing. Today it boasts a 15-turn, 2.4-mile road circuit run clockwise, with speeds approaching 180 miles per hour.
Mike Pinney recalls growing up in the area, and says he “worked at Mid-Ohio and also raced there a few times.”
Baker says locals hardly notice the additional traffic and roar of the engines.
“We’ve kinda got used to it. You can see part of the race track from my front porch,” he said. “It’s a quiet and peaceful place to live.”
While Baker acknowledges Mid-Ohio primarily “caters to Lexington and Mansfield area” residents, he would like to see more small business locate here.
“I’ve tried to get some more business into this part of the county, but haven’t been able to,” said Baker, who operates an indoor shooting range, Bake’s Best Shot.
Steam Corners is part of the Lexington School District and seems more closely aligned with Richland County than Morrow County, as reflected by its ZIP code and phone exchange. Those who like fishing or boating can go down the road to Clear Fork Marina and Reservoir, never leaving the county.
A flea market opened May 1 on State Route 314 at the old township hall and grange buildings. Coincidentally, Mid-Ohio’s racing season began three days later with the Acura Sports Car Challenge, the first of five major weekend events.
Operated by Wanda Hall, the flea market is open Tuesday through Saturday.
“I was tired of packing and unpacking, and this is just a hop from my house,” said Hall, surrounded by antiques and collectables.
Coffee signs are her favorite personal item. Hall has several collections of glassware and dishes.
“I’ve gotten things from all over. I’ve done this all my life,” she said.
Hall plans on having a vegetable market this summer. Vendors can set up a table to sell their wares outside for $5 per day.
“This old wood stove is what we use to heat this building,” she said.
Three walls in that building are living history, depicting old newspaper and magazine covers, including a vintage Saturday Evening Post collection. Those were put up by the previous owner.
Hall has resided in this area for three and a half decades. She hopes the proximity to the race track proves fortuitous.
“It will help my business, I think. Even on bike weekend, there are lots of people through here,” she said.
Steam Corners United Methodist Church, organized in 1894, remains active at the north end of the community. Worship service is held each Sunday morning.
History indicates that Steam Corners “was never surveyed as a village, but merely evolved as a collection of houses at the crossing of two roads.”
It’s evolved further by drawing thousands of motor sports enthusiasts to the popular track each spring and summer. And, Hall hopes, maybe an antique collector or two.