Oxford is a small city encompassing 5.7 square miles located in the southwestern corner of Ohio. It is home to Miami University, a mid-sized public university. The city’s demographics reflect the presence of the University, with a young and well-educated population. Over 44% of Oxford’s approximately 22,000 residents are between the ages of 20 and 24. Over half have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a third have a graduate or professional degree.
The closest large cities are Cincinnati, located about 30 miles south, and Dayton, about 45 miles northeast, of Oxford.
The town of Oxford was created 1810 by the General Assembly of Ohio to be the home of the newly-chartered Miami University. The town was given the name Oxford as a nod to the new university’s cultural heritage in England. The connection with Oxford England was further emphasized by naming the main east-west thoroughfare ‘High Street’.
The land inside the town and in the surrounding township was owned by the university. Monies raised from the sale of the land and the annual income derived from quit rents1 were meant to provide funds to operate the school. To this day residents of parts of Oxford owe an annual quit rent of $1 to Miami University.
The new town grew along with Miami University and the rest of the young United States. The American Civil War in the 1860s brought conflict and hardship to Oxford. Miami University students hailed from all over the nation, and Oxford was fewer than fifty miles from Kentucky, a southern state. Friends parted from friends and families broke apart over the issue of slavery and the secession of the southern states from the Union, and they fought each other literally and figuratively. Ohio’s proximity to Kentucky made Cincinnati and Oxford part of the underground railroad.2
Today Oxford provides many of the amenities of larger cities without the violent crime, dirty air, and gridlock associated with them. Oxford has a modern hospital, the Talawanda school system, several churches, a large grocery store, automobile dealerships, and - that symbol of modern America - a Wal-Mart. The local cable company provides high-speed internet connections to residents as well as the usual television fare. For those who tire of the peace and quiet, Cincinnati and its international airport are an hour’s drive away.
Fun Facts and Colorful Characters
An Oxford lass named Lottie Moon spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Bold and adventurous, she had jilted her fiancé, Union Army officer Ambrose Burnside, at the altar because she wanted to marry another man. Her most memorable piece of espionage landed her in the presence of Union President Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of War as they discussed war plans, which information she promptly delivered to Confederacy President Jefferson Davis. When the war suddenly began to go badly for the Union, they figured out that they’d been bamboozled by Lottie. With a price on her head, she was eventually run to ground by, as fate would have it, Ambrose Burnside. Instead of turning her over for arrest, he ordered her sent to house arrest in Cincinnati, and that was the end of her career as a spy. Her name lives on in Moon House, her home on High Street across from the Miami University campus, and in the now-defunct Lottie Moon’s, a pub in Oxford.
For many years visitors approaching Oxford first spotted the Water Tower in the uptown park. Used as the town’s reservoir during its early years, it was climbed on a dare by generations of students and was affectionately regarded by many residents as Oxford’s unofficial symbol. By the 1990s, however, the tower had become a dangerous eyesore, dropping its lead paint into the park below. Plans to dismantle the thing led to several years of acrimonious debate, but it was finally removed in the late 1990s and the park renovated. The area in now modern and attractive, and certainly less hazardous to one’s health, but some think it lacks the character of bygone days.
What to Do In Oxford
Thanks to the presence of the university, there is a lot more opportunity for entertainment than is typical for a town this size. During the regular academic year (late August through early May) there is a wide range of cultural and entertainment activities on the Miami campus. Many of the activities are free or at least less costly than they’d be in a larger city nearby. One drawback is the lack of parking due to the town’s comparatively large population for its area. Either arrive early or be prepared to walk. The only form of public transportation is the Miami Metro, a bus system open to Miami students or employees who have purchased a bus pass.
Miami boasts a variety of sports teams, and there are games every week. Recreational facilities are open to the public. The Recreational Sports Center at the south end of campus boasts an indoor running track, basketball courts, weight room, swimming pools, and a food court; exercise classes are offered daily. The Goggin Ice Arena offers public skating on Friday evenings and on the weekend. The campus is a runner’s paradise, and hikers will find well-marked trails to the north and east.
The Lecture Series brings prominent people to campus several times a year. In addition, there are lectures sponsored by individual academic departments. The theatre, dance, and music departments put on several performances a month. The art department regularly sponsors exhibitions of work by students and faculty. And the Performing Arts Series brings to town nationally- and internationally-known musicians, dancers, and actors.
Nightlife in Oxford is generally geared toward the college crowd and tends to center on the ‘uptown’ area, a half-mile long strip of High Street located just to the west of the university campus. Here you’ll find the usual range of fast-food eateries and bars, with the emphasis on sandwiches, pizza and beer. However, there are also some small restaurants and specialty shops featuring more sedate atmospheres and more adventurous menus. Among these are Phan Shin (Chinese and Thai food), La Bodega (a New York-style deli), Kona’s (eclectic bistro), DiPaolo’s (American and Italian food), Alexander House (contemporary American cuisine), and the Uptown Bakery (homemade baked goods with a wide selection of teas and coffees).
The uptown area also has a small movie theatre that shows first-run pictures.
Visitors will find a number of shops selling everything from antiques, clothing, books and music, clothing, gifts, and Miami memorabilia. For a touch of the ‘non-traditional’, visit Hemptations and The Wild Berry.
Life slows down in summer, and Oxford residents celebrate with the summer music festival. Free concerts are held most Thursday evenings in the amphitheatre in the uptown park and feature a variety of area musicians. Miami University also produces a summer theatre season.
Oxford offers a number of hotels within the city and close by. They range from generic motels on the main roads into town, homey bed and breakfasts in restored buildings, and a modern hotel in the center of city. Amenities and rates vary, so it’s best to check one of these sites for up-to-date information:
Oxford Hotels or Oxford Bed and Breakfasts.
How to Get There
Oxford is off the beaten track, so getting there means meandering through the corn fields on two-lane highways for at least part of your journey. Both Cincinnati and Dayton are accessible by air and bus. In addition, Cincinnati and Hamilton OH (a small city about ten miles southeast of Oxford) have Amtrak rail service connections. Once you’ve arrived at one of these cities, however, it’s time to hit the highways.
The main roads into Oxford are US27 from the northwest and southwest, US732 from the north and south, and US73 from the east.
To reach Oxford from Cincinnati and other points south: take I-275 to US27 (Colerain Avenue). Drive north on US27 – it will take you directly to Oxford.
From Dayton and other points north: take I-70 to US127 south to Eaton. From there take SR732 south into Oxford.
From I-75 and other points east: take I-75 to US129 (Michael Fox Highway) west through Hamilton to US130. Turn left (west) onto US130 to US27. Turn right (north) onto US27 and follow into Oxford.