On the hill above Main Street in Belle Valley, Ohio sits a church that appears to be placed to guard and protect the homes and businesses below. The town was settled in 1875, in large part by immigrants from Eastern Europe. They came looking for freedom and opportunity, and they contributed their hard work and culture to make their new home a good home.
The 1916 church was originally named the St. Vozdvizainje Cestnaho Kresta Greek Catholic Uhro Roski Church of Belle Valley Ohio. Greek Catholic and Russian Orthodox masses were regularly held until 1967 and again for a short time in the early 1990s. The design of the church’s dome is traditional for churches in the Carpathian Mountains where heavy snows could collapse steeples. An Orthodox cross with three crossbars, one of which is tilted, sits atop the dome. The original bells are still in the steeple. One side of the cornerstone is in Slovak and the other side in Russian. A nearby cemetery contains 30 to 40 graves whose headstones are carved with epitaphs in those languages.
Local citizens have formed the Belle Valley Area Historic Preservation Society to raise funds to restore the church as a community center and site for historical displays. They’ve made progress by replacing part of the roof, are looking for a contractor to restore the dome, and will soon replace the outer doors. Once they are able to restore the inside, it is hoped visitors will be able to view the altar, the glass chandelier that was one of only two in the world, and some of the original paintings called icons that hung in the church. The pews and most of the original stained-glass windows are intact, although the windows are currently covered for protection.
There are other good reasons to come to Belle Valley to view this unique structure. The Road Fork Section of the Buckeye Trail, one of the least populated sections to hike, starts in Belle Valley. In Pleasant City, fifteen minutes away, you’ll find St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church, which still holds Orthodox Masses.
There are several “mom and pop” restaurants in town, and in nearby Caldwell you’ll find a number of hotels, restaurants and things to do. Into camping? Wolf Run State Park is in Belle Valley. And you can gas up in either community. Come see what you can do in Noble County.