The last time my mom and I were visiting my aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, they decided to take us out on a surprise outing to someplace we had never been before: Metamora Indiana – an 1838 canal town. I’ve never been to a canal town before and in fact, I guess it never occurred to me that they even existed in North America. I mean, everyone knows about the canals in places like Venice, Italy but I never thought about them being so much closer.
When the town was described to me as an old historic town that’s much like it was back in the 1800s, I was picturing something similar to Fanshawe Pioneer Village here in London,Ontario but there’s a big difference. Our Pioneer Village is strictly a tourist site. The buildings are authentic, historical buildings but they’ve been gathered from several different areas and brought in to form a fictional historical town. With a population of 188 (as of 2010), Metamora is a real town. People live there and work there.
It would have been easy for Metamora to turn into a ghost town. It once was a thriving stop on the Whitewater Canal system from 1839 to 1865, making it a key part of the southeastern Indiana economy until it was displaced by the railroad. You can still see the canal in operation at Metamora though and can take a horse drawn canal boat ride through the only existing wooden aqueduct in the US.
The oldest water powered grist mill in Indiana is still in operation at Metamora and you can purchase freshly stone-ground cornmeal or flour while visiting. In fact, in all there are 40+ shops, restaurants, and accommodations available in Metamora. Because of it serving as a tourist attraction, in general many of the businesses are only open Wednesday to Sunday but since it’s a true town, businesses are free to open and close when they choose. If you check out the town’s website here, you’ll be able to find out more information on business hours and special events.
One of these special events is Canal Days. It has been put on by Historic Metamora Inc. for over 40 years now as a celebration of their community and their history. Vendors with handmade items or antiques set up spaces all along the canal and throughout the park beginning the first Friday in October and lasting until the following Sunday. The annual Metamora Christmas Walk including train rides with Santa begins this weekend and goes until just before Christmas. See the White Water Valley Railroad website and check out their Facebook page here for more information.
Most businesses close after Christmas in Metamora and don’t reopen until Spring because they are generally in old historic buildings without heat so to see the town at its most, visiting between spring and Christmas is your best bet. Metamora is about an hour northwest of Cincinnati. If you love history, scenic little towns, and/or shopping for vintage items, you can’t miss Metamora, Indiana!