Part of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway waterway, the Port of Ashtabula lies at the mouth of the Ashtabula River on the southern shores of Lake Erie about 87 kilometers (54 miles) northeast of Cleveland. The Port of Ashtabula is about 28 nautical miles (43 kilometers or 27 miles) northeast of the Port of Fairport Harbor, Ohio. The Port of Ashtabula is about 128 nautical miles (223 kilometers or 138 miles) east-northeast across Lake Erie from the Port of Toledo. The 2010 US Census reported a population of over 19 thousand people in the Port of Ashtabula.
The Port of Ashtabula has a good natural harbor that handles volumes of iron ore and coal. Manufacturers in the Port of Ashtabula produce automobile bodies, plastics, fiberglass, chemicals, and corrugated boxes. Kent State University has a regional campus in the Port of Ashtabula.
The site for the future Port of Ashtabula was first settled by Europeans in 1801. The Port of Ashtabula was incorporated in 1891. In the pre-Civil War era, several homes in the Port of Ashtabula were stops on the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves avoid capture and flee to Canada.
In 1876, the Port of Ashtabula was the site of one of the United States' most deadly railroad accidents. An iron bridge collapsed under a train, taking 92 lives. Called the Ashtablu Horror, a locomotive and 11 passenger cars fell some 46 meters (150 feet) into a frozen creek. In addition to those killed in the accident, 159 passengers were injured.
Since the latter 19th Century, the Port of Ashtabula has been a busy coal and iron ore port. Today, it still receives coal shipments that are then sent to Pennsylvania steel mills.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, many Italian, Swedish, and Finnish immigrants arrived in the Port of Ashtabula. Population growth remained steady through the 1970s. However, the population of the Port of Ashtabula has declined since the later 1900s.
In the mid-1900s, the Port of Ashtabula became an important city for the Great Lakes thanks to increased harbor activity and an expanding chemical industry. Rockwell International had a plant in the west of the town that made brakes for US space shuttles and extruded depleted and enriched uranium.
Every year, the Port of Ashtabula celebrates the Blessing of the Fleet at the harbor. The tradition came from Irish and Portuguese fishermen who immigrated to the city. In the 1930s, the Blessing was a small quiet affair. Since 1950, it has been a public ceremony and community event.