Ashtabula is a city in Ashtabula County, Ohio, United States, and the center of the Ashtabula Micropolitan Statistical Area (as defined by the United States Census Bureau in 2003). A major location on the Underground Railroad in the middle 19th century, the city today is a major coal port on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Ashtabula River northeast of Cleveland. The name Ashtabula means "river of many fish" in the Iroquois language. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 19,124, a decrease of 1,838 (8.8%). from the 20,962 residents recorded in the 2000 census.
Poet Carl Sandburg wrote a poem titled "Crossing Ohio when Poppies Bloom in Ashtabula." There is also a novel called The King from Ashtabula by Vern Sneider, published in 1960. The city is also mentioned in the Bob Dylan song "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". Ashtabula hosts an annual Blessing of the Fleet Celebration, usually in late May or early June. As part of the celebration, a procession and prayer service is held at Ashtabula Harbor. Ashtabula was also home of the FinnFestUSA in 2007.
The 20th century saw great changes in Ashtabula. Its access to Lake Erie and nearly 30 miles (48 km) of shoreline helped position Ashtabula as a major shipping and commercial center. During the 1950s, the area experienced growth with its expanding chemical industry and increasing harbor activity, making Ashtabula one of the most important port cities of the Great Lakes. Historical industries in the area included a Rockwell International plant on Route 20 on the western side of Ashtabula that manufactured brakes for the Space Shuttle program and the extrusion of depleted and enriched uranium at the Reactive Metals Extrusion plant on East 21st Street.
Ashtabula Harbor hosts an annual Blessing of the Fleet community festival. The origin of the Blessing of the Fleet can be traced to Portuguese and Irish fisherman and tugmen who settled in Ashtabula. During the 1930s, the Blessing of the Fleet was a small, almost private affair in early April conducted by a few tugmen, their parish priest, and an acolyte. By 1950, it had become a public ceremony under the auspices of Mother of Sorrows parish. In 1974, the Blessing of the Fleet became a community affair involving all of Ashtabula's religious and harbor community. The Coast Guard Station and the Harbor Museum help to preserve Ashtabula's maritime heritage.