November 2006 Issue
Ohio's oldest settlement shows its resilience.
In a stately 1895 residence-turned-office, Bill White runs a successful integrated marketing firm, Offenberger & White. With a list of international clients, he could do his job almost anywhere in the world, but this architecturally preserved house has been the company's base of operations for 17 years. "Just look to the left," he says. The view of the Muskingum River framed by the lush green parks of downtown Marietta proves his point: Living here means choosing "rush minute" over rush hour and a historic main street over new mall facades. "We don't have to invent what they're trying to fabricate."
The Offenberger & White offices exemplify what makes Marietta the kind of place that not only draws tourists, but also attracts new residents, from young families to retirees, to settle into its uncommon charm. The juxtaposition of old and new, sleepy and active, old-fashioned and progressive, is part of the intangible appeal of a town that's already surrounded by so much obvious natural beauty. Then there's I-77 and a regional airport to keep residents connected to the world beyond Marietta's charming confines.
Sure, the river rises and falls at Nature's whim. But for residents of Marietta, that is offset by the benefits of being part of a river town. Even the last flood in 2004 - the worst the town had seen in 40 years - couldn't dent the armor of a community whose citizens pride themselves on working together. Residents young and old, from the riverfront and the outlying hills - even students from Marietta College - did whatever they could to minimize the damage to downtown, including filling 14,000 sandbags in 12 hours.
"The whole group was working as one in that crisis for the betterment of all," says Mayor Michael "Moon" Mullen. "I really saw the true heart, the true soul of the community when I was standing out there slogging around in boots."
A native of Marietta and alumnus of the city's schools as well as Marietta College, Mayor Mullen has the kinds of roots and investment here that go far beyond politics. Throughout his years of writing grants for new city programs and advocating community development, he's also been known to entertain visitors with his other vocation: Appalachian singer, songwriter and storyteller.
The creative spirit in Marietta extends from local artists' work found in the galleries on Front Street to the refurbishing of century buildings into viable storefronts for local business owners. Where other towns might tear down and build new, Marietta residents preserve and restore, making for a picture-perfect slice of America along its downtown streets.
Ohio's oldest settlement is also the first to celebrate its good fortune. Folks count on The Sternwheeler Festival every September and the concerts in the parks throughout the summer. Investing in assets such as a new $3.5 million Aquatic Center and a newly completed Muskingum River Trail for hiking and biking is part of city leaders' plans to keep providing residents with a great place to call home.
For Mariettans, it's where doors can remain unlocked - and open to possibilities.
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Year founded: 1788
Location: At the intersection of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, in Washington County
Population: Approximately 15,000
Type of government: Mayor/council
Size: 8 square miles
December 7-10, 2006: 2nd Annual Winter Wild Ice Weekend: Watch ice carvers create sculptures, and warm up with cocoa and goodies at the Betsey Mills Club.
March: River City Blues Festival: The Lafayette Hotel hosts musical acts year-round. Blues lovers won't want to miss this collection of artists that get together every March.
September: The River City Film Festival marked its first year in 2006, featuring independent films from local and national talent. Look for the successful event to return in September 2007.
Annual Ohio River Sternwheeler Festival: The most famous of Marietta festivals is always the weekend after Labor Day, with sternwheeler races, fireworks, food and free entertainment.
October: ColonyFest Street Festival: The Ohio Arts Council helps to fund this annual festival in October. Come for the kids' entertainment, music, food and arts.
Ongoing Event: Summer brings Music on the Levee - free evening concerts on the riverbank every weekend June-September.
Contact the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau for complete information on events and attractions in Marietta: 800/288-2577; www.mariettaohio.org
Two-Day Visit Itinerary
Get acquainted with Marietta's tree-lined brick streets on a guided trolley tour. Learn about the history of Marietta's architecture and check out the riverside scenery.
Visit Campus Martius and the Ohio River Museum for a look at the history of the Northwest Territory settlements and Ohio's role in shaping a country with its riverboats.
The Castle on Fourth Street is a stunning example of Gothic revival architecture. Tour this opulent Victorian home before deciding on a spot for dinner.
Choose from a variety of dining options - including American fare and homemade brews at the Marietta Brewing Company, the Irish pub atmosphere of Oliver's Fine Food and Spirits, authentic Mexican at Tampico or the fine cuisine at the Lafayette Hotel's Gun Room.
Stay at the Lafayette Hotel for a real Marietta experience. The riverboat-era hotel stands frozen in time in the heart of downtown, with great views of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.
When window-shopping through the quaint streets isn't enough, stop into a few of the many unique stores, offering fine art, antiques, jewelry and much, more in more than 50 shops and boutique-style stores.
Stop for lunch at Marietta's only riverfront cafe. The Levee House resides in a historic building where lunch and dinner are served on the patio overlooking the Ohio River or in the restored dining room.
Take a quick trip across the Ohio River to Williamstown, West Virginia, and tour Fenton Art Glass. Watch craftsmen create works of art by hand and stop in the factory outlet, gift shop and glass museum.
Marietta Wine Cellars offers a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Sample more than 12 locally made wines and peruse the gift shop, perhaps for a wine- or beer-making kit to take home.
The newly constructed Rivertrail that winds through parks and along the Muskingum River lets visitors explore the beauty of Marietta's natural landscape in any season.
A sightseeing cruise on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler is an idyllic way to take in the sleepy charm of Marietta's river-town roots.
- Founded in 1788, Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. General Rufus Putnam named the town for Marie Antoinette.
- Overlooking the Muskingum River is a complex of earthworks, or mounds, built by ancient Indian tribes. Marietta's mounds are some of the best preserved in the country.
- Marietta College is one of America's 37 "Revolutionary Colleges," institutions with origins reaching back to the 18th century.
- Year-round, the River City Farmers Market brings Mid-Ohio Valley farmers together every Saturday, where they offer homegrown produce, handmade crafts, and much more.
- Internationally known Rossi Pasta is handmade in downtown Marietta.
- Marietta College is one of the few in the state with intercollegiate crew - its rowing teams have excelled in many national competitions over the years. The college's baseball team won the fourth Division III College World Series Championship in school history in 2006.