April 2006 Issue
Ohio River Tour: River Lore
If you're looking for a true sense of history along the Ohio River, it's hard not to immediately think of Marietta, a picturesque waterfront town established in 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.
Parts of the original Ohio Company fortification remain, as does The Castle, a stellar example of Gothic Revival architecture and a museum that offers guided tours and exhibits of regional artifacts. And Harmar Village - home to the Toy & Doll Museum and The Henry Fearing House - is linked to downtown Marietta by a historic railroad bridge that is open to foot traffic.
It's also in Marietta that you'll encounter the Ohio River Museum, immersing visitors in the legacy of the river and the paddle-wheelers that plied their trade on its waters.
"What we have here are artifacts related to the steamboat era," notes the Ohio River Museum's site manager Andy Verhoff. "And we have the W.P. Snyder, a towboat that's one of the last of its kind."
We've organized a driving tour along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which encompasses 452 miles and passes through 14 counties. Our route, which includes historic U.S. Rte. 52 (also known as the Atlantic and Pacific Highway and the U.S. Grant Memorial Highway), is constructed for a southeast-to-southwest journey, beginning - appropriately enough - with Marietta.
Campus Martius Museum
This facility highlights population migration in Ohio's history. It's built on the site of the original fort that established Marietta. General Rufus Putnam's house and the Ohio River Land Company Office remain from that fortification and are enclosed within the museum. 601 Second St., 740/373-3750. Open Wed.-Sat. 9:30-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. (closed winter months). Admission $7, children 6-12 $3, 5 and under free.
Once the home of Ohio State Sen. Theodore Davis (born in 1844 and first elected to office in 1877), the Castle boasts an octagonal tower, trefoil attic window and stone-capped spires. Inside, the building is furnished with items of historical significance to the area. One-hour tours of this Gothic Revival mansion, are offered on the half-hour. 418 Fourth St., 740/373-4180. Mon., Thur. and Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1-4 p.m. (open daily in summer months). Admission $5, seniors $4.50, children 6-17 $2.50, free to 5 and under.
Henry Fearing House
The Henry Fearing House, built in 1847, is located in historic Harmar Village. Fearing was the son of Paul Fearing, one of Marietta's first settlers and the first attorney in the Northwest Territory. 131 Gilman Ave., Marietta, 740/373-3226. Sat. -Sun. 1-5 p.m. (May-October). Admission $2, $1 children 6-12, free to 5 and under.
The Lafayette Hotel, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1892, the hotel includes the Gun Room Restaurant, sporting an antique long rifle collection dating back to the 1700s. 101 Front St., Marietta, 740/373-5522. Open daily. Call for seasonal rates and special packages.
Ohio River Museum
Three buildings are devoted to the history of the river. One focuses on the natural history of the Ohio, while another is devoted to steamboats and the third explores the enduring relationship between residents and river. Outside, visitors can tour the W.P. Snyder Jr., the last intact steam-powered sternwheeler towboat in America. 601 Front St., Marietta, 740/373-3717. Sat. 9:30-5 p.m., Sun. and holidays 12-5 p.m. Admission $7, children 6-12 $3, free to age 5 and under.
Toy & Doll Museum
The museum is dedicated to displaying what entertained and educated children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Displays include carousel horses, teddy bears, and circus toys. 206 Gilman St., Marietta, 740/373-5900. Fri.-Sat. 1-4 p.m. Admission $3, children $1.
Valley Gem Sternwheeler
The Valley Gem Sternwheeler offers cruises on the Ohio just as in the manner that 19th-century residents traveled. Departs from the landing at Front and Washington streets, Marietta, 740/373-7862. Tues.-Sun. 2:30-4 p.m. (June-August), Sat.- Sun. 2:30-4 p.m. (May and September). Tickets $9, $5 children 3-12.
Willow Island Locks & Dam
Part of the flood control system built on the Ohio, the facility offers free half-hour tours that take visitors into the tunnels inside the dam. If you're lucky, you'll get to see a barge navigate through the locks. Near St. Rte. 7, just upriver from Marietta, 740/374-8710. Daily, 9-5 p.m.
Middleton Doll Company
The Middleton Doll Company offers free factory tours and a museum highlighting the history of doll-making. 1301 Washington Blvd., Belpre, 740/423-1481. Mon.-Sat. 12-5 p.m. Free.
Our House Museum
The Gallipolis Historic District includes the Our House Museum, a tavern and inn built in 1819. The Federal-style building displays period furnishings and Civil War memorabilia. 432 First Ave., Gallipolis, 740/446-0586. Wed.-Sat. 10-4 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m. (May-August; open weekends only in September and October, closed winter months). Admission $4, $1 children 12 and under.
The Rankin House, a Federal-style home built in the 1820s, was a vital stop on the Underground Railroad. Thousands of slaves spent their first night of freedom at this home, owned by Presbyterian minister and abolitionist Thomas Rankin. It's located in the Ripley Historic District, which also includes the Parker House, home of African American abolitionist, inventor and former slave John Parker. Rankin House: Rankin Road, off U.S. Rte. 52, Ripley, 937/392-1627. Wed.-Sat. 10-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. (closed winter months). Admission $3, students $1, children 4 and under free. Parker House: 300 Front St., Ripley, 937/392-4188, opening for the season in May, call for hours and admission price.
Point Pleasant is the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant, the second Ohioan to become president. His family's one-story, three-room cottage, built in 1817, still stands near the mouth of the Big Indian Creek at the Ohio River, and is furnished with period items. 1551 St. Rte. 32, just off U.S. 52, Point Pleasant, 513/553-4911. Open for touring Wed.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed 12-1 p.m.), Sun. 12-5 p.m., April-October. (Grant's birthday is celebrated with a party on April 22.) Admission $2, seniors $1.50, students $1, children 5 and under free.
Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam
The Meldahl Locks and Dam features an observation deck to view barge traffic. The locks are named after the captain, who owned a farm across the road, and who took members of a congressional committee down the 981 miles of river in 1905 to prove the need for a system of dams. 2443 U.S. Rte. 52, Chilo, 513/876-2921. Open daylight hours Mon.-Fri. and some weekends (it's best to call ahead). Free.
National Steamboat Monument
This monument is a replica of the river-boat American Queen's paddle-wheel. The 60-ton wheel is positioned atop two three-story towers, and working steamboat stacks release whistles every minute or so. Public Landing on the Ohio River shoreline, Cincinnati. Open 24 hours daily. Free.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
The riverfront National Underground Railroad Freedom Center examines issues challenging the societies of the world through a variety of high-definition videos, environmental theaters, animated exhibits and other high-tech participatory experiences. The $110-million facility commemorates the Underground Railroad network, as well as other freedom issues. 50 E. Freedom Way, Cincinnati, 513/333-7500. Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission $12, children ages 6-12 $8, seniors $10.
Roebling Suspension Bridge
Engineer John Roebling used this bridge, which he built in 1866, as the prototype for his later accomplishment, the Brooklyn Bridge. The day the Roebling opened, some 120,000 people - half the population of Cincinnati at the time - came out to cross the span on foot. Foot of Vine Street, Cincinnati. Open 24 hours. Free.
The tomb of U.S. President William Henry Harrison - the first Ohioan to become president - was built in 1841 and is located, along with a monument, on Mt. Nebo. From this hill, the obelisk of Bedford limestone with marble entranceway rises 60 feet above the tomb, affording visitors an amazing panorama of the river and Ohio River Valley. Cliff Road west of U.S. 50, North Bend. 614/297-2630. Open all year during daylight hours. Free.