April 2008 Issue
Discoveries await visitors on a tour along the Ohio from East Liverpool to Paducah
A ramble along the Ohio River cross-stitches Ohio to her waterfront neighbors, with bridge and ferry connecting the latest boutique to a historic mansion, a fun new café to an intriguing museum. Hop on for three zigzags along the Ohio, with serendipities old and new along both banks.
East Liverpool to Marietta
Get ready for a deep road trip — deep into the rich natural resources that fueled this stretch of the Ohio River Valley.
Every newcomer, from prehistoric Indian to late pioneer, discovered wealth deep down: oil, gas, coal and some of America’s best clay.
Eastern Ohio’s Pennsylvanian-age clay is the potter’s choice, a bounty that took East Liverpool from “Crockery City” to the “Pottery Center of the World.” The town hit the ceramic trifecta: rich veins of Ohio’s best clay, an abundance of natural gas to fire the kilns, and the Ohio River to ship everything out.
“East Liverpool was America’s pottery capital for about 50 years, from the late 1880s to 1930,” says Sarah Vodrey, historic site manager at The Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool.
The Museum of Ceramics showcases East Liverpool’s output, from everyday pottery to the world’s largest public collection of Lotus Ware — the American answer to foreign porcelain. Lotus Ware was so costly to make that production stopped after a few years.
The museum has a heritage of its own, a 1909 post office on the National Register of Historic Places. Fine art pottery is set against original marble and terrazzo floors, a domed ceiling and a half-moon mural.
Today, small potteries remain in Columbiana County, dwarfed by two giants, Hall China in East Liverpool and Homer Laughlin Pottery, just across the river in Newell, West Virginia.
Hall is a legend in commercial pottery, making foodservice pieces and some of the housewares that many remember from great-grandma’s table, such as the 1937 Donut Teapot with the fascinating hole in the middle. The company sells firsts, seconds and one-of-a-kind pieces at its popular Hall Closet, next to the main office.
Across the Newell Bridge, the Homer Laughlin China Company, creator of Fiesta ware, offers hour-long factory tours by reservation. Its store sells Fiesta seconds among its other brands.
Meander south to Wheeling, birthplace of West Virginia 145 years ago. This industrial powerhouse sits at the confluence of the B&O Railroad, the National Road and the Ohio River.
In Wheeling’s historic downtown, the 1853 Centre Market stands as America’s only cast iron-columned marketplace — cast, of course, in Wheeling. It’s a great lunch stop for roast beef at Michael’s Beef House or a fish sandwich from Coleman’s Fish Market, topped off by a treat from the Lebanese Bakery.
Nearby, the Oglebay Resort and Conference Center sprawls over 1,700 acres. Guests swim, hike and fish on the grounds, or stop by the Good Zoo to hand-feed cups of nectar to rainbow lorikeets in the Australian aviary. A train chugs through grasslands and past ostrich herds.
Our next stop is playful, too: The Official Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia. Boomers will flash back when they see the snap-together Marx Fort Apache and Johnny West action figures, and their kids might long to take a Big Wheel for a nostalgic spin. Put your feet up in the ’50s snack bar and play the juke box.
Back to Ohio and Marietta, with handmade jewelry and crafts at Front Street boutiques, and cross the Marietta-Williamstown Bridge to Fenton Art Glass, another industry fueled by the region’s natural gas. The free tour, often rated among the country’s Top 10, shows artisans glass blowing and glass stamping. Master craftsmen will present free programs Saturday mornings April 14, May 5 and June 9. Bargain hunters trawl among the shelves for Fenton finds.
Marietta to Clermont County
Set your GPS to “mansion” for this leg of the Ohio. Millionaires then and now love a good river-town view.
In Marietta, it was the Fourth Street hill that was so high few horse teams could climb it. That was the spot attorney Melvin C. Clark chose for his grand home in 1855, a mansion that everyone called The Castle.
Atop the hill, his Gothic Revival fantasy of red brick and stone awaits you behind the cast iron fence. The trefoil attic window, turrets and the crenellated octagonal tower all scream “castle.”
Home for a succession of families, the Castle is now owned by a nonprofit corporation that opened it to the public in 1994. Extensive renovations renewed the tile work, wallpapers and woodwork that showcase Victorian furnishings. The Castle is the setting for salon concerts, architectural tours and history programs.
A few miles south in the middle of the Ohio River, spirits might certainly be aswirl around another mansion, Blennerhassett. In 1800, Irish aristocrats Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett built a gracious Palladian home to rival Mount Vernon on their island. But they had only six more years to enjoy it: Harman became involved with Aaron Burr’s plans for an empire in the American Southwest. President Thomas Jefferson accused both men of treason and the Blennerhassetts fled their beloved estate.
Although Harman was released from the Virginia State Penitentiary, his reputation was ruined; he, Margaret and their family moved south to try their luck with a plantation. Their beautiful home, with a winding staircase, dramatic black walnut paneling and one of the best libraries in the American West, went up in flames in 1811.
Fast-forward 162 years: West Virginia state archaeologists discover the foundations of the 7,000-square-foot home, and plans were drawn up to rebuild it. Today, the grandeur has returned, with jewel-tone walls, four-poster beds and a few original pieces in the restored home.
The island is an idyll out of time, as you arrive by sternwheeler, then step into a horsedrawn carriage or explore by bike. On May 7–10, muzzle loaders and mountain men will Rendezvous on the River for a recreation of 19th-century frontier life. And Blennerhassett may be one of the best places in the state for the West Virginia Day Celebration June 20. Step up for a piece of cake to toast the Mountaineers’ 145th birthday.
Now, let’s drift down the Ohio from recreated gentility to preserved wilderness. It’s a breeze by following the river to Friendship, Ohio, west of Portsmouth, and angling up into Adams County and the Edge of Appalachia.
The Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System, to be exact — the largest privately owned protected natural area in Ohio. The 10 nearly contiguous preserves, owned and managed by the Ohio chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Museum of Science and Natural History at Cincinnati Museum Center, protect more than 100 rare species.
Two preserves are open for responsible trail hiking: the Buzzardroost Rock Preserve and Lynx Prairie, about 15 miles west of Friendship. The Lynx remnant prairie blooms with such rare species as blue-hearts and crested coralroot.
It’s a gentle roll from the Appalachian foothills into Brown and Clermont Counties, which proudly claim a Ulysses S. Grant trifecta: his three-room birthplace cottage, boyhood home and schoolhouse.
Grant lived in his boyhood home in Georgetown, Brown County, longer than any other house: from 1823 to 1839, when he left for West Point.
The lad attended the nearby one-room schoolhouse of John White from age 6 to 13, and the 1829 red brick building stands today as an Ohio Historical Society site.
Twenty miles west, the road leads to Grant’s Birthplace in Clermont County’s Point Pleasant. The three-room cottage was next to the tannery where Jesse Grant worked, and where his son Hiram Ulysses Grant, the future 18th president, was born April 22, 1822. It was a mix-up at West Point that gave him those famous initials: The academy called him Ulysses Simpson Grant, and “U.S.” stuck.
Louisville to Paducah
Talk about time travel! Five centuries have fallen away as swordsmen in Elizabethan tunics duel in the tournament ring of the Frazier International History Museum.
The Louisville museum bristles with bellicose action, as interpreters fight with swords and even poleaxes. Others bring historical figures to life, and it’s not all testosterone, either — Anne Bonney, an infamous pirate, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and Big Nose Kate (Katie Elder, who saw the gunfight at the OK Corral), might suddenly appear.
The Frazier combines the collection of Britain’s Royal Armouries with its own permanent collection, spanning 1,000 years on two continents. Medieval English plate armor shares pride of place with Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” rifle and a bow and quiver of arrows attributed to Geronimo. But there are a few respites from war — such as Daniel Boone’s family Bible.
Leaving Louisville, cross the Ohio River toward the first Hoosier capital, Corydon, celebrating its bicentennial in 2008.
In June 1816, 43 delegates met in the square limestone building now called the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site to draft a constitution. They also deliberated outside under a giant tree, and the trunk of the Constitution Elm still stands. Both are part of Corydon’s historic core, ringed by shops and restaurants.
This little town may be the best place to throw culinary caution to the wind. Butt Drugs fizzes up sodas and scoops up floats as it has since 1952 — the vanilla cream soda recipe is still secret. Even the lemonade and limeade are homemade. And the modjeskas? These caramel-covered marshmallows are positively addictive.
But why stop there? Any bicentennial pilgrimage must pay homage to Emery’s ice cream, a Corydon institution since 1937. A replica of the original Emery’s ice cream parlor still scoops up flavors that sound like delicious ghosts of cones past: lemon chiffon, maple nut, lemon custard and Almond Joy.
Sugar-fueled, it’s on to Spencer County and a mega bicentennial, the 200th-anniversary celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Lincoln lived in Indiana from age 7 to 21. On May 11, a special Mother’s Day ceremony at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial will honor the 16th president and his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, with a dramatic presentation and music. She’s buried in a pioneer cemetery near the farm. As Lincoln said, “All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother.”
Back to the Ohio River, it’s on to Paducah, a traditional quilting enclave that’s grown into a full artist’s colony. Everyone knows about the Museum of American Quilter’s Society and its annual quilt show and contest, set for April 23–26. But how many know that an entire blighted neighborhood has been transformed by artists from across the country, taking Paducah up on its offer to come do art, y’all.
The city offers artists incentives to buy dilapidated buildings in Lowertown, the city’s oldest district, just four blocks from the Ohio. More than 70 potters, painters, printmakers and jewelers have snapped up the properties to create their own homes/shops in one, and the gallery-hopping is deluxe.
Once a month, artists open their doors during the Second Saturday Studio/Gallery Walk, and the busy calendar at the new Carson Center for performing arts often rounds out the weekend. You’ll find that this city of quilters knows a thing or two about piecing together a great getaway.
River CrossingsDiscoveries await visitors on a tour along the Ohio from East Liverpool to Paducah.
EAST LIVERPOOL TO MARIETTA
The Museum of Ceramics, 400 E. Fifth St., East Liverpool, Ohio, 800/600-7180. www.ohiohistory.org
, 1 Anna Ave., East Liverpool, Ohio, 800/445-4255. www.hallchina.com
Homer Laughlin Pottery
, St. Rte. 2, Newell, West Virginia, 800/452-4462. www.homerlaughlin.com
, 2200 Market St., Wheeling, W.Va., 304/234-3878. www.centremarket.net
Good Zoo & Benedum Planetarium at Oglebay
, St. Rte. 88 N., Wheeling, W.Va., 800/624-6988. www.oglebay-resort.com
The Official Marx Toy Museum
, 915 Second St., Moundsville, W.Va., 304/845-6022. www.MarxToyMuseum.com
The Fenton Gift Shop & Glass Museum,420 Caroline Ave., Williamstown, W.Va., 800/319-7793. www.fentongiftshop.com
MARIETTA TO CLERMONT COUNTY
, 418 Fourth St., Marietta. 740/373-4180. www.mariettacastle.org
Blennerhassett Island State Park
, 304/420-4800. www.blennerhassettislandstatepark.com
Edge of Appalachia Preserve
, preserve director, 937/544-2880. www.cincymuseum.org
Grant Boyhood Home
, 219 E. Grant Ave., Georgetown, 937/378-4222. www.ohiohistory.org
, 508 S. Water St., Georgetown, 937/378-4222. www.ohiohistory.org
, off U.S. Rte. 52, Point Pleasant, 513/553-4911. www.ohiohistory.org
LOUISVILLE TO PADUCAH
Frazier International History Museum
, 829 W. Main St., Louisville, 502/753-5663. www.fraziermuseum.org
, 888/738-2137. www.thisisIndiana.org Butt Drugs,115 E. Chestnut St., Corydon, 812/738-3272. www.buttdrugs.com
Emery’s Ice Cream & Malt Shop
,112 W. Walnut, Corydon,812/738-6047. www.amishalvin.com Spencer County Lincoln Bicentennial
, 888/444-9252. www.ThinkLincoln.org
Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau,
128 Broadway, Paducah, 800/723-8224. www.paducah-tourism.org