I struggled with what to title this post because quite frankly there is SO much to explore and learn about in Marietta, Ohio! It’s SO much more than just history in the past – the community there is making history RIGHT NOW!
After spending 3 days there on a press trip as a guest of the Marietta-Washington County CVB, I saw not only a town firmly (and literally!) standing on a rich amazing history – but Marietta is a talented culture of art, resilience, and storytelling! Everyone I met had a story to tell and it was absolutely incredible.
The town was started in 1788 and is not only the oldest town in Ohio but the oldest in the Northwest Territories as well! It was named for Marie Antoinette and each year they hold a festival on the weekend near her birthday. I couldn’t possibly share with you all that I did in just a 3 day period so I will be featuring several aspects of the town in different posts.
The 2 Largest Historical Artifacts in Marietta, Ohio:
I can’t even begin to tell you everything I learned here about the above fortification built in 1788 in Marietta, Ohio (the FIRST organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory!). I did find a blog post with some pretty extensive history featured here in the Campus Martius Museum where the largest historical artifact by the Friends of Marietta is safely kept. On site is also the restored Rufus Putnam house as well as the Ohio Company’s Land Office built in 1788!
The museum boasts tremendous displays of historical artifacts from the area, war guns, and an entire wing dedicated to the fascinating Lilly Martin Spencer. Lilly’s life is an amazing story of a woman who sold paintings to support her family in the late 1800’s.
The next largest artifact in Marietta’s historical collection is the W. P. SNYDER JR. – the last intact steam-powered stern-wheeled boat in the US. It’s located just outside the Ohio River Museum and can be toured during the warmer months.
Interesting Spots to Note Around Town:
Upon our arrival in Marietta we took a walking tour with Hidden Marietta and I can’t recommend this enough! In fact they have several tours and I HIGHLY recommend all of them! You will learn SO much about the history (and the ghosts!) in Marietta. It’s a spooky delight and a fascinating story woven by era-dressed tour guides.
One ghastly stop was here at the current The Levee House Restaurant. This fine dining establishment is packed with character as it is the very last original riverfront structure here in town. But in the early 1800’s this waterfront district had it’s darker history brewing. If you enjoy living on the spookier side of life you can read about the sordid tale of this formal brothel here.
This eerie spot on our Hidden Marietta tour also left me with the desire to explore the insides of the building! If you look very closely you can see the ghost writing with the words: ” Chronic Disease Sanitarium”.
It was a hospital in the early 1900’s, then a funeral parlor, and is now attached to what is known as the Tiber Way Grille – a popular hot spot for locals. The entire building is a curved and built so that the railroad could go around it.
Yet another intriguing bit of history is that Marietta is a mecca for floods and fires. OK – maybe not something you would normally be proud of but in Marietta it is equivalent to resilience and determination. As you walk through town you can actually find markers displayed of how high various flood waters were. In fact in the past 100 years Marietta has had 20 major floods!
Let that sink in for a minute! In fact the town itself used to be built down lower until it kept flooding so much they made the bold decision to basically pave over the town and build a new town right on top! SAY WHAT?! Yep! You can still see evidence of this like the building in the photo above where you can still see the tops of the old windows buried underneath the city. Insanely incredible!
For the sake of turning this into information overload there is one more incredible place with a colorful history that is absolutely captivating. So captivating in fact that I want to head back to Marietta some day to explore it!
See that island on the right side of the above photo past the bridge? Ask around town and you may here different versions of the story but if you take the Hidden Marietta walking tours you’ll hear about this fascinating spot.
This little island has been a farm, a carnival, a hideout for outlaws, a place for gambling, and anything else you can imagine – and sometimes all at the same time! It seems each time a flood washes it away it becomes something new again! It’s pretty incredible and I’ve heard you can still find remains of its historical past on the island if you look close enough.
Peoples Mortuary Museum
The Peoples Mortuary Museum in Marietta is a private collection of antique hearses and other funeral / embalming related equipment. It is located – you guessed it – right next to a funeral parlor and although admission is FREE please make sure to call ahead to the funeral home and they can set you up a time to come by!
This sizeable museum is astonishing and well kept and includes a large collection of hearses (some used in Hollywood films!), photos from past death portraits, antique coffins of various types, and ALL sorts of related artifacts. It is not gruesome or spooky at all and is quite the interesting educational stop!
Personally I am fascinated by previous medical antiquities and appreciated the opportunity to walk through this private museum.
History that PRE-Dates Marietta:
Inside of the Mound Cemetery you’ll find this Earthworks Mound where you can climb to the top and ponder the people that lived here long ago. This is one of the earliest known mounds in our country and you can actually find several still preserved locations throughout town.
The cemetery itself is one of the oldest in the region and not only are there soldiers from many different American wars buried there but it is home to the largest number of Revolutionary soldiers buried in one place anywhere!
History in the Making NOW
We always think of history as being in the past but creating history RIGHT NOW has a special place in our story. That is what Sewah Studios is doing right now – and it’s worth knowing about. Chances are if you’ve done any travel in the United States you have seen historical markers that look like these:
Sewah Studios makes more than 75% of the historical markers in our country and high chances are, you’ve come across at least one! They are all COMPLETELY hand made works of art! Can you believe that?! It’s an incredible process started in 1927 by Mr. E. M. Hawes (his last name is Sewah spelled backwards!)
It was bought in the 50’s by the grandfather of the same man running the company right now! They make over 1200 markers each year and claim the trendy title of “History on a Stick”. Their markers can be found in every state in the US and they create the official state markers for 26 of our US states.
You can see photos and details of their step by step process here but I recommend watching the video below too! With NO sales team and NO advertising they clear over $2 MILLION each year with their handmade markers – and it’s pretty incredible!
I took a TON of photos from my tour in Sewah Studios but couldn’t possibly post them all here! Below are a few to give you an overview of the walk through.
The first room I walked through was piled floor to ceiling with letters of all shapes and sizes which are used to create the descriptions on the signs! They are pre-laid out for accuracy and spaced.
Once they have the letters all laid out and a template built they create a sand casting of it. Above is literally just a pile of packed down sand with the template pressed into it! Isn’t it incredible?! The sand used comes straight from the Ohio River nearby which is awesome!
Once the template is casted into the sand these gigantic bars of aluminum are melted right on site.
Surprisingly it doesn’t take long to melt the ingots and the hot liquid aluminum is transferred into a bucket and then poured right into the sand casted template!
This is the cast once it has been removed and cleaned – can you believe it?! Just from pouring hot aluminum liquid into a pile of sand. OK so it’s a little more complicated than that and is a meticulous process but you get the gist!
After baking and drying base coats of paint onto the historical markers the letters and designs are then hand painted on! Can you imagine accidentally messing up any part of this process on these signs!?
The prices start at about $1000+ so that would be a pretty pricey mistake! It’s really a phenomenal process and amazing that most of us have seen these signs and knew nothing about them!
A special thank you to the Marietta-Washington County CVB for inviting me to tour the area and hosting my stay. If you’re planning a visit I recommend staying in the Historic Lafayette Hotel – it’s right on the water next to fabulous boutique shops and provides a wonderful experience!