Excursion 9, Part 4 (The Safe House)

In which our intrepid hero discovers the safe that could not save itself…

For the past 18 years, I have had to travel a lot for work.  That means a lot of stays in hotels.  After all these years, I know exactly what I want and don’t want from hotels (don’t worry, I won’t list them).  Hotels rarely surprise me, although sometimes they definitely still do.  Things were a lot different when I was a kid, though.  Hotels—or, more typically, motels—were rare and strange creatures.  We could rarely afford to travel much, so the few vacations I went on as a kid are pretty much engrained on my mind.  They weren’t really very far—places you could get to by car—and were all in the Southwest:  Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, etc.  As a kid, I found motels both exciting and a drag.  They were a drag, because we’d typically get a room with two double beds and my sister and I would have to share a bed and we got little sleep (plus, my parents snored).  But on the other hand, they were unbelievably cool.  Even things like ice machines seemed strange and exotic.   There was stationery in every room!  More than once, we had those “Magic Fingers” beds you could pay a quarter to have vibrate.  We couldn’t get enough of that.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better version]

I wonder when exactly staying in a hotel/motel was no longer exciting for me.  There was a long period of time, in college and many years of graduate school, when I virtually never stayed in such a place.  I think the excitement simply died there somewhere, part of growing up.  I did, however, at least appreciate later the opportunity to have stayed in the Watergate Hotel.

I didn’t stay at any hotels in this driving excursion; it was strictly a day trip.  But I did get to see one or two, as we’ll see.  By this point I was in the final laps of the excursion.  I figured I’d get to the Ohio River at Marietta, drive around a bit, then head for home.  Following the Muskingum River south to the Ohio brought me to the twin towns of McConnelsville and Malta, separated by the Muskingum.  McConnelsville (population 1,784, salute!) is the county seat of Morgan County, one of Appalachian Ohio’s counties.  Malta, across the river, has population of 671 (salute!).  Neither place is famous for anything, but they do have some interesting buildings.  Morgan County is one of Ohio’s most sparsely populated counties, with only around 15,000 inhabitants.  Fascinatingly, the county’s population peaked in 1850 (with a population of 28,585).  I strongly suspect this was because of the importance of river transportation at the time.  The population reached a low of only 12,375 by 1970 and has crept back a bit since then.

exc9pt4-3  Certainly on a Saturday, McConelsville seemed relatively vacant.  I liked the old building in the back in this photograph because of the masonry at the top.  I am sure there is a name for that sort of building feature but, if so, it is beyond my ken.

exc9pt4-2 One of my favorite buildings was this grand old house.  It is in poor shape now but once upon a time, it must have been glorious.  Now it has been divided into a bunch of small apartments, judging by all the satellite dishes.

exc9pt4-4 The Muskingum River, looking pretty impressive.

exc9pt4-5 I mentioned, I believe, in my previous blog posting that I liked this style of house.

exc9pt4-6 Here’s an old residence that has been kept up quite nicely.  As always when i see such structures, I am struck by a fit of porch jealousy.

exc9pt4-7 There are two bridges across the Muskingum between McConnelsville and Malta.  This, I think, must be the 3rd Street bridge.  Originally built in 1913, it is very narrow (and has a weight limit of only 5 tons).  You can see that ostensibly the bridge is one lane in each direction, but I don’t think there is any way that two SUVs, much less anything larger, could actually pass by each other on that bridge.  As I crossed it, I was praying that no one would come from the opposite direction.

exc9pt4-8 There’s a lot of nice old architecture in the villages.

exc9pt4-9 A veterans’ memorial built after World War I.

exc9pt4-10Down the Muskingum a bit is the village of Beverly, Ohio (population 1,313, salute!).  With this Beverly building, as with many such older buildings, current usage is less distinguished than originally.  Once some sort of commercial building, now it is home to “The Cornerstone Inn,” which boasts “homestyle food” and “traditions from Mother’s table.”  Only a short while ago, the building was home to “King’s Furniture,” which used all five floors of the building. The furniture store went out of business in 2009 after some 50 years in operation, killed by the recession.

exc9pt4-11 I thought this large old building—some sort of boarding house or apartment house, apparently, was rather interesting.

exc9pt4-12 Just next door was this house.  Every now and then I see a house with this sort of decoration hanging from the roof or eaves and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine why anybody would find such a thing even remotely attractive.

exc9pt4-13Outside of Beverly is the “Lakeside Motel,” which is actually not next to any lake at all.  It is across the street, however, from the Muskingum River.  Next to the hotel is a body of water that Google Maps calls the “Lakeside Motel Pond.”   I guess this is the “lake” the name of the motel refers to.  However, there is an associated golf course, so it is not entirely cheesy.  Based on old postcards being offered for sale on E-bay, this motel dates back at least to the 1950s.

exc9pt4-14 An interestingly dilapidated home.

exc9pt4-15 Old house, old farm buildings, old tank, and scraggly hill-pasture.  What’s not to like?

exc9pt4-16 This old building was quite interesting.  It belongs to the “Smith Iron Works,” which is a family-owned business (purportedly in its fifth generation) that does ornamental ironworking, such as gates, railings, little bridges, spiral stair cases, and so forth.  Satellite imagery reveals that the work is actually done in several large buildings a little ways behind this one, which makes me curious about this building.  Was it a work location for an earlier generation of this family business?

exc9pt4-17Now we get to Marietta, Ohio, my destination and turn-around point for this trip.  Marietta (population 14,085, salute!) is one of the major towns along the Ohio River in Southeast Ohio.  It is also one of the earliest permanent American settlements in Ohio.  Situated as it is where the Muskingum River meets with the Ohio River, it experienced great commercial success.  Commercial traffic and boat building was soon supplemented by iron mills and factories.  It also experienced a couple of brief oil booms.  Despite this, its population remained relatively low.  Population peaked at 16,861 in 1970 and has declined since, though not as rapidly as in some other Ohio towns.

I found the above home by accident.  I needed to turn around, so I drove in behind a supermarket to find some space in which to do so.  Behind the supermarket was this wreck of a home.

exc9pt4-18My stay in Marietta was brief (I’ll have to go back) but the most interesting thing I saw was this grand set of ruins that seemed to fuse an old factory with and old government building.  This location was once the grand home of the Safe Cabinet Company, founded in Marietta in 1905 (incorporated in 1906) by Willis V. Dick and George B. Shad.  The Safe Cabinet company was a pioneer in the field of fireproof safes, developing a construction method that used two sheets of metal separated by a layer of fire resistant material (typically asbestos).

exc9pt4-19In 1926, the company was bought out by Remington-Rand (later Rand-Kardex), a document storage company that was trying to expand its line.  Problems probably began in 1955 when the Sperry Corporation bought out Rand-Kardex and closed the safe division down.  They apparently abandoned it altogether in the early 1980s or so.   As of 2013, “portions of the first and lower levels of the main manufacturing building are occupied by a hydraulic sand fracking company.  Large quantities of sand are stored on-site.  The remaining on-site buildings are not in use other than for storage purposes.”  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Now a property developer is trying to redevelop the buildings “into an all-inclusive residential community” with “on-site services…including dry cleaners, tanning beds, coffee shops, exercise facilities, pool, tennis courts, concierge service, etc.”  They have their work cut out for them, as many of the buildings are in poor shape (or not even safe to enter), while preliminary US and Ohio EPA tests suggest the possible presence of various organic, solvent, heavy metal, and acid wastes, as well as chemicals such as tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, vinyl clhoride and arsenic.  There is even a room in the place simply known as “the asbestos room.”   Good luck with that.

exc9pt4-20 Well, let’s end this excursion on a lighter note.  First, let’s throw in an ice cream shack, specifically the Cone-n-Shake.


And, finally, I thought I’d include this frivolous picture simply because it caused me to do a double-take.  We have probably all seen former fast food places “re-purposed” by other restaurants or other types of businesses.  This, though, is the first time I have seen a building clearly constructed for one fast food chain (Taco Bell) actually being used by another major fast food chain (Subway).  It just gave me one of those “Wait, what?” moments, and what’s better than that.  I’m just sayin’.

3 thoughts on “Excursion 9, Part 4 (The Safe House)

  1. Sometime you do need to explore Marietta, especially from the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum north, on both sides of the Muskingum. You will be pleasantly surprised!

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