When last we met, we were in the middle of a sunny but cold February 2016 excursion into southeastern Ohio, just a couple of miles from the Ohio River itself in Washington County, whose county seat is Marietta. Washington County is one of the more prosperous counties of southeastern Ohio—its per capita income is 25-33% higher than that of neighboring counties—but everything is relative. Central Ohio counties have incomes similarly higher than that of Washington County. You can find prosperity and poverty both along the Ohio River here.
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I wasn’t quite at the Ohio River but I was close. I was along Wingett Run, a creek that runs into the Little Muskingum River, which itself threads many hills to reach the Muskingum River shortly before it empties into the Ohio.
Along Wingett Run is a tiny unincorporated hamlet, confusingly also called Wingett Run (Wingett was a local early settler). It is not really even a hamlet, just a couple of houses, but it had a post office, way back when, so it became an official place. Its dominating—and virtually only—feature is Myers’ General Store on State Route 26. As its window dressing suggests (“canoe livery”), it serves, or served, in recent years largely to cater to canoeists, hikers and other recreation-seekers along the Little Muskingum. The original general store—which was also the post office—dates back to the late 1800s, though this building does not. It is colorful but its colors are rather faded. It appears that it may once have also had a couple of gas pumps, though they are no more. The odd thing is that the paint seems to have been fresh and colorful as recently as 2008.
Being along a river is risky; this whole area flooded in 2004, thanks to distant Hurricane Ivan, and the water got up to five feet inside the store. When I stopped here, I wasn’t sure if the store was still in business or not. I think it is, but I am still not 100% sure.
A couple of bends of the river away, on a small hill, is the Muskingum Valley Baptist Church. Its new pastor is Rev. David Easter, who way back in 1992 made the pages of the Washington Post, of all places, because of the suitability of his name for his job. The MVBC had some problems finding a preacher—as I suspect small and isolated churches probably often do.
I was heading east, destined to reach the Ohio River at New Matamoros, but along the way I came across a most peculiar little mobile home park carved out of the woods, containing only a handful of small mobile homes, about seven all told. This did not seem like either an RV Park or a trailer park, but many of the trailers did have satellite dishes, so these were probably permanent residences of some sort.
A bit further to the east, the forest opened up to become a small stretch of cleared land for pasture and a little bit of hay. That is where I found this little green cottage, next to a hay field.
A little bit down the road lies the tiny village of New Matamoros (oddly, also known as just Matamoros), an old 18th century Ohio settlement along the Ohio River (population 896, salute!). Economically, New Matamoros could be a lot better off; incomes are low and poverty is fairly high. There is just not that much of a local economy (I have to wonder if nearby Marietta has a baleful effect). Long ago, it was something of a boom town thanks to river shipping. This is a very purple house.
One business in New Matamoros is the Aldeco Motel, an old-style motor hotel built in 1956. I discovered that when it was sold in 2007—just before the real estate plummet, mind you—it sold for $80,000. The previous owner, Daiton Scarbro, died in 2004 at the early age of 53 (though a brother and two sisters died before he did). He was, coincidentally enough, a member of the Muskingum Valley Baptist Church and I wonder if he was buried in its cemetery.
From New Matamoros, I headed southwest along the Ohio River in the direction of Marietta. Along the way, I took this photograph, largely because of the interesting juxtaposition of the recreational vehicle with the power plant in the background. The power plant, by the way, is the Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia, on the other side of the Ohio River (into which you would fall if you marched straight ahead into this photograph). The power plant, a coal-burning plant despite its cooling towers, is the site of the worst construction accident in U.S. history. In 1978, during construction, one of the cooling towers collapsed, killing 51 people. No one was ever held accountable for the horrific accident—which is not atypical in the U.S.—and the company only had to pay $85,500. Though the power plant was based in West Virginia, six of the men who died were from Ohio.
Thankfully, at the time I took the photograph I did not know of the power plant’s grim history or it certainly would have made the day more somber. As it was, I soon found myself in one of my favorite towns in Ohio, the river community of Marietta, one of the oldest communities in the state, having been settled in the 1780s. Its population is 14,085 (salute!), which makes it a metropolis for the region (its population is equal to that one the whole population of one of its adjacent counties). it is located in a thin strip carved out from the hills and forest at the confluence of the Muskingum and the Ohio.
I like Marietta because it has a history, because it is located in one of my favorite parts of the state, and because much of it is very picturesque. it has suffered population losses since the 1970s (when it was a quarter larger), but it still seems like a vibrant community. I took the above photograph because of the very large building in the background, of course, which was not only much larger but much, much older than any surrounding buildings. it is a couple of hundred feet from the Ohio river (behind the photographer). These are the Marietta Mills apartments—but of course that is not what they once were.
No, this building once belonged to the Becker Lumber and Manufacturing Company, which dates back to 1888, when John K. Becker started it. In 1901 he built this building and moved his business there. Alas, the Great Depression destroyed his business and he was forced to sell. The premises were taken over by the Croy-Marietta Hardwoods Company, which had a decent run selling hardwoods for furniture manufacture, but it went out of business in 1994 after a long and slow decline. By then the building had been added to the National Register of Historic Places, which gave its new owners some tax breaks when they decided to transform the property into residential living.
Here we stroll—or rather roll—into downtown Marietta. The county courthouse is to the left, a theater in front of us. The mural on the side of the theater is interesting, because it actually depicts this city block (in a bygone era, of course) from a perspective very close to the one that this photograph has. And if you look at the mural carefully, you’ll notice that it shows a building that today is only the parking lot next to the theater (the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theater; see below a bit). Where that white car is parked once stood a large old hotel—but despite my efforts, I do not know its name.
Some more examples of the interesting old architecture of Marietta. Bars and restaurants occupy the ground floors; I am not sure if anything occupies the upper floors.
From more or less the same vantage point, but looking at a different direction, we see an impressive bit of Marietta brickwork—and impressive signage as well, done in the style of old signs and advertisements painted directly on the side of the buildings themselves. The Glass Press, Inc., the building announces: Established in 1994. Started in 1994, yes, but alas, with us no more. These buildings belonged to Dave Richardson, who ran a publishing company, The Glass Press, that specialized in magazines about collectibles. However, in 2008, Richardson hung up his printer’s apron and took on some entirely different clothing: he became a pastor and is now preaching somewhere in Kansas.
The Glass Press was never large enough to fill these buildings to begin with and a variety of other tenants did, and do, occupy space here.
A colorful restaurant in Marietta, Tampico’s. But I liked Art Deco-ish font of the Marietta Office Supply store just as much.
Now I’ve looped back around and we are looking at the rather worn Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theater building. But this building has an illustrious history, This building was originally built in 1915 as the Putnam Theater, a bit over a century ago, in those , pre-Internet, pre-television, pre-commercial radio days. Movies were still in their infancy. What did people do? If in a very small place, they might engage in social activities at a church or fraternal hall. But early 20th century towns offered a wealth of attractions, none more enticing than the theater, where one could see Vaudeville shows, plays, musical performers, and more. Marietta boasted five major theaters at one point—including one just across the street from this one. Marietta’s largest theater—which is no more—had an astounding 1,500 seats.
The Putnam Theater was primarily a Vaudeville theater when it first opened, but moving pictures were just about to go big and soon people flocked to the theater to see their favorite stars, fillings its 300 seats on a regular basis. It was later renamed The Cinema. In 1977, a local theater group, the Mid-Ohio Valley Players, purchased the building and have been hosting plays and performances—and (very) slowly renovating the theater since.
After the glories of Marietta, I decided to start heading north again. The region northwest of Marietta is more open and has more farmland than the heavily wooded hills to the east and northeast of the town. Several miles northwest of Marietta is the tiny unincorporated community of Watertown, Ohio. It has a number of old buildings, including this gun store, where people can get their glocks off.
Head north from Watertown and you will run into Beverly (population 1,313, salute!) Indeed, if you are driving in the region you can hardly help but wander into Beverly, as it is a crossroads town that seems to draw people in. Beverly is the home of The Cornerstone Inn, which I can’t seem to help photographing every time I go through town (as in this most recent example). But why not? It is a great building, a former lodge for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Head north out of Beverly and you may eventually wind up in the unincorporated community with the wonderful name of Tick Ridge, which Wikipedia helpfully explains “most likely was so named on account of the frequent wood ticks there.” Thanks, Wikipedia. Take the rest of the day off. Near there, in the middle of an open field, is this unusual structure atop a low earthen mound. It consists of an array of animal statues or figures along circumference of a low cylindrical thingie. it almost looks as if it should be moving, like a merry-go-round.
What is its purpose? I cannot tell at all. Perhaps advertising for something? Perhaps there was something else at this location once? It is a mystery to me. But it certainly seems intriguing. I thought it would make a good black and white photograph.
Nearby, in the fading light, I spotted this country house. I see houses like this—always in various stages of completion or repair or renovation that never seem to actually get finished—fairly regularly.
I was more or less heading up the Muskingum River, north towards Zanesville. Along the way I saw this little stream, preparing to empty itself into the Muskingum a little further downstream. I take photographs of streams fairly regularly but rarely include them in these blog entries, because they never seem to turn out well. Or, perhaps “well” is not the right word—but they just don’t seem interesting. However, for whatever reason, I thought this photo was worth including.
Next to the river is a lumber company, Adkins Timber Products, a reminder that logging is still a very viable industry in Ohio. You want logs? Oh, they’ve got logs.
The scale of the timber can be better judged with the piece of moving equipment in the background. Those aren’t twigs.
Once I reached SR-60, which parallels the Muskingum in southern Ohio, my pace picked up quickly. There wasn’t much daylight left, while SR-60, one of the longest roads in Ohio, also has brisk traffic even in rural areas, so my opportunities to slow down and take photographs were rather limited. That is a shame, because the east bank of the Muskingum, like its west bank, is full of tiny river shacks, cottages, and houses. Here is one of the latter, either a large cottage or small house, built in the shadow of a power plant smokestack.
One final river shack, a nice little structure, with the Muskingum directly behind it. I would like to have one of these, in theory. They seem so cool. But I don’t fish and I don’t boat and I don’t even swim, so what would be the point of me getting this above any other little getaway place? Even impractical me sees that this might not be the best option. But I still like them.
And I like you, dear reader, for sticking with me for so long. And that’s just how I’ll end it, too: so long.