On and off for the past two –or has it been three–years, Chris Magoc and I have been editing a four-volume encyclopedia for ABC-Clio that explores American expansionism and imperialism from the Seven Years’ War to the “War on Terror.” A couple of weeks ago I received my first copies of the set, which are shamelessly plugged here or here. With a mere $415, or access to the database of a largish library, you too can explore…
“This groundbreaking four-volume encyclopedia [which] offers sweeping coverage of a subject central to American history and of urgent importance today as the nation wrestles with a global imperial posture and the long-term viability of the largest military establishment in human history. The work features more than 650 entries encompassing the full scope of American expansionism and imperialism from the colonial era through the 21st-century “War on Terror.”
In other words, it might help you understand how we have gotten to the point where we find it acceptable to regularly drop bombs on people half-way around the world with little remote-controlled planes.
This gallery contains 17 photos.
View Tour 1, Part A in a larger map
The unrelenting July heat in Columbus inspired me to look for the coolest part of the state I could find. Though the world-wide-intertubes said it was still in the mid-90s along the shores of Lake Erie, a steady breeze and the sight of water would be an oasis compared to the oppressive 106° of Franklin County. I decided to take U.S. 20 across northern Ohio, which also happens to be Tour 1 in TOG.
The route that became U.S. 20 has been in use for many hundreds of years. During the 17th century, the then-five nations of the Iroquois pushed the Erie, Huron, and other Algonquian peoples west along this route in order to take control of the bountiful beaver population in the region (and augment their population through a process known as Mourning War, but that is a whole other story). Later, this road became the chief avenue for Euro-American settlement of the Western Reserve. At the time of TOG’s publication in 1940, it was one of the primary east-west thoroughfares in the country: a road where “busy lake ports, prim villages with a New England air …and a number of industrial centers” stand side-by-side with “parks, vineyards, orchards, and the largest nurseries in the State.” Though the ports are not as busy, much of the description still holds true. Such is the case with the port city of Conneaut whose industrial waterfront bisects the Conneaut Wilderness Area.
When Moses Cleveland, the surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company, briefly stopped at the mouth of what became Conneaut Creek in 1796, he established the town of Salem. Sometime in the 1830s, the name was changed to Conneaut (ko’- ne – ot) which TOG states is “an Indian word variously interpreted to mean ‘fish’ or ‘snow place,’ or it may be a corruption of gunniate, which means ‘it is a long time since they have gone.'” According to the American Bureau of Ethnography, that “Indian word” is probably of Iroquois origins (a safe bet considering the region’s history), but the vagueness of its meaning and the date of its inception hints at a different etymology.
As historians such as Phillip Deloria have explained, Americans and even proto-Americans have a long history of appropriating aspects of Indian identities as way to distinguish themselves from Europeans. While Europeans have Greek and Roman antiquities, the argument goes, Americans have Indians (It is not a coincidence that the Boston Tea Party, the most storied act of civil disobedience in American history, was perpetrated by a group of “Mohawks” whose demands needed to be “translated” into english). This affection for an Indian past has been most obvious during periods of cultural anxiety as Americans have looked for “authenticity” in a rapidly changing world (Again, it is no coincidence that the Wild West shows reached their peak during a period of massive industrialization and urbanization at the turn of the nineteenth century, or that the creation of the famous “Crying Indian”—who sheds a tear as “white” people throw litter out of their cars— coincided with the post-industrial anxiety of the 1970s).
The 1830s typified one of these periods of anxiety. This sentiment is best seen in the Romantic writers and painters whose works spoke to society’s unease with the huge cultural and social shifts brought about by projects like the textile mills in Lowell, MA, and the Erie Canal. The last painting in Thomas Cole’s seminal five-piece series, “The Course of Empire” (1834-1836), for example, dramatically illustrates the consequences of over-industrialization and the price of its trappings.
For many towns, the anxiety surrounding industrialization manifested itself through the creation of an idealized Indian history. Sometimes this took the form of a recently discovered tree or rock or grove where “Indian councils” took place. Other times, as perhaps was the case of Conneaut, an Indian name was adopted, thereby proving its Native bona fides. Conneaut may in fact be an Iroquoian word, or it may simply be what an 1830s resident of the town believed an Iroquoian word sounded like.
Regardless of its name, Conneaut grew rapidly at the end of the nineteenth century as a transportation hub for the iron and coal found in the region. Along with its natural harbor, one of the largest iron ore receiving ports in the world in 1940, it was dividing point for the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company, commonly called the Nickel Plate Railroad. Perhaps because of the land needed for the railroad yard, the town grew up a few miles inland, rather than on the shore. Standing in the center of the business district today, there is little indication that this was once part of a major transportation hub.
Conneaut has a historical society which is housed in an old freight depot, as well as a railroad specific museum that contains one of the last Nickel Plate cars. Considering this history, I expected to find a number of sites in TOG related to either the railroad or the port. In fact, there is only one point-of-interest (POI) for Conneaut in TOG (a house built in 1800 which no longer stands) and only one more in the manuscript version, neither of which has any connection with trains or shipping. I soon found this to be a common theme for Tour 1. Unlike Tour 8 which focuses on industry and public spaces, this tour highlights architecture and private homes: a characteristic that underscored the subjectivity of both TOG and my re-creation of it.
This subjectivity was apparent as soon as I got out of the car in Conneaut. Directly across the street from where I parked was a boulder with a metal plaque, erected in 1937, indicating that this was the site of an old school. Particularly in towns without a lot of POI, TOG generally highlights this sort of memorial. Since the manuscript only lists one other POI and the writer most likely passed through Conneaut within a few months of the monument’s creation, it seems like an obvious choice to be included. As it was, however, I simply stumbled across it.
Yet, the exclusion of this monument is no stranger than the inclusion of the only POI the author of the manuscript did include:
Left on Center Road is Fort Conneaut or as it is sometimes called, “Fort Hill”. This mountainous hill, with many trees growing upon it… was once an Indian fortress. …A steep ascent protects it on all sides with the only approach being up a gradual slope…left by the wash of the river. The only indication of constructed defenses, a simple earth wall built on the very edge of the bluff, is found on the summit….The area thus enclosed, a triangle of about 2 acres is perfectly level.
With the exception of the name “Center Road” being changed to “Mill Road,” the description in the manuscript still applies to the triangle of land taken up by the City Cemetery of Conneaut. There is even still a path, snaking up the narrow strip of land left by the wash, though most visitors reach the cemetery by the road on the north side or a set of steep stairs carved into the eastern slope. Considering its purported historical significance, it struck me as odd that Fort Conneaut did not make it into the printed TOG.
As I walked through the maze of headstones, I realized that this was not a particularly new cemetery. There were plenty of gravesites from the nineteenth century and even a mausoleum built into the side of the hill from 1882. Why hadn’t the author mentioned this? (My favorite gravesite, pictured above, was a collection of gravestones built around 1920 meant to look like a tree-trunk pulpit for the patriarch with corresponding logs for his wife and children). Further, while it is true that Fort Hill is the site of a former Hopewell compound perfectly situated for defense on a small elevated plane, it lies a few hundred miles to the southwest, not along Lake Erie. This seemed like a strange conflation. Perhaps, as with the renaming of Salem, the former residents of Conneaut (or the author of the manuscript) wanted to highlight an Indian past that may or may not have existed the way they envisioned.
After a web search for “Fort Conneaut” on my iPhone brought back nothing of substance, and no one in the historical society, nor anyone I asked, had ever hear of Fort Conneaut, I was ready to chalk it up to faulty research on the part of the writer. Then at one of the historical museums in Ashtabula, my next stop, I met a woman in (probably in her late 70s) who did remember being taught about Fort Conneaut as a child. “I don’t remember anything about it except that it had to do with Indians,” she said. Some work in the archives could probably put this question to bed but until then, I will not know whether I have re-found a historic Hopewell site that has been forgotten, or simply uncovered an origin tale of dubious historical accuracy.
(Update: I found the following passage in an 1878 “History of Ashtabula County,” from which the manuscript author took his information, frequently verbatim:
“Ashtabula County abounds in earthworks….That at Conneaut is situated on the summit of a lofty hill, not far from the spot where the village now stands, and almost directly across the creek from the village cemetery. It is on an isolated spot, on a hill which has been left by some former change of the bed of the stream, and which now stands an abrupt eminence, its sides washed by the waters of the stream, which flows in silence underneath its very banks. …The spot is a romantic one, and, situated almost within the sound of the roar of the surf of the lake, and in the midst of the deep valley of a swift-flowing stream, must have been a favorite resort to the ancient inhabitants. The only mark of artificial defense is found on the summit. This consists of a simple earth-wall built on the very edge of the bluff, and following closely the very line of the bluff. A ditch was on the inside of the wall, and the height of the wall may have been at one time five feet. Possibly a stockade may have surmounted it, making the inclosure doubly secure both from the natural and artificial defense… The work might have served for a defense to the various tribes of Indians which inhabited the region, or it may have been the residence of the ancient people called the mound-builders.”
The sentence describing the location of the “lofty hill… directly across the creek from the village cemetery” explains why the author of the manuscript guide did not mention the existence of the graveyard in his description of the hill: it was actually across the river on a mirror (if inverted) triangle of land. A different passage also explains the author’s misuse of the name “Fort Hill.” The author of the “History of Ashtabula,” had simply compared Fort Conneut to other Hopewell mounds “such as the kind at Fort Hill.” The manuscript author copied the sentence incorrectly.
Though this book clarifies some of the manuscript author’s mistakes, it still leaves open the possibility that this location was not used by mound-builders or “various Indian tribes” at all, but, as the bolded part of the text alludes to, was part of an origin story which grew out of the Romantic ideals of a pastoral past. There is little evidence of Indian presence, only assertions and assumptions. In fact, as I mentioned above, at the time of the “History of Ashtabula’s” printing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, popular American culture was rife with histories of the “vanishing” Indian.
The region around Conneut was certainly home to many Algonquian and Iroquioan groups and Hopewell peoples before them. The specifics of that history, however, was (and remains) as much about a historian’s present as it was about her subject’s past).
Since there were no other POI, I wandered around a nearly-deserted Main Street for a few moments (where I took the photo below) before I joined the crowds escaping the heat in Conneaut Township Park (I certainly didn’t have the building in mind when I took the beach scene, but the lines and colors are remarkably similar, particularly if you flip the beach on its head).
Southwest of Conneaut, U.S. 20 turns into a four-lane highway, alternating between 50 and 35 mph speed limits. Situated half-way between the more tourist-centered Lake Road to the north and Interstate 90 to the south, U.S. 20 is one of those routes where long-haul truckers exist uneasily with long-time residents making their daily pilgrimage to the post-office; traffic seems to lumber along far too slowly until you see someone try to pull out of their driveway.
After passing through the tiny hamlets of Amboy and North Kingsville (which the manuscript guide states was the site of the “first centralized school system in the United States” after the town got legislative approval to combine regional schools during an economic crisis in 1894), U.S. 20 runs into the north end of Main Avenue in the city of Ashtabula. This point marks the apex of a sort a sort of sideways isosceles triangle made up of Main Avenue running to the southwest, Lake Avenue running to the northwest, and West Avenue running north and south. These streets mark the approximate limits of what was the primary commercial, residential, and civic district of the original town which, in 1830, numbered around two thousand residents of “chiefly New England Stock.”
According to TOG, however, “the New England character of the town was modified by immigrants from Finland and Sweden who settled around the harbor in large numbers and observed their own customs.” The harbor, about a mile north of the old town center, became the commercial and cultural heart of Ashtabula. TOG describes “fishing boats tied up at the docks or drifting in and out of port; odd taverns patronized by fisherman, dock hands and sailors; gangling steel cranes deftly scooping ore from the holds of leviathan freighters into waiting railroad carriers.” An historic marker at the foot of Bridge Street expands the list of immigrants’ nationalities cited by TOG to include Irish and Italian but more interestingly, declares that these stevedores and deck hands made Ashtabula “one of the toughest ports in the world, sharing that distinction with Shanghai and Calcutta.”
With the exception of the fighting, the Ashtabula Harbor Commercial Historic District is probably not that different than it was in 1940. A mix of industry, retail, professional services, and residential buildings make up the four-block harbor district. Though it has certainly seen better days, the rough edges gives the district the feel of a working harbor. Here, boutique coffee shops look out on a railroad yard and workers from the industrial port share drinks with tourist fisherman at the Bum Boat Pub (Bum boats ferried goods to ships moored off-shore).
On the right side of the second and last photos above is the Bascule Lift Bridge. It connects the east and west sides of the harbor. The Ashtabula river was first spanned by a pontoon or floating bridge in 1850 which was replaced by a swinging bridge in 1889. In 1925, Wendell Brown designed a new bridge using the same systems of counterweights and pulleys which Thomas Brown (no relation) had used in his construction of the elevator in the Eiffel Tower decades earlier. This “bascule” bridge (a medieval term for draw bridge) is the only one of its kind still used for automobile traffic in the state and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Just west of the harbor is Lake Shore Park. As the manuscript guide informs us, from here one can see the Ashtabula Lighthouse located on the breakwater offshore. Originally built in 1836, its most recent incarnation was the last manned lighthouse on Lake Erie, becoming automated in 1975. Also in the park is what a historic marker beside it says is the “longest and oldest lakefront pavilion in continuous use on the Great Lakes.” Whether due to the author’s disinterest in public spaces or its relatively recent construction (only two decades before TOG was printed) the Lake Shore Park Pavilion is not included in either the manuscript guide or TOG. This is particularly noteworthy because unlike the authors of other tours who highlighted New Deal projects, this author described neither the pavilion nor the “extensive Civilian Conservation Corps improvements” made in the area surrounding the structure which is highlighted by the historical marker.
Like many towns in the region, Ashtabula was once a center for produce and flower production. According to TOG, over 70 acres of Ashtubula was “under glass” as the hothouses produced over seven million pounds of fruits and vegetables. One of the largest of these, and one of two points-of-interest for the city, was the R.W. Griswold Company. With 500,000 square feet of mushroom beds in 1940, it was one of the largest in the country. Today, 529 Woodman Avenue is the site of a low-income apartment complex.
As TOG’s reprinting of a December 21, 1850 editorial in the Ashtabula Sentinel demonstrates, Ashtabula was once a hotbed of abolitionist activity.
Congress made a law in reference to fugitive slaves; a law to strip us of our humanity…and herd us with bloodhounds and the men stealers…Cursed be the Law!
Resolved, That we will not aid in catching the fugitive but will feed and protect him…and that we pledge our sympathy and property for the relief of any persons in our midst who may suffer any penalties for an honorable opposition or failure to comply
As an example of the city’s dedication to the cause, TOG lists the Hubbard Homestead as the second and last point-of-interest in Ashtabula. A “community house” in 1940, TOG declares it “the best known of Ashtabula’s Underground Railway stations.” According to a 1999 historic marker outside of what is now the Hubbard House Museum, William and Catherine Hubbard would shelter escaped slaves in their home before bringing them to the Hubbard and Company warehouse on the Ashtabula River a quarter of a mile away. From here ” friendly boat captains awaited to ferry their passengers to Canada and freedom.”
I was too late for the tour of the Hubbard House, but with plenty of light I decided to continue on with the abolitionism theme. Following one of TOG’s side-trips off of U.S. 20, I made my way to Jefferson. Here I found the Giddings Law office where Joshua Reed Giddings and his partner Benjamin F. Wade gained national prominence as ardent abolitionists and where Giddings wrote the Republican Party’s first national platform. The building, now a museum, is on the National Register of Historic Places. A plaque outside the tiny wood structure informed me that as a congressman, Giddings defied the Atherton Gag Rule which prohibited the discussion of slavery on the floor. He was abruptly censured by the House after which he resigned in protest. His absence was not long, however, as he was reelected five weeks later.
For his part, Wade was the acting Vice-President at the time of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment proceedings and was therefore one vote shy of becoming president of the United States. A monument marks the site of his home a few doors down from the Giddings Law office which was “well preserved” according to the manuscript. It has since been replaced with a bank (As an interesting example of how photographer’s can manipulate space, I have included two different angles of this monument).
In addition to these sites in TOG, the manuscript guide adds what it calls the “Woman’s Suffrage Tablet” to its tour of Jefferson. In front of what is still a Congregational church sits a small boulder with a plaque marking the spot of the “First Woman’s Suffrage Convention held in this church in 1844 by the Ashtabula County Women’s Anti-Slavery Society.” Women’s rights groups in the mid-nineteenth-century frequently grew out of anti-slavery organizations so it is not surprising that the words “John Brown Spoke here in 1859” were also engraved on the memorial. What is surprising is the date of the suffrage convention. If the plaque is correct, not only did this convention pre-date what is commonly referred to as the the first women’s rights convention in Ohio (Salem, 1850), but it also preceded the famous Seneca Falls, NY, convention by four years.
A few miles from Jefferson, just south of Austinburg, a marker put up by the Ohio Historical Society marks the home of Betsey Mix Coles who was the presiding officer at that 1850 Salem convention. The marker also claims that this was “Ohio’s first women’s rights convention,” seemingly contradicting the monument in Jefferson. Perhaps more “women’s rights” than just suffrage were discussed at the Salem convention, though this seems like a small distinction. The Cowles Homestead was also, according to the manuscript guide, a stop on the Underground Railroad. It remains a private residence today.
Another stop on the Underground Railroad is what the manuscript guide calls the Old Miller Home, a few miles north in Austinburg. As I wrote at the beginning of this tour, the author of this manuscript guide was smitten with details about the contents and architecture of private homes. At the Cowles Homestead for example, he wrote of a “hand-woven carpet, about 18″x20″ which covers the parlor floor.” The fate of most of these details have been lost to history (though I must confess I didn’t ask the current owners about a hundred-year-old rug that used to be in their living room) but one description seemed to be quite visible on the Old Miller Home:
The place of concealment for the fugitive slaves was in a space partitioned off in the cornice of the attic near the low reaches of the rafters. It was an old saying that “it was easier to get a sinner out of hell than a negro out of Austinburg.”
The space mentioned corresponds with the location of the small rectangular windows on the house below, an unusual architectural feature that does not seem to have another explanation. Unfortunately, there was no historical marker to verify my assumption that this was the home in the manuscript guide.
The next point-of-interest associated with the Underground Railroad is what TOG calls the New England House. Lying a few miles west of Austinburg on what is now Ohio Route 84 (TOG identifies it only as “a county road” but in fact it was the well-worn Cleveland-Buffalo Road) sits what has variously been called the Webster House, the New England House, the Old Tavern and Unionville Tavern. The guide describes “an imposing three-story structure,” where “Negro slaves rested on their flight to Canada.” A 1964 article published by the Lake County Historical Society adds the following details:
The negroes entered a tunnel having its entrance near the Southeast corner of the crossroads. This led them to a deeper area under the tavern where they could stand upright and have communication with the innkeeper through a trap door. From the tunnel exit back of the tavern these slaves were released or taken by wagon to the Madison Dock where they boarded boats for Canada.
Publicly it was a tavern where soldiers, sailors, and “iron-mongers…rattled the 14-inch beams with their jollities.” Among the records and curious which were on display, the manuscript author found a ledger book that indicated a “man and his team could find lodgings for himself and beasts, including dumper, breakfast and fodder for the beats for $1.50.”
While it too has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, you would not guess as much by looking at it. The building, most recently known as The Old Tavern, is still an imposing structure but it no longer inspires jollities. It appears to have been maintained as a tavern and inn until relatively recently. Tables, chairs, and various knick-knacks can be seen through the dusty windows. The doors are looked tight, however, and I would guess it has been in this state for at least five years. The roof is collapsing and the exterior needs a good deal of repairs. Two ripped awnings just add to the lonely scene, making the building appear even more dilapidated than it probably is.
Across the street lies what TOG claims is the first recorded burial in the Western Reserve: that of Colonel Alexander Harper. According to a plaque on the gates of the cemetery, in 1798 Colonel Harper and 25 settlers landed at the mouth of Cunnigham Creek, three miles to the north. They eventually made their way down to what became the township of Harpersfield, the first permanent Euro-American settlement in the Western Reserve. The gravestones for he and his wife in the middle of the picture below are certainly replacements for the originals, but there is no indication of when this occurred.
Colonel Harper’s grave may be in the township of Harpersfield but it lies in the unincorporated village of Unionville. The village of Harpersfield is actually about two miles southwest of Unionville, on the other side of Interstate 90. Here lies what the manuscript guide calls “a point of scenic interest.”
Though pastoral scenes were probably as popular in 1940 as they are today, TOG’s editors tended to highlight infrastructure advancements rather than their preservation. Bridges and roads were generally only included if they were new or had seen substantial improvements, particularly by New Deal agencies. It is therefor not surprising that one of Ashtabula County’s biggest tourist draws today was not even mentioned in TOG: covered bridges.
Ashtabula has more public covered bridges (17), than any other county in Ohio. It has festivals to celebrate the bridges and there are signs along the highway leading any interested driver to a self-guided tour. TOG does not list any of the bridges in Tour 1 but the manuscript guide did lead me to banks of the Grand River in Harpersfield where I could “command a fine view of the river valley.” Here “a dam, an old mill race and the old covered wooden bridge over which State 45 crosses the river, in a winding course to the surmounting bluffs, adds to the charm of the view.” Remnants of the dam and mill can be imagined, if not definitely discerned, while the bridge defines a scene that looks it should adorn a maple syrup jug (Below is an example of how you can take a photographic cliché and by simply adding a few filters in photoshop, turn it into a grainy, orangey-brownish cliché). Extensively rehabilitated in 1992, it is the longest covered bridge in Ohio at 228 feet and on the National Register.
This is not the Harpersville Bridge but a different covered bridge in Ashtabula County. It is, however, a more interesting photograph.
What initially caught my eye as I pulled up to the river was not the Harpersfield bridge, but a couch. Sitting on a gravel wash about a hundred feet from shore was a brown couch, looking as if it was simply waiting for a television and coffee table to float by so it could reunite with friends who had inexplicably disappeared. When I asked a local fisherman how it was that a piece of furniture came to adorn his view, he answered with what I expect is not an unfamiliar phrase to his lips: “Goddamn kids.” Apparently, the couch was floated out to its spot on the wash when the water was quite a bit higher. Now, with record drought throughout Ohio, it remains an immovable memorial to the county’s wasted youth.
The last stop before I made my way back up to Route 20 was the Hopper Mansion; interesting if only for the story TOG relays regarding its heritage.
Near the end of the nineteenth century-so the story goes-a hobo cadged a meal from George Hopper, a Standard Oil employee. Hopper mentioned to him the ticklish problem of preventing oil from permeating the wooden barrels used as containers; the hobo casually suggested a solution and resumed his journey. The stranger’s formula worked. When Hopper, a grateful man, built this mansion for himself he ordered that it always be open to ‘men of the road’.”
Under the heading “Where Tramps Are Welcome: Interesting Story Surrounds Stately Mansion in Ohio,” a 1902 newspaper article from the Reading (PA) Eagle adds a few details to the tale. “Fill them with water and then paint them,” was the tramp’s advice. “When they are dry, pour out the water, and the water in the wood will stay in and prevent the oil from soaking through and cutting the paint.” According to the article, this idea was Hopper’s means of “securing the vast fortune he possessed.” At his retirement, Hopper offered $25,000 to the tramp, should he be found. While no one came forward, “a whole army of tramps receive[d] benefit, for no matter how disreputable or seedy, a tramp [was] always given a square meal at the Hopper home.” Since the mansion sits a good three miles down a still-lightly-used road from what was the main thoroughfare, Hopper’s offer may had been more of spirit than of actual calories.
Nearby, a very large rocking chair advertised a wood-products company. I couldn’t help but think this would have been a wonderful sign for the property, considering its new purpose as a nursing home.
Geneva is a small city on the western edge of Ashtabula County. With about 6,500 residents, it is about twice as big as it was in 1940. 24% of this population claims German ancestry, unsurprising considering its name. Beyond having “extensive greenhouses and apiaries and a large implement factory,” Geneva’s most notable attraction, according to TOG, is the gravesite of Platt R. Spencer.
Spencer was responsible for creating Spencerian Script, the standard writing style for business transactions and correspondence before the typewriter and simpler Palmer method made it obsolete. This was not before Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola adopted this style into their respective logos, however.
Spencer was also instrumental in founding over fifty business institutes throughout the country. Now able to grant two and four-year degrees, Bryant & Stratton Colleges were initially business trade-schools whose notable first students included Henry Ford and John D. Rockerfeller.
Unlike many of the cemeteries I had visited, the Evergreen Cemetery did not have signs indicating the location of its most famous residents. I was about to give up on my search when the morning sun escaped from behind a cloud and struck a large monument, highlighting it against the deep shadows of an overhanging tree. In a fitting tribute, the front of the gravestone is an open book with separate pages dedicated to Platt and his wife Persis, while the back consists of his signature in Spencerian Script.
Having covered the POI in TOG, I was heading out of town when another historical marker caught my eye. Put up by the Geneva Community Center and the Ohio Historical Society in 1997, the sign marked the birthplace of Ransom E. Olds, the co-founder of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company which later became the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. According to the marker, Pliny and Sara Olds purchased the property in 1863 after which they promptly had their fifth and final son, Ransom. Here Pliny enlisted the help of “experienced steam man O.W. Price” to open a small machine shop. When he got old enough, Ransom joined the company which they moved to Lansing Michigan. In 1897, “his fist horseless carriage evolved out of the company.” One wonders how Ransom would feel if he were able to visit his birthplace today and see the Napa Auto Parts which now occupies the site of his old home.
A few miles west of Geneva on U.S. 20 sits the Arcola House. Originally a tourist inn, what is now a lawyer’s office marks the site of a once-thriving town. In 1826, the Erie Furnace Company built a blast furnace in which to make pig iron from the region’s ore. By 1835, 2,000 people lived in area, many working for what was now the Arcole Furnace Company. Everyday 200 men made for the hinterland in order to provide enough wood to produce the charcoal needed to keep the furnace running seven days a week. As both the wood and the ore supplies dried up, the cost of maintaining the furnace and the dock used to ship the ore became too great. By 1850 all that was left at the corner of Dock Road and what become U.S. 20 was the Arcola House, the misspelled legacy of a short-lived industry.
Lake County Landscapes
Arcola is on the far eastern side of Lake County, the second of ten counties Tour 1 passes through on its way to the Indiana line. Throughout the first quarter of the nineteenth-century, Lake County’s fine ginger sands and silty loam allowed Ohioan’s to build one of the country’s most profitable nursery centers. The Storrs-Harrison Nurseries, covering over 12,000 acres, was the largest of these with forty acres devoted solely to roses. TOG states that in the fall and summer over 300,000 plants “unfurl[ed] their extravagant colors.” These plants were part of a twenty-mile stretch of Route 20 that was the “nursery belt of Ohio.” Although most of the historic nurseries are gone, the region is still an agricultural center. Nurseries and vineyards surround the highway, giving the area a distinctly rural feel.
Part of that feel also comes from the existence of the Perry Nuclear Generating Station which was built in North Perry in 1985. Eleven-hundred acres, approximately the same as the Storrs-Harrison Nursury, were set aside as an urban wildlife sanctuary in 1993. The sanctuary’s ponds and streams are home to heron, belted kingfisher, ducks and geese, as well as spotted turtles, an endangered species in Ohio. Then again, Lake County also happens to rank among the worst 10% of counties in the U.S. in terms of cancer risk and developmental and reproductive toxicants… so there’s that.
Lake Erie Bluffs Metropark is not part of the sanctuary, but its proximity to the generating station allows for wonderful wildlife viewing and is one of the few public access points on Lake Erie with an undeveloped shoreline. I happened to run across the park on its second weekend in existence so I had the view all to myself.
A google search of the name Jonathan Goldsmith will bring up three pages of links on the actor who portrays the “Most Interesting Man in the World”–a brilliant advertising campaign about a singular adventurer who also happens to like Dos Equis beer–before it offers any information about a nineteenth-century architect of the same name. In 1940, however, this Jonathan Goldsmsith was famous enough that TOG gave him the title “the Western Reserve’s architect-builder.” Goldsmith lived in Painesville from 1811 until his death in 1847, spreading the gospel of late Federal and Greek-Revival architecture throughout the region.
Goldsmith built over thirty commercial and residential structures in Painesville and another fifteen scattered throughout the county and Cleveland. Two of his residential buildings are preserved in the Mentor Avenue Historic District. Here, the city of Painesville set aside fifty-four buildings of Federal, Greek Revival, Early Romanesque Revival, Italianeta, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and “twentieth century eclectic styles” to maintain what TOG calls “the prim elegance of its old houses.” This entire district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
TOG does not included any of the houses in the Mentor Avenue District in its tour. Instead, it highlights the Gillette House as its example of Goldsmith’s work. Unfortunately, its “long round-arched windows…Classic-Coumned side porch…and ornamental balustrade” have been torn down and an empty lot occupies 106 E. Washington Street. The Ohio Guide Photograph Collection contains an image of a different Goldsmith house, however, and after a 2001 restoration, the Lew Morley House looks much like it did in 1940.
The other three POI for Painesville also still stand:
The Rider Inn, built in 1818 was patterned after George Washington’s Mount Vernon home and was once a stop on the Cleveland-Buffalo stage route.
The Painesville City Hall was originally built as the Lake County Courthouse in 1840 before it became a Christian Science Church and then the city hall.
Lake Erie College was patterned after Mount Holyoke in both its layout and mission. Built in 1857 to “furnish young ladies…a thorough education,” it offered “ten hours instruction in flying…[which was] classed as major sport,” according to the manuscript guide.
On the back of College Hall, I came across what is probably the remnants of a previous remodel but as it was, appeared to be the world’s most useless fire escape.
Since TOG’s publication, Charles Heard, one of Goldsmith’s students (and also his son-in-law) has also had one his buildings in Painesville put on the National Register of Historic Places. While a marker I stumbled across informed me that the “Casement House” is a excellent example of the Italianete style “featuring ornate black walnut woodwork, elaborate ceiling frescoes, and an innovative ventilation system,” the house was just as likely put on the register because of its original occupants: John Stephen “General Jack” Casement and his wife Frances Jennings Casement.
After following her father into the anti-slavery campaign, Frances Jennings Casement became active in the nascent woman’s suffrage movement. She served as president of the Ohio Suffrage Association from 1885-1888 and worked closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony during the formative years of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Her husband, John Stephen, served with distinction in the Civil War, rising from the rank of major to brigadier general. After the war he and his brother Daniel received the contract to lay over one thousand miles of track west of Fremont, Nebraska; Daniel took care of the books and John oversaw the workers who quickly gave him the nickname “General Jack.” On May 16, 1869, the track the General’s workers laid for the Union Pacific Railway met those of the Central Pacific Railroad on Promontory Summit in Utah, completing the first trans-continental railway.
A few miles north of Painesville, “past salt wells that constitute a basic resource for Lake County,” is Fairport Harbor. In 1940, primarily “Hungarians and Finns” lived here, working as fisherman or dockhands, shipping salt and iron ore out of the harbor. In 1959, Morton Salt purchased the salt deposits, drilling a 2,000 foot mine that was, according to the Morton website, the country’s “deepest and most modern salt mine.” Today it extends over three miles under Lake Erie. The company also donated over four-hundred acres of land above the mine that constitutes the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve and Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve. Apparently, seagulls would rather spend their time on the salt mounds than in either of the preserves.
The original lighthouse for the harbor from which the salt is shipped was designed in 1825 by none other than Jonathan Goldsmith. It was replaced in 1871 by the Grand River Lighthouse which still stands on a hill looking over the harbor. From this hill, one is offered a fine view of the West Breakwater Lighthouse that replaced it in 1925, as well as a public amphitheater which looks directly into the back of the water-treatment plant. Today, the brick light keeper’s house is a local maritime museum while the tower remains open for tours. None of these lighthouses are mentioned in TOG.
Next to the Grand River Lighthouse, the Mormon Historical Sites Foundation has placed a small plaque on a boulder. Fairport Harbor has the closest lake access to Kirtland, home of a Mormon temple that was completed in 1836. According to the monument:
Fairport Harbor played a transition role during the 1830s for many Mormon migrants who believed that they were obeying divine instruction that counseled them to “Go To The Ohio.” Hundreds of converts passed through this harbor on their way to and from the town of Kirtland which lay just twenty miles southwest. Many Siants were guided by Fairport’s Beacon’s of Light which shote upon the waters of Lake Erie. For those incoming Saints, the Fairport Lighthouse signaled a new ray of hope and for those missionaries embarking from her banks, new paths to travel in the quest for more converts to mormonism.
Though Mormonism is not mention as part of Fairport Harbor’s heritage in TOG, the editors devoted an entire tour (1A) to Kirtland and its relationship to Mormonism. Unfortunately, that tour would have to wait for another day.
Back on U.S. 20, the scenery rapidly changes from semi-rural to suburban sprawl as you make your way towards Cleveland. Strip malls replace stand-alone stores and intersections become much more frequent.
TOG suggests the James Garfield House in Mentor for the next stop. This “frame structure set on a spacious lawn” was the President’s last home before he moved into the White House. I must confess that I was not heart-broken that arrived too late to visit what is now the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. As I have mentioned on earlier tours, there is a guilty disappointment in realizing you are not the first one to recognize a location’s historical importance. Like the great band you liked before everyone else in high school, a site’s popularity makes it somehow less appealing.
More interesting is the story TOG relays concerning the demise of the Willoughby Medical College, which makes up the entirety of the entry on the city of Willoughby:
Willoughby Medical College grew rapidly after its establishment in 1834 and had nearly 200 students when, in 1843, a Mrs. Tarbell discovered that her recently buried husband was not where he should have been—in his grave. The onus of the blame for Mr. Tarbell’s unseemly disappearance fell on the school. Virtually the whole town rudely invaded the college building, turned the rooms upside down searching for Tarbell’s vagrant remains, bashed in furniture, and tossed fragments of cadavers throughout the windows. Evil days fell upon the college because of this episode, and in 1847 it closed its door.
There is nothing in that story that makes a lick of sense, particularly why the disappearance of a body would inspire townspeople to destroy furniture in its medical college. But it is precisely these sorts of stories that make TOG so interesting. Why was this story chosen? How did it make its way to the editors of TOG? This question is particularly relevant because the manuscript guide does not contain this story at all, but an even more improbable story of the sort involving the construction of an Indian past I described earlier.
The manuscript guide states that “according to tradition” the medical college sat on land that saw “a bloody battle between Indian tribes.” This was known because “human bones, supposed to be those of the warriors, have been found.” If that definitive evidence did not prove enough Indian heritage, the guide goes on to describe a great granite boulder on the west bank of the Chagrin River that served as a “council table of a friendly little tribe of Indians, the Shagrins.” Not only did the “peaceful nomadic” hunters meet at the rock to “solve their problems and their relations with other tribes amicably,” but it was “here that the first councils between the Indian and white man were held.” It is probably no coincidence that the only Chagrin Nation I could find reference to is made up of Native Sons and Daughters, a Euro-American organization previously part of the YMCA’s controversial (and unseemly) Indian Guides and Indian Princesses program.
The boulder, if it ever existed under the Mentor Avenue Bridge, is now gone. However, I did find one of the greatest pieces of graffiti I have ever seen (speaking of unseemly).
Even in 1940, Euclid was “one of the important Cleveland suburbs.” As such, it was made up primarily of subdivisions that did not warrant a mention in TOG. The one POI for the city is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Winding through the woods one can visit the 14 Stations of the Cross, a series of dramatic representations of Christ in his final hours (I think). I was not particularly interested in the stations but I did go down to look at the sculpture of Christ that I had seen minutes before from Euclid Ave. His orientation suggests he is blessing the cars that pass.
The last stop before I entered Cleveland was NELA Park. Begun in 1911 by the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA), this ninety-two acre campus is home to General Electric Lighting, a subdivision of GE. Largely constructed in Georgian Revival, NELA park was the first industrial park in the world. In 1975 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Tour 8, section B begins here.
Steubenville’s Favorite Sons
At the time of TOG’s publication, there was no doubt that Edwin M. Stanton was the most revered figure in the city’s history. Two of the twelve points-of-interest in the printed guide relate directly to Stanton while the manuscript guide begins its tour of the region with the Edwin McMasters Stanton Home, the fourth such residence he occupied in the city.
Stanton was born in Steubenville in 1814. It was here he began a law career that would eventually lead him to Washington D.C. and an appointment as the Attorney General in President Buchanan’s Cabinet. In 1862, according to the manuscript guide, “President Lincoln made a master stroke in placing this influential Democrat in his cabinet as Secretary of War, thus helping to unify the Democrats in the north at the time of the Civil War.” After the war ended, Ulysses S. Grant appointed him to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, like much of Grant’s presidency, things didn’t quite work out as planned as Stanton died four days after his appointment.
TOG cites a “bronze tablet on the doorway erected by the school children of the county,” as the source of its information regarding the birthplace of Stanton. 524 Market Street housed a jewelry store at the time of TOG’s publication, though this may have been irrelevant as “some say that he was born in the two-story brick structure [behind the store] now used as a warehouse and storage loft.” That jewelry store was one of the buildings across the street from the Imperial Hotel from the previous part of this section of the tour. While it is impossible to make out the bronze tablet, thanks to the resolution of the picture in the Ohio Guide Photograph Collection, you can see a sign which appears to read “Dr. Stanton” in the window of a building that would have sat at approximately 524 Market Street. This may be coincidence or perhaps one of Stanton’s relatives maintained an office in the building in which his (or possibly her) namesake was born. Either way it is a neat bit of continuity. The bronze tablet, meanwhile, can be found on a marble slab in a small landscaped area in front of an office building which can be seen in my rephotograph of the corner of Sixth and Market Streets.
According to the manuscript guide, two years after Stanton’s birth in or behind the Market Street home, the family moved to a house “on the west side of North Third Street.” Soon after, his father died leaving the family in “straightened circumstances.” While this is not a phrase I am familiar with, apparently these are not the sorts of circumstances one wishes to be left in because “these trials Stanton overcame.” The surviving Stanton family moved once more before they settled into what the manuscript guide calls the Edwin McMasters Stanton Home. This red brick house on North Third and Dock Streets “was the finest residence in Steubenville,” when they moved into it 1844. Here Stanton kept cattle and “developed a fine garden…of fruit and vegetables….called ‘the Patch’ by the family.” “The Patch” has unfortunately given way to “the Parking Lot,” as the expansion of Route 7 required the elimination of most of N. Third Street, including Stanton’s home, and the area behind the house was given up for less pastoral purposes (though the building seen here is itself two hundred years old and is lovingly maintained by a resident who uses the old carriage house as a workshop for restoring his antique cars).
The most conspicuous memorial to Stanton and the second such point-of-interest in TOG is the Edwin M. Stanton Monument that sits in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse on Market Street. Unveiled in 1906 it is a “bronze likeness of Stanton making a speech at the courthouse.” Yes. So it is.
While the statue is unexceptional, its inclusion in TOG gives me the opportunity to share a wonderful photograph from the Guide Collection of Civil War veterans posing in front of it, albeit in a different location than it stands now (the photo also happens to be a favorite of Carla Zikursh, part of the OHS staff that has done so much work putting the Guide Collection together). A note on the back of the photograph reads: “The Last Roll Call. Civil War vets in front of Stanton’s statue. Sort of striking future all these are dead now. Can get their names if needed. -Jene E. Bishop.” It is worth zooming in on the full-size image to see the details of the mens’ accoutrements, including an electric hearing device worn by the man second from the right.
Stanton no longer claims the title of Steubenville’s most popular son. While my vote would go to Rollie Fingers, the mustachioed Hall of Fame relief pitcher who solidified the importance of a late inning “closer,” that honor now goes to the late entertainer Dean Martin. As a 2002 historical marker informs visitors traveling along Dean Martin Boulevard (Route 7 within the city limits), before teaming up with Jerry Lewis in the 1940s, Dino Crocetti worked in the steel mills of Steubenville and boxed under the name “Kid Crochet.”
For those interested in paying homage to Martin’s legacy, the Jefferson County Historical Museum and Library is in the midst of opening up a Dean Martin Room that will house memorabilia and documents pertaining to the performer. When Leonardo and I visited in April, Judy Brancazio and Mike Giles were overseeing the finishing touches of the room’s refurbishing. The JCHA is housed in the Sharpe Mansion, a beautiful structure on Franklin Ave. and contains nineteen rooms exhibiting furniture and eclectic artifacts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My favorite piece is this portrait of our 28th President. Piecing together pictures to form a new image is nothing new in this age of photoshop so it took me a second to realize the significance of what I was looking at as I stared at Wilson’s face. These are not individual pictures but individual people! This is a living collage of military personnel, choreographed to take the form of Woodrow Wilson. Titled “21,000 Officers and Man,” the scene was constructed at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1918. For more information on the historical museum and library, call 740.283.1133.
Fort Steuben and U.S. Land Office
In Section A of this tour, I wrote about the Point of Beginning and Thomas Hutchins’ survey of the Seven Ranges. To protect Hutchins from Indian raids, members of the First American Regiment constructed Fort Steuben in 1786, named after Prussian officer Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus Heinrich Ferdinand (Baron von Steuben) who fought for the newly independent Americans during their war with England. Hutchins needed protection from Indians because during both the Seven-Years War (known by many school children as the French and Indian War) and the American Revolution, Ohio Indians found themselves on the losing side and were forced into signing a series of one-sided treaties. Though the treaties of Fort Stanwix, McIntosh, and Finney expressly forbade U.S. citizens from trespassing on what was left of Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, Ojibwe and Ottawa lands, such laws were rarely enforced, leaving many young Indian men little choice but to demonstrate their displeasure on the closest collection of American representatives.
This history and some really insightful thoughts on early setters’ relationships with Native Americans can be found in John R. Holmes’ The Story of Historic Fort Steuben, which was graciously given to me by Judy Bratton, the Executive Director of Historic Fort Steuben. Perhaps even more interesting than the construction of original fort, however, is Holmes’ telling of how the fort was built a second time over the period of twenty-years, from 1990 to 2010, after nearly two centuries of existing only the memory of the city’s residents. The reconstructed fort and new Fort Steuben Eastern Gateway Visitor’s Center was recently recognized for excellence in community involvement and innovation by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: one of only eight such awards given nationally. It is must-see for those interested in early Ohio history.
At the time TOG was published, the tangible evidence of Fort Steuben was limited to four stone pillars with metal plates, indicating the four corners of the historic stockade. Two of these pillars have been moved within the walls of the new fort to protect them from vandals, while the other two have not been so fortunate.
In addition to giving me the book, Judy also gave Leonardo and I a personal tour of both the fort and the first U.S. Land Office of the Northwest Territory which now sits adjacent to it. Its history is even more convoluted than that of Fort Steuben, as described in the following two paragraphs taken from Holmes’ history:
On May 12, 1800, President John Adams appointed David Hoge the first registrar of the federal Land Office, the government body designated to record land deeds for the western expansion of the United States. …In 1801, Hoge built a one-room log cabin to serve as both his home and the recording office. He built it on Third Street, lot 104, about where the Steubenville Post Office is now. In 1809, Hoge moved the land office to lot 113, still on Third Street but now north of Washington, where it remained for twelve years. The cabin was small enough that Hoge probably found it easier simply to dismantle and reassemble the timbers rather than rebuild. In 1821, the building was moved to the northeast corner of Market and Alley A (now Court Street). In 1828, Hoge dismantled it again and moved it to South Third Street between Market and Adams. This was the final move for more than a century, since the little timber structure was bricked up and covered with a larger brick building. Not until the outer building was torn down in 1941 did people discover that the original beams of the 1801 house were preserved inside the brick walls of the building now scheduled for demolition (There is no indication of the building in the 1940-printed TOG, only a now-missing “marble stone a foot square, 10 feet above the pavement,” at 118 N. Third marking its former location. Generally very well edited, this levitating monument made it through the proof-reading process).
A few civic-minded people, realizing what they had discovered, tried to save the building. Eventually, they found space for it outside of town, in what is now Steubenville’s “West End,”…There it was used as a plane-spotting station during World War II. It remained a tourists attraction until 1963, when the cabin had to be moved again to accommodate the widening of Route 22. This time the history-minded leaders of Steubenville wanted to bring this piece of its past closer to its original home. The nearest strip of land vacant and controlled by the city was right on Route 7 near the Fort Steuben Bridge. Then, in 1976, it was Route 7’s turn to be widened , displacing the little cabin again. It moved farther south, still on Route 7, until that space was needed for the University Boulevard interchange for the new Veteran’s Memorial Bridge in 1983. Finally, Ohio Power found a home for it in the corner of its lot, exactly as it would do a few years later for Fort Steuben.
Even in 1940, Mingo Junction seemed more like an “extension of Steubenville than a city in its own right.” Like the Wheeling Steel Corporation to the north, the blast furnaces of Carnegie-Illinois Steel Mill emitted “fierce, flaming fire” which “lit up the night sky and their reflection on the river turns its murky color into hues of red and amber.” Yet unlike the Steubenville plant, the Carnegie-Illinois plant (now Wheeling-Pittsubrgh) continues to send “lurid rays into the night sky,” though not nearly as frequently as it once did. When Leonardo and I passed through town, it was the fading sunlight rather than the fire from the blast furnace which illuminated the “maze of mill structures.
Though its mill still produces some steel, Mingo Junction has not fared particularly well since the bottom fell out of the industry in the 1970s. Much of the downtown, while designated as a historic district, is abandoned and badly in need of repair. TOG points to Potter’s Spring, a natural spring George Washington and his party drank from while exploring the valley in 1770, as a site worth seeing on the south end of the now-historic neighborhood. Its current condition is a graphic illustration of just how much work needs to be done to restore the town to its quaint origins.
Mingo Junction was in a similar position at the time TOG was published. The Great Depression had reduced the economy to a fraction of what it was in the first quarter of the century, leaving the residence without any way to earn a living. The New Deal thus saved scores of towns like Mingo Junction whose citizens could work on local projects, rather than search the country for employment opportunities. Mill Creek Park, Beatty Park, and Steubenville High School were just a few of the places we have already visited on Tour 8 that were either built or drastically improved through New Deal programs.
Mingo Stadium was just such a project. Initiated by the Public Works Administration and still in planning stages when the manuscript guide was written, the “brick and cement stadium” was part of a large athletic complex which included “lockers and showers, baseball diamond, football field, track and tennis courts to be used by the High School and for general community sports, festivals and recreational activities.” I have not been able to determine when the stadium was torn down but today all that is left of the complex are the entrance arches and the remnants of an oval track in what is now an empty lot adjacent to Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. For other images of the stadium and some great trivia about Mingo Junction–What was Doc Cava’s first name and what kind of ties did he wear?–visit this intriguing site. I don’t know if the site is still updated as its homepage still announces it 10 year anniversary (1995-2005), but its creator obviously cares a great deal about the town.
Just to the south of the stadium arches lies a huge expanse of railroad tracks. Running from Mingo Junction into the hamlet of George’s Run, this two-mile long rail-yard is full of cars in various states of disrepair. When the manuscript guide was written, the yard was owned by Central and Pacific Railroad and contained a round-house on the east side of the yard. Like the track of Mingo Stadium, the arch of the roundhouse foundation was relatively easy to locate against the disorder of regrowth. As I walked around the cement ring, I found railroad ties cut horizontally into three inch cross-sections and placed in the ground with the cut ends facing up and down. I assume they were placed this way so they would be harder to compress and this strategy seems to have worked as many of the wooden bricks remained in tact.
Ephraim Kimberly Land Grant and Stringer Mansion
With the exception of Yorkville whose “rows of company houses line the streets,” the twenty-or-so miles between Mingo Junction and Martin’s Ferry did not merit any acknowledgement in TOG. The manuscript guide, on the other hand, gives us an intriguing bit of history regarding a small stone with the inscription “E.K.” near the junction of Routes 7 and 150 in Rayland. This pillar, measuring fifteen inches square and about two feet tall, marked the southwest corner of a 400 acre land grant to captain Ephraim Kimberly for his services during Revolutionary War. The grant, signed by George Washington, is the first recorded instrument in the Deeds of Jefferson County.
While I was not able to find the pillar, I did find remnants of the Stringer Mansion which was built on the former land grant in 1836 by wealthy abolitionist John Brown Bayless. Jefferson Stringer, who had originally sold the land to Bayless, bought the land and mansion back in 1860 and lived there till his death. When the author of the manuscript guide passed through 1940, Stringer’s grandchildren still lived in the stone structure. Though the Stringer Mansion stood for many years , it burned down before it could fulfill the guide’s prophesy of standing for “100 more years.” Amanda Lynn and Kevin, two twenty-somethings I chatted with outside of the Dairy Queen adjacent to where I thought the mansion should be, say their siblings went on tours of the mansion as kids and confirmed my suspicion that the rocks lining the restaurant’s landscaping were once part of the mansion. While not the pastoral scene it was in 1940, there was still aspects of the “lingering loveliness” the guide described.
Tiltonsville Indian Mound
Many of the Euro-Americans who moved into the northern stretches of the Ohio Valley were intrigued by the remnants of the Hopewell and Adena peoples who lived there until @AD 500. While some of that interest resulted in the looting and destruction of burial mounds, it helped save others. In fact, according to John Holmes history of Fort Steuben, Colonel Harmar even instructed his officers to take careful notes and sketches of any antiquities they ran across. TOG is generally pretty good at including Hopewell and Adena sites (the most famous of which are Hopewell Cultural National Historic Site, Fort Ancient, and the Newark Earthworks) but the Tiltonsville Mound is not mentioned, not making the cut from the manuscript. It is a noteworthy cross-cultural creation, however, as Euro-American settlers incorporated their own burial practices into this ancient graveyard.
While its population of just over 7,000 is half of what it was at the time of TOGs publication, the description of this “steel and coal city…pushed against the river by the hills” is still as applicable in 2012 as it was in 1940: “Short cross streets connect its thoroughfares at different levels with squat brick-and-frame houses standing along them in drab series.” Named Martinsville by Ebenezer Martin in 1835, the town soon became known for its mode of transportation which ferried hogs, sheep and cattle across the Ohio on their way to Eastern markets.
TOG describes two points-of-interest in Martin’s Ferry, both of which pertain to the Zane family. Ebenezer Zane was, according to the inscription on his gravestone and the first point-of-interest, “the first permanent inhabitant of this part of the Western World, having first begun to reside here in 1769.” The tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples who had lived in the region notwithstanding, Zane gained historical prominence as the first settler of this part of the Northwest Territory and the surveyor of a former Indian trail that became known as Zane’s trace; an important transportation route that became part of the National Road in 1825.
His gravestone stands next to his wife’s, Elizabeth (Betty) Zane who is the focus of the second point-of-interest. In 1928, the “children of Martin’s Ferry” erected a statue at the entrance to Walnut Grove Cemetery “in memory of Elizabeth Zane whose heroic deed saved Fort Henry in 1782.” According to TOG, during a British and Indian siege of the fort, “at considerable risk, Betty Zane succeeded in carrying a supply of powder from a near-by house to the fort, thereby aiding in the repulse of the attackers.” I am not sure if this reveals more about gender roles in 1782 or 1928, but the sculpture’s size does prove that the children of Martin’s Ferry were very, very strong. Along with Union Cemetery in Steubenville, Walnut Grove Cemetery was one of the more picturesque stops on tour 8.
Between Walnut Grove Cemetery and the State Forest Nursery three miles north of Marietta, TOG lists only one point-of-interest: the House-that-Jack-Built in Bellaire. This three story brick house of “fading Victorian splendor” earned its title from a mule named Jack who carried the coal for its owner from valuable deposits nearby. To honor the beast of burden, the owner placed a small sculptured head of the mule above the front door. Unfortunately, the only hint I could find of the house was a 1982 historical novel in the window of the Imperial Glass Museum titled Eliza and the House that Jack Built (Imperial was one of the nation’s largest handmade glass manufacturing companies in the 20th century but for some reason was not included in TOG). The museum was closed so I was not able to thumb through the book, but the story of its author Albert Wass, is intriguing in its own right.
Perhaps because it was not a New Deal project, Bellaire’s most obvious historical point-of-interest, the Great Stone Viaduct, was left out of the publication. A 2008 plaque from the village of Bellaire and the Ohio Historical Society informs the reader that this railroad bridge consists of “43 stone arches supported by 47 ring stones (18 on each side of a keystone) intended to symbolize a united Union consisting of 37 states,” the number of such entities in 1871 when the viaduct was completed. This crossing was known, according to the plaque, as the “Great Shoreline to the West.”
While the eighty-or-so miles between Martin’s Ferry and Marietta may have lacked points of interest, TOG offers some colorful descriptions. Near Dilles Bottom, for example, a “grotesquerie of coal cars, tracks, and tipples,” might be found radiating from a coal pit where “sober-faced men in dark clothes” tend to the “great smoldering mounds of slack.” The sulpherous odor, “often almost unbearable, permeates the atmosphere.” Such a smell could also be found a few miles later in Powhatan Point where “the highway passes neat frame houses and noxious mounds of slack.” For the author of this section of TOG, such was all he or she needed to see to understand the town:
Miners off duty, some of them helmeted and all of them in their work clothes, stand about the company store in small clusters, talking quietly or saying nothing at all. They talk without laughter and without discontent, their incurious lives bounded by their boxlike houses, the store, and the mines. A few have bandaged hands or missing limbs.
The perceived monotony of life in these small coal towns on the Ohio seems to have defeated the author of this section of the tour. After passing through Clarington (pop. 506) where “formerly clock-making was carried on,”(s)he writes “for the next 50 miles…small villages, inert or dying, appear: Hannibal (pop. 516); Duffy (pop. 75); Sardis (pop. 385); Fly (pop. 106), so named because the early settlers wanted their village to have a simple name.” Today, the numbers in these hamlets are even smaller than they were in 1940 and not going to increase any time soon. From Sardis down to Marietta, back from the river about fifteen miles, the area has been designated as part of Wayne National Forest.
“No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices,” George Washington once said of Marietta. Of course, having an economic stake in the Ohio Company of Associates which had just purchased the Northwest Territory from Congress, it is not that surprising that Washington would sing the praises of the newly created town at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingham Rivers. Initially named Muskingham but then changed in honor of “Queen Marie Antoinette of France, whose nation had materially assisted the cause of the American Revolution” Marietta’s pioneers first landed across the Muskingham from three-year-old Fort Harmar in 1788. Here Rufus Putnam erected Campus Martius, “the strongest fortification in the territory of the United States,” according to a contemporary writer, where Governor Arthur St. Clair, Return Jonathan Meigs, Putnam, and approximately 300 settlers lived for the last decade of the eighteenth-century (According to TOG, Return got his name after his father proposed to the woman he loved. Seeing the heartbroken lad after initially refusing his request, “the young lady, suddenly remorseful, said pleadingly, ‘Return, Jonathan'”).
As the town grew into a primary stopping point for Ohio River traffic and a ship-building center in its own right, the fort was dismantled for its lumber and eventually all that was left of the original stockade was Rufus Putnams’ two-story house overlooking the Muskingham. In 1931, the Campus Martius Memorial State Museum was built around Putnam’s house. Soon after, the Northwest Territory Land Office, thought to be the oldest Euro-American-made building in the Northwest Territory, was moved to the museum site. Today, the museum houses three floors of exhibits on the establishment of the Northwest Territory. Along with a stone marking the Landing Place of the First Families at the foot of Washington Street, these three sites make up the first three points-of-interest in TOG.
There is no doubt that Marietta is a quaint town. The description of a downtown where the modern “mingles with old and colorful…flavored with historic traditions,” is still as appropriate today as it was in 1940. Nearby, residences of “attractive old Colonial, Tudor, and Gothic houses have arisen unmistakably from the culture of New England.” Yet, particularly after driving through towns like East Liverpool and Steubenville, there is a sense that this history has been meticulously cultivated. In fact, even in 1940 “Mariettians [were] conscious and proud of their traditions. Endeavors [were] constantly being made to maintain a cultural standard in keeping with those pioneers who gave prehistoric earthwork names such as Capitolium and Quadranaou, and who designated these and other areas as parks so that they could be preserved” (Those other sites are Mound Cemetery, which TOG states also contains more officers of the American Revolution than any other cemetery in the country, and Sacra Via Park).
Preserving Adena and Hopewell sites is nothing Marietta should be ashamed of. Neither is their lovely downtown where virtually every building, historic or not, has a plaque stating its date of creation and original owner. Still, it is difficult to imagine “modern pioneers” of Steuvbenville re-enacting the journey of their city’s founders aboard duplicate vessels, as Mariettians did in 1938 to celebrate the town’s sesquicentennial. Or marking 150 years of civil government a few months later with a visit by President Roosevelt. Such showmanship was all but mocked in one of the manuscript versions of the Steubenville guide which stated that “unlike some towns which will go unnamed, Steubenville makes history rather than recreates it.” Whether the author was simply trying to prop up the morale of a city still in the throes of the Great Depression, or was passing on the sour-grapes sentiment of some of Steubenville’s residents, there is no doubt that there has been a deliberate effort by many of its citizens to establish Marietta as the most historically significant city in Ohio.
Evidence of this narrative-shaping can actually be found in the historical monuments themselves. At the corner of Front and Greene Streets stands Bicentennial Plaza, dedicated in 1987 to commemorate Marietta’s 200th birthday. Plaques and monuments explaining everything from shipbuilding to Indian wars dot this small look-out point at the junction of the Ohio and Muskingham Rivers. Two of the nine monuments also help explain why the monuments are there at all.
In 1824, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de la Fayette, better known to the Americans he assisted during the Revolutionary War simply as Lafayette, returned to the United States where he “embarked on a unprecedented and triumphal TOUR,” according to one of the plaques in the plaza. In May of 1825, Lafayette “stopped overnight at the residence of Nahum Ward,” of Marietta before proceeding on to Pittsburgh. A plaque in Bicentennial Plaza cleverly leads the casual reader to believe that this uneventful stop marked “The Beginning of Tourism in the United States.” Nevermind that this stop was halfway into Lafayette’s trip, or that such tours were not that uncommon for European nobles in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, this plaque demonstrates a narrative tactic that I noticed in many of the town’s historical monuments: appropriating stories of a regional or national character and making them specific to Marietta’s history.
For example, during the same trip in which he marked 150 years of civil government in the Marietta, President Roosevelt also dedicated “A Memorial to the Start Westward of the United States” which contains both a statue and a set of steps leading down to the Muskingham. Similarly, a set of pillars leading into Muskingham Park highlights the Northwest Ordinance. As one of the first Euro-American communities established in the Northwest Territories, Marietta certainly has a legitimate claim to being an important addition to the growing American state. How it has been able to establish itself as either the starting point of Euro-American westward expansion or “The Place Where Ohio History Lives,” as its official guidebook declares, is another story.
The very bottom of the Lafayette plaque bears the inscription, “This plaque erected 1959 by S. Durward Hoag, Innkeeper.” I did not think much about it until I looked at another small plaque partially hidden by a bush nearby. This one is a memorial to the very same S. Durward Hoag (1900-1982), erected by the Rotary Club of Marietta and reads “transportation and tourism visionary and owner of the Lafayette Hotel, ‘put Marietta on the map,’ by convincing the federal government to locate I-77 near historic Marietta.” This not only explains Hoag’s impetus for erecting the sign across from the street from his Lafayette Hotel which, though built nearly 100 years after Lafayette’s visit, he named in the Marquis’ honor, but also partially explains Marietta’s ability to focus its economy on historical tourism: it is easy to get to.
As I mentioned above, even in 1940, “Marietta ha[d] a dignity in keeping with her historic past.” Whether this was due to an economy that was able to escape the boom and bust cycle of other more industrial towns on the Ohio, or because it didn’t have the overwhelming identification with steel, or coal, or clay like Stuebenville or Mingo Junction or Toronto, Marietta made a concerted effort to highlight its past. Add to that the ability to attract travelers from Interstate 77, and you have the recipe for successfully commodifying your history. A brief comparison between Steubenville and Marietta shows just how important these factors can be.
Both towns were laid out under the auspices of military forts, Fort Harmar in 1785 and Fort Steuben in 1787. It would be Fort Steuben, however, that would have the stronger connection with Northwest Ordinance as it was that fort that was built to protect the surveyors of the Seven Ranges. While neither Fort Harmar nor Fort Steuben existed in 1940, the later has been reproduced and is now comparable to the Campus Martius museum in Marietta.
Much like Washington’s boast of the future site of Marietta, TOG claims that “old riverboat men pronounced Steubenville to be ‘the best town site on the Ohio’.” This site would hold the town of La Belle which grew up around Fort Steuben the same year it was constructed, one year before Marietta was established, making it the oldest Euro-American settlement in the Northwest Territory. While Marietta has the first Land Office erected in Northwest Territories (built by the Ohio Company and Associates) visitors can find the first U.S. Land Office of the Northwest Territory, built in 1800, on the grounds of the Fort Steuben Museum. Despite their similar origins, however, it has been Marietta that has established itself as the place to experience Ohio History.
Whether it was a more diversified economy, easier automobile access, or a citizenry more interested in its past, Marietta has a much firmer grip on Ohioans’ historic tourism business. Perhaps nothing epitomized this realization more than a trip up to Lookout Point, TOG’s last point-of-interest for Marietta. In the previous post, I wrote about the missing view from the top of Angel’s Trail in Steubenville and that it was not until I reached Marietta did I understand its importance. Both Angel’s Trial and Lookout Point were part of their towns’ common space, both established around the turn of the nineteenth century. In 1940, both were in condition enough to offer commanding views of the river valley and their respective historic towns below. Yet while Angel’s trail only offered a view of second growth when I climbed it, Lookout Point remained a well-maintained public space, complete with binoculars, and a view for miles. Indicating the economic importance of such tourist spots, the bottom of a plaque describing Lookout Point’s history bears the inscription, “Map and plaque manufactured by Sewah Studios, Marietta, OH.”
For the first part of Tour 8 section B, click here.
When the steel industry collapsed, it took Steubenville’s accompanying retail business with it. No longer were the streets “thronged with people from surrounding communities seeking business and social contacts.” As Leonardo and I walked throughout the heart of the commercial district, we were met with more “out of business” and “call for an appointment” signs than open doors (though the Chinese restaurant and a gyro shop that are the entirety of the dining choices in downtown Steubenville are both surprisingly good). Today, Steubenville residents earn $4,000 less than the national per capita average and over 20% of its 18,000 residents are unemployed.
Despite this depression, there is an ineffable beauty to Steubenville. As TOG acknowledged seventy-five years ago following a different economic collapse, “there are in town strange glimpses of beauty that are foreign to Steeltown: an unexpected view from the steep green slopes above the mills; of the sun creeping up over the West Virginia hills; or of a steamer, bound down the river at sunset, churning a long golden wake past the stark walls that line the banks.”
Beyond the picturesque, the urban infrastructure of Steubenville has an unmistakable charm that can be found under the veneer of disrepair. Because Steubenville simply does not have the money to either renovate or raze unused structures, many of the streets are lined with wonderful old buildings. A few of which, most notably the Grand Theatre, have attracted local preservationists, but most lie empty, waiting for better times to come along.
The corner of Sixth and Market Streets has seen some drastic changes however, much to its detriment, including the destruction of the Imperial Hotel (Notice on the far left side of the newer image, a mural of a street scene reminiscent of the the original photograph).
That the only civic construction project we ran across as we walked through the city was one lonely hammer pounding away inside the Grand Theatre highlights one of the ironies of Steubenville. As the collapse of the steel industry became a reality in the late 1970s and early 80s, a small group of artists began to decorate the walls of crumbling downtown building with murals celebrating the city’s history. Steubenville was soon re-christened the City of Murals as tourists brought much-needed dollars to the depressed town. Over the past ten years, various organizations have donated money to help restore and maintain the murals.
Yet it is difficult to ignore the fact that Steubenville’s economy has not moved much beyond the period these murals represent. It is as if the town is nostalgic for a period it can’t quite escape. As I walked by a hand-painted sign for Coca-Cola, I wasn’t sure if it was a new mural or simply an old ad that had not yet given in to the ravages of time.
These murals are not in TOG of course, but the one above represents a building that is in the manuscript guide. The following passage gives us a small but intriguing glimpse into race relations in Steubenville in 1940: “On the southwest fringe of the business section is one of the negro districts of the city. Two other negro centers are on North Eighth Street and Wells Street. …[D]uring the World War and the consequent labor shortages, there was a marked increase in negro population. The City Board of Recreation maintains the Central Recreation Center at Tenth and Adams streets exclusively for the Negro population. It consists of a large recreation hall, swimming pool, game and picnic sites.” Nothing is left of the recreation center itself which sat at the corner of Adams and Tenth Streets.
In addition to its commercial history, Steubenville has also tried to highlight aspects of its residential heyday. In contrast to East Liverpool in which wealthy business owners lived above the dust of the clay mills in the hills south of town, Steubenville’s elite lived in what were once lovely victorians in the heart of the city. Like the murals, however, the celebration of the “Historic North Fourth Street” district walks a fine line between acknowledging the city’s history and highlighting its inability to escape it.
One downtown building that is in good shape is the main branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. TOG refers to it as the Carnegie Public Library after its primary benefactor, but regardless of the name, it remains a handsome building “built of trick and terra cotta in mission style with a dash of Tudor in the trimmings.
Steubenville High School did not make the final cut of TOG, but the manuscript guide points out that it was the largest single unit of the Public Works Administration in the state of Ohio in 1939. Built at a cost of $1,000,000 with beautiful art deco details, the school was expanded to include the adjacent War Memorial Building sometime since the manuscript guide was written.
1937 Ohio River Flood in Steubenville
Between January 13 and January 25, 1937, 12 inches of rain fell on the watershed of the Ohio River. The river, nearly 30 feet above flood stage in some areas, wreaked havoc on towns stretching from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois, killing 385 people, and causing $500 (1937 dollars) worth of damage. The Ohio Guide Photograph Collection has a wonderful assortment of images documenting the disaster, including those below of Steubenville which I have rephotographed.
As I post the above picture of the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, I realize that I was not in the same location as the 1937 photographer. I should have been standing another twenty feet behind where I was, which would have given me 15 feet more elevation. The earlier shot must have been taken from the old Route 7 which may have sat a few feet lower than it does now, but certainly higher than the spot on Water Street from where I took my picture. In fact, despite being a good 12 feet above the river when I took the shot, I would have been quite wet in 1937. The guard rails of Water Street are clearly visible in the old picture, as is the telephone pole that would have been on the river side of Water Street, essentially marking the spot where I would take my picture nearly 75 years later.
Perhaps the most dramatic picture of the Steubenville flood in the collection is not of the Ohio River at all, but of Willis Creek, a tributary of the Ohio on which the Steubenville Pumping Station sat. The photograph is not that dramatic until one visits the site. The pumping station sits a few hundred feet above the Ohio River, so all of the water visible in the photograph was from a creek that is so inconspicuous that I was never able to find it, despite knowing its location (though the sheer bulk of the new Route 7 was also to blame).
The pumping station itself is also easy to miss as it is largely hidden by the new road. In fact, the only shot I could manage that was reasonably close to the Ohio Guide photograph was taken from Google street view.
The scene seemed so impossible that it took may comparisons to verify that they were indeed taken at the same location. Despite the missing roof and entire second story of the building however, one can still make out where the second set of windows were, as well as the words “Steubenville Water Works” above the door. The location of the building and the landscape itself also reaffirms the conclusion that this was the pumping station, “2 miles north of Steubenville” as the back of the original photograph informs us.
Jefferson County Courthouse
The pumping station is not the only building that has lost some of its height. In fact, buildings losing their upper portions seems almost epidemic in Steubenville. The Jefferson County Courthouse, TOG informs us, was a “soot blackened Romanesque building of sandstone, 150 feet long as it is high.” The building is now neither soot blackened nor properly proportioned. Completed in 1874, the six story structure included a massive clock and bell tower which visitors could enter via a beautiful spiral staircase. After the tower collapsed during a snow storm in 1950, county officials decided to cut their losses and replaced it with a flat roof. The bell now sits in a park across the street and it is the statue of Justice which still sits atop the peak of the pediment that is the focal point of the building.
The building was the third to sit on this site, according to the manuscript guide. “The first was a structure of logs and the second was a fine brick building.” The building of the new sandstone courthouse, “foretold the coming of a new and different age, the passing of an agrarian and handmade goods economy, and the coming of a mass production in which steel would be the leading factor.” If the construction of a new Jefferson County Courthouse foretold the coming of “new and different age” based in steel, the collapse of its’ bell tower illustrated the tenuousness of that industry.
It was not just the courthouse and the pumping station that lost towers and roofs. After the losing its four-sided peak, the naked tower of what was originally the Hamline Episcopal Church now resembles the crenelated walls of a Medieval Times restaurant. The church was built in 1847 as a home for breakaway parishioners of the South Street Methodist Church which was itself first established after an 1803 visit of Bishop Frances Asbury. It now holds the Sycamore Tree Church, one of thirty-seven Methodist churches in the Steubenville metro area according to usachurches.com.
TOG does not usually include churches in its points of interest and Steubenville is no exception. Perhaps because of the sheer number of them however, (usachruch.com list 48 within the city limits) the OHS Guide Photograph Collection contains what seem to be an inordinate number of pictures of Steubenville houses of worship. There is a photograph, for example, of the “First M.E. Church of the Seven Gables, built in 1814,” according to the note scribbled on its back. Cavalry Methodists worshipped there at the beginning of the twentieth century before it became the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in 1946, making it first Greek church in town (sometime after which it too lost the top to its tower). The Second United Presbyterian church similarly changed its name to Covenant Presbyterian Church though did not lose its tower, mostly because it never had one to lose.
Despite the number of churches, at least one person thinks that the residents of Steubenville could use further affirmation of their faith. There seemed to be no direct correlation between the quickly descending numbers on the sign across the street and the poster taped to the call box, but Leonardo and I crossed the street before it struck zero just to be safe.
Angel’s Trail and Ohio Valley Lookout
While its name was Angel’s Trail, TOG tells us that the path whose entrance was “opposite 274 Belleview Blvd” was used for more earthly concerns. It was “an old lover’s lane given modernity by concrete steps.” Leonardo and I searched in vain for the entrance as Belleview Blvd is a maze of turns, starting and stopping for no apparent reason at various points on the hills above Steubenville. Google maps was no help as there is no 200 block of Belleview listed. I ultimately found the steps on my second trip to Steubenville by climbing up from the bottom of the hill, past an abandoned Catholic church at the end of North 9th street. After I understood what I was looking for, I would notice other paths criss-crossing the hills above the city.
These paths were once well used, both by people walking to and from town and by visitors who want to take in “the panorama of Steubenville.” According to the manuscript guide, the panorama from the top of Angel’s Trail included “a medley of church spires and towers, smokestacks, and the barren bluffs of West Virginia rising abruptly from the waters edge.” At some point in the last twenty years, however, the city simply couldn’t afford to maintain the trails. Signs now clearly spell out the fate of Angel’s Trail, though their placement and irregularity indicate only a half-hearted attempt to deter people from entering, .
Climbing the first hundred feet of the trail, the steps are cracked and uneven but they are relatively useable. After that, however, the trail becomes an obstacle course of downed trees, broken slaps of concrete, and mud. When I reached what appeared to be the top, there was no longer an “entrance surrounded by hemlock and second-growth trees,” but a pile of concrete that fizzled out into the property of a private residence. Where one once viewed the “panorama of Steubenville,” I saw a few feet of the path I had climbed.
This was not always the case. The Ohio Guide Collection contains a postcard with a vantage point nearly identical to the above photograph. Similarly, the manuscript guide informs us that the “Ohio Valley Lookout,” half a mile south of Angel’s Trail, affords an even grander view; “To the north can be seen the winding Ohio River, spanned by the railroad bridge, Market Street Bridge, and backed by the hills of West Virginia and further south, the private bridge of the Wheeling Steel Corporation.” While I was able to glean a partial view by climbing down an embankment behind Trinity Hospital, it was not easily accessible and certainly not something TOG would have recommended. The larger implications of these stunted views would not be clear to me until the we reached Marietta the next day.
Though its creation in 1930 was one of the events that were “dwarfed and incidental” to Steubenville’s steel industry in the estimation of TOG’s editors, they still included Beatty Park as one of the city’s twelve points-of-interest. Along with its “100 acres of picnic sites and camps for auto-trailers,” the park provided “a full-time worker” to take charge of the city’s recreation programs which included “baseball, swimming, golf, and other sports.”
For most of the last twenty-five years, Beatty Park faired as poorly as other public spaces such as Angel’s Trail and the Ohio Valley Lookout: the pool was filled in; the picnic spaces and camping spots were over-taken by weeds; and the shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps was reclaimed by the hill it sat on. However, thanks to the work of a few dedicated individuals and the Steubenville Parks and Recreation Department, Beatty Park opened to the public once again in 2007. Though its formal activities are much more limited than they were, the addition of a highly-acclaimed disc golf course has brought some life back into this once-popular recreation area.
The most scenic of Steubenville’s public spaces is Union Cemetery. It is now at least 25 acres larger than the 121 acres listed in TOG, but is still “covered with virgin timber.” The cemetery is made up of dozens of unique sections, some of which are tucked into hollows while others command views of the river. “Among those buried here are three of the ‘Fighting McCooks’ of Civil War fame,” TOG explains, though I had to go to Wikipedia to find out that the McCooks were a family of fifteen who gained fame for their deeds (and deaths) for the Union army.
As you may expect for a cemetery, the entry gates have not changed much in the past 75 years. Very soon after the below picture was taken, however, a row of “oriental plane trees” was planted and a “rough sandstone bearing a metal plaque inscribed with the names of those for whom the oriental plane trees were donated,” was placed a few feet west of the entrance. I do find it difficult to believe that this rock tucked under the trees just out of the frame to the right is a “3,000 pound boulder,” as the manuscript guide claims.
After Angel’s Trail and Union Cemetery, the next two points-of-interest in TOG are the Fort Steuben Suspension Bridge and the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge. Bridges have become so ubiquitous that we don’t give them much thought, but their frequent inclusion in TOG reminded me just how massive these projects were. When the the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge was put in a single unit in 1936, its 1,000 foot span had to be fabricated and welded on the spot. It was then lifted into place by 10 hydraulic jacks and placed on new piers. The massive metal riveted cantilever through truss bridge looks very similar to what it did when it was installed.
The Fort Steuben Suspension Bridge did not fair so well. Almost twice as long as the PRR Bridge, the fate of the Fort Steuben Bridge was perhaps foreshadowed by the fact that it was build in 1928 at a cost of $2,500,000 but was sold to the state of Ohio for $1,000,000 just ten years later. It served as the main thorough fare over the Ohio in the region and by the nineteen eighties had begun to show structural damage. In 1990, the six-lane Veterans Memorial Bridge was built just to its north and in 2006 a weight-limit was put on the two-lane bridge. There were some attempts to turn it into a pedestrian walkway once it was clear that the Fort Steuben Bridge was no longer viable for motor vehicles, but these plans never materialized. When we drove into town, signs indicating its 2009 closure still remained, though it had been demolished three-weeks earlier. One of the piers was apparently left standing for posterity.
Many of the bridges connecting Ohio and West Virginia face a similarly tenuous fate. With fewer economies based on either side of the river, and highways in both Ohio and West Virginia making travel north and south much less taxing, there is no need to maintain so many crossings. While some have been demolished, others like the Bellaire Bridge remain in legal limbo and have become literal bridges to nowhere.
Ohio River Dam #9 and #10
Like its bridges, the locks and dams of the Ohio River have also changed since TOG was published. In 1910, congress enacted the Rivers and Harbors Act which allowed for the canalization of the Ohio River to a constant depth of nine feet. Completed in 1929 at a cost of over $100 million dollars, the project necessitated the production of 51 wooden wicket dams and 600 foot by 110 foot lock chambers along the length of the river. These structures included a brick powerhouse and two lock keeper houses. According to the manuscript guide, these were the the largest such locks in the United States with a total tonnage of over 15 million in 1925.
During the 1940s, a shift from steam propelled to diesel powered towboats allowed for tows longer than the 600 foot locks could contain. The barges now needed to be locked in two phases, which quickly proved untenable. In 1950, Corps of Engineers initiated the Ohio River Navigation Modernization Program which replaced the outdated wicket dams with structures of concrete and steel. Attached to each non-navigable dam were two adjoining locks, the larger of which being a 1200 foot by 110 foot chamber to accommodate fifteen barges that can lock through in one maneuver.
The new Pike Island Dam made the both Government Lock and Dam #9 (just a few miles south of the Ohio Edison site in Toronto) and Dam #10 (Steubenville) obsolete when it was completed in 1965. The older dams were demolished in 1975. Nothing remains of site #9 but the remains of site #10 in Steubenville include two sets of steps, a large ramp, and the lock esplanade. Pike Island Dam, meanwhile, has become a favorite spot for local fisherman.
Click here for Tour 8, section B (part 3).
For Section A of this tour, click here.
State Route 7
Making our way down State Route 7 from East Liverpool in the late afternoon, it is easy to understand why TOG refers to Wellsville as a “dingy city” where “boxlike houses stand beside redbrick sidewalks.” Though the new Route 7 necessitated the removal of the “dwellings [which] thrust themselves out from the steep hillsides,” the tops of those hills are still there, throwing the entire town into shadows much earlier than the admittedly similar-looking West Virginia hamlets on the opposite shore. As we passed above the town on the elevated highway, Wellsville seemed anything but. To be fair, if we had been traveling the same route in the morning when it was the Ohio side enjoying the healing sunlight, we may have been more inclined to investigate TOG’s claims of dinginess.
There are a few spots between East Liverpool and Marietta where one can find remains of the old Route 7, but generally the road no longer “dodges along the Ohio River…sweeping around jutting headlands, throughout fertile bottoms, past scores of towns and cities.” Instead, it is often a raised four-lane highway that cuts through the landscape as if it can not be bothered with such needless sight-seeing. If I lived along the Ohio, I would certainly be thankful for the improvements that allows one to get from East Liverpool to Steubenville in twenty-minutes rather than the hour or two it took before the road improvements began in the 1960s . But unlike the writers of TOG who seemed to be constantly aware of “the moods of the river which change with the season and the weather,” we drove above it without giving it much thought.
Just how different the road is can be illustrated by the fate of Memorial Point (whose existence I found evidence of in the manuscript files, rather than TOG). When the road was completed in 1932, a “tall, steel flag pole” was erected on the “highest point on S 7 along the river.” At this point, approximately six miles from East Liverpool, drivers were “afforded an expansive view of the river and the valley.” Today, there is no indication of the flag pole or even the specific hill on which it stood. In fact, as the picture below shows, the upgraded Route 7 roadway cuts through what appears to be the highest point in the area just before it crosses Yellow Creek.
Before the new roadway was put in place, this Yellow Creek crossing was memorialized in postcards for being a picturesque site where interurban, train, and roadway bridges all spanned the river. Run by the Steubenville East Liverpool and Beaver Valley Traction Company, the interurban was part of a massive system of public transit that covered the state. One can imagine how different this stretch of Ohio might look if, rather than investing money in the expanding of Route 7, the transportation authority had put its efforts into revitalizing the interurban rail system. Rather than isolated hamlets whose exits one can easily ignore because of uninviting light, towns like Wellsville, Empire, and Toronto might have enjoyed consistent visitors and commuters, sharing populations and resources, creating a more dynamic regional economy. As it happened, the rail line stayed, the road was upgraded, but all that is left of the interurban that crossed Yellow Creek is some concrete rubble lying between the other two bridges.
In addition to being the location that James and Daniel Heaton first set up their smelting furnace (see section A of this Tour), Yellow Creek, as TOG tells us, was the site of Mingo Chief Logan’s cabin. Logan, identified variously as Tah-gah-jute, Tachnechdorus (also spelled “Tachnedorus” and “Taghneghdoarus”), Soyechtowa, Tocanioadorogon, James Logan, and John Logan, was the son of Shikellamy, an important Iroquios diplomat. When he moved to the Ohio Valley in the 1760s, Logan took up residency with other Iroquois, mostly Senecas and Cayugas, who became known as Mingos to the white settlers in the area.
In 1774, a Virginian named Daniel Greathouse lured about a dozen Mingos across the Ohio River to the cabin of Joshua Baker, a trader in the region. Here Greathouse murdered the Indians, including Logan’s brother, as Greathouse’s men repelled the canoes sent from Yellow Creek to aid the stranded Mingos. In response, a number of war parties, including one led by Logan, attacked settlers along the Virginia frontier prompting the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, to send an expedition against the Mingos and Shawnees. The Indians eventually agreed to peace after the only major battle of “Dunmore’s War,” but Logan refused to participate. Instead, according to many colonial newspapers and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, the war chief issued the following statement:
I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, Logan is the friend of the white men. I have even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This has called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.
Beyond incorrectly pointing the finger at Col. Cresap, Logan’s speech was most likely not spoken by Logan at all, at least not in this form. Instead, it was probably one of the first examples of a genre that became known as “Aboriginal Eloquence.” Thomas Guthrie argues in a recent volume of Ethnohistory that the celebration of Indian oratory –systematically referred to as ‘eloquence’ by nineteenth-century Americans – was in and of itself a form of subjugation.
The way Euroamericans interpreted and celebrated Indian speech and produced and circulated texts of Indian oratory precisely positioned Indian subjects in this predetermined framework. Indian eloquence, inextricably tied to primitiveness, confirmed that Indians as a race were doomed and dying; the more eloquently they spoke, often uttering their own elegies, the more certain was their passing. In other words, Euroamericans set up an Indian that they could justifiably defeat by putting words in his mouth.
–Good Words: Chief Joseph and the Production of Indian Speech(es), Texts and Subjects,” Ethnohistory 54 no.3 (2007), 536.
Regardless of the speech’s veracity, Logan became an important historical figure in Ohio’s origin story and there is now a monument at the approximate location of his cabin imploring readers to remember his past:
Lest We Forget Chief Logan
A Chief of the Mingoes
A Friend of the Whites
From near this place in 1774, all the family of Logan was lured across the Ohio River and massacred by whites thus sending Logan and Ohio Indian nations on a path of war for vengeance now known to history as Cresap’s War.
“Who Shall Mourn”
There is no date on the monument and its exclusion from TOG indicates that it was unveiled after the guide’s publication, though its creation would not have been a surprise for TOG’s creators. According to James Bishop who wrote one of the manuscript guides for the area, the spot is “second only to Mingo Junction in historic lore.”
I only ran across the monument’s existence because of a great site called the Historical Marker Database. Even with the information on the database, however, it took me fifteen minutes to locate the marker in a rest stop about the size of a baseball infield. Lets see if you can do better in the picture below.
Still can’t find it? How about this one?
Standing at the shelter, looking west toward the monument and the trash can placed equidistantly from the path, there is nothing to indicate that there is anything of note on the front of the squarer of the two cement posts. If the idea was to make the monument blend into the landscape, the caretakers have done an excellent job.
Directly across Route 7 from the rest area is a small field separating the road from the railroad tracks and the Ohio River. This field was the backyard of the McCullough -Jefferson County Children’s Home which cared for over 2,500 kids between 1914 and 1958 when it was torn down to make room for the new road. According to James Bishop’s manuscript guide, the “light colored brick home was made possible because of the philanthropy of William G. McCullough who donated the old homestead farm for the purpose of a home for destitute children and supplemented the gift with $40,000 in 1909.”
The towns of Stratton, Empire, and Port Homer were, at the time TOG was published, known as clay-manufacturing towns, the latter two home to the Empire Sewer Pipe Company and the Peerless Clay Manufacturing company respectively (According the the manuscript tour, Empire was originally named in 1850 when “captain James Young came to the village and brought with him a flock of Shanghai chickens and the town was given that name.” One must assume that the author meant that the town was named in honor of the fowls’ city of origin rather than the birds themselves, but I can’t imagine a better name than “Shanghai Chickens, Ohio”). These towns have essentially merged into one community where the local economy is still based in extractive resources, but those resources consist of coal rather than clay.
The scale of the industrial structures on both sides of the Ohio is impressive. Between the blast furnaces, refineries, and power plants, the magnitude of engineering is awe-inspiring. Sprawling steel and concrete forms cover the landscape as if a massive seven-year-old boy has left his erector-set creations scattered across the valley after being called in to supper by his equally-massive mother. Yet even in this industrial landscape, the size of the W.H. Sammis power plant in Stratton is jaw-dropping. As you approach the structure which straddles Route 7, you can imagine how Jonah might have felt if his whale was made of concrete and it spouted smoke instead of water.
Since coal was discovered in the region in the beginning of the nineteenth-century, it has shaped the economy and the environment of northeast Ohio. This is still the case. FirstEnergy, which owns the W.H. Sammis plant, comprises the nation’s largest investor-owned electric system, serving 6 million customers within a 67,000-square-mile area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. In 2007, FirstEnergy ranked 212 on the Fortune 500 list of the largest public corporations in America. It also ranked as the 58th largest polluter in the country, according to a study done by the University of Massachusetts.
Ohio Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy which owns the plant, eventually reached a settlement with the EPA and the justice department requiring them to spend $1billion to reduce harmful emissions. Ultimately, the scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction equipment cost $1.8 billion and five years to install but has been successful reducing emissions of sulfur-dioxide by 95 percent, nitrogen oxides by up to 90 percent, and mercury by about 75 percent. The retrofit was named Construction Project of the Year by Platts Global Energy Awards in 2010 and received an honorable mention from Power Engineering magazine. Cardinal Power Plant (owned by AEP, FirstEnergy’s rival) a few miles down the road in Brilliant has also gone through a number of retrofitting projects
A few good 3-irons south of the the Sammis plant is the site of the former Ohio Edison plant it replaced. When it was completed in 1926 at a cost of $8,000,000, the Ohio Edison was one of the largest power plants int the country with an capacity of 350,000 horse power. Today, the Sammis Plant’s capacity of 2,233 megawatts is equal to 2,994,502,326,066 horse power. On google maps, the Ohio Edison plant still stands but when we reached it, only a few outbuildings remained.
Looking south from the Ohio Edison site is a smokestack at a much more human scale than the towering Sammis’ monoliths. Though it was once part of the “largest plant of its kinds on the Ohio river,” the 40-ft smokestack of the now-abandoned Kaul Clay Company virtually invites you to explore what lies at its base. Unlike the anonymous cement tower of the Sammis Plant, the stack of the Kaul Company proudly displays its ownership with the word “KAUL” built directly into its brick. According to the manuscript guide, the stack was part of the 25 kilns that fired 100 tons of raw clay every day, “making pipe that varies in size from three to thirty six inches as well as sewer pipe, flue lining, and conduits.” Three hundred men were employed in the entire operation at its peak.
Today, a sign at the entrance to the site informs us that Jefferson County is applying for a Clean Ohio Assistance Fund Grant to pay for an environmental assessment of the property. The town of Toronto could certainly benefit from developing this site that now offers only bored teenagers and wildlife a place to congregate (A beautiful coyote bounded into the bushes as I made my way up the main path to the stack). Yet, unlike those who have a reason to grow nostalgic over the loss of the actual clay-factory and the economy it supported, I found myself lamenting the possible passing of this liminal site that was neither in-use, nor fully reclaimed. There is something wonderful about walking the grounds of such a site, feeling like the first one to find a pile of clay piping or the filled-in entrance to one of the clay mines behind the kilns, imagining how the whole operation might have come together. Unlike running across the furnace in East Liverpool which, even with its minimal signage, felt as if we had stumbled across a neat historical monument, walking around the Kaul furnace felt more like discovering history.
As someone who feels very strongly about the importance of public history, I am certainly not advocating the removal of historical markers or arguing that there should be less attention paid to maintaining historical sites. There is a certain thrill, however, of creating your own, unencumbered vision of what might have happened in any given spot before you arrived there. Like the junky lot behind Mr. Sneelock’s store in which Dr. Seuss’s Morris McGurk created his imaginary Circus McGurkus, the remnants of the Kaul Clay Company give us just enough reality to let our historical imaginations run wild.
Further downtown was the site of the Toronto Fire Clay Company. Spread over sixty acres, TOG informs us that “grey dusted factory and storage rooms and the behive looking kilns,” produced an array of clay products including Toronto Faced Brick; the much-sought after brick “used around the plaza of the Supreme Court … the American Federation of Labor, both of Washington, D.C.” Just as significantly, according to author and Toronto historian Bob Petras, Toronto Fire Clay was the first company to manufacture sewer pipe in the western hemisphere, after which the region became known as the sewer pipe capital.
However, epitomizing the narrative the manuscript guide gives us in 1939 of a “fading clay industry” giving way to “giant electrical power plants,” many of the independent clay companies were razed to make way for the Ohio Edison and Toronto Power plants. By the middle of the nineteenth-century, only a few of the larger companies remained. The last of these was the Kaul Clay company which closed its doors in 1981, unable to compete with new plastic and fiber pipes.
While the remains of the Kaul Company still exist, the area at the end of Fifth Street that was the site of the Toronto Fire Clay Company has been partially developed into low-income housing and the municipal building, though a large, mostly abandoned structure was probably part of the industrial site.
One site that is still in use is that of the Follansbee Brothers Steel Mill. According to the manuscript guide, Follansbee brothers was “an ideal and complete unit for the production of sheet steel produced by the Drop Forge method,” when it was built in 1918, but is “waiting modernization.” Those changes have certainly taken place as the site now houses Timet, one of two titanium manufacturing companies in the country.
“Steubenville,” according to TOG, “has a historical depth that extends beyond the almost legendary period when Fort Steuben was erected in 1787 to protect the survey of the Seven Ranges….Like Marietta and Chillicothe, it was one of the mother towns of the state.” Yet by 1940, that history had been largely forgotten under the weight of the booming steel industry. “Steubenville speaks the language of the metropolitan Pittsburgh area: the talk of steel mills and the river, of polyglot Irish, Welsh, English German, Slavs and Latins, and the baseball fortunes of the Pittsburg Pirates….Events outside the circle of mills are dwarfed and seem incidental.” In 1940, half of the cities 40,000 residents worked in steel mills, driving a retail business consisting “over five hundred stores…stocked with three million dollars worth of goods from the markets of world, sufficient in volume and variety to meet every consumer demand,” according to the manuscript guide. This trade “employs more than two thousand workers who make shopping attractive and pleasant.”
Covering over a mile of the Ohio riverfront was one of the Wheeling Steel Corporation Plants. Here, nearly 7,000 workers produced coils, bars, and sheet pipe. In addition to the two blast furnaces, 11 open-hearth mills, and hot-strip mill, the company owned its own railroad cars which traveled back and forth over the Ohio River on the company-owned bridge to a byproduct plant on the West Virginia side. Despite its size, however, Wheeling could not avoid the fate of so many other steel mills and, after a series of mergers and take-overs, Wheeling Steel closed the doors to its Steubenville plant in August of 2009.
Perhaps the closing is temporary, as the company (which is now Severstal) contends. Unlike the barbed wire and “no trespassing” signs which clearly indicate the state of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, the former Wheeling Plant looks as if it might simply be closed for the weekend. As such, I did not hold up much hope that the owner of the security truck parked beside gatehouse would simply wave me through. Much to my surprise, there was no one around. After waiting a few minutes to see if someone was going to come question me, I let myself in. Below is some of what I found.
For an initial description of this project, click the Ohio Guide menu on the home page. If the map does not appear below, try refreshing your browser.
Two thoughts went through my mind as the mud gave way under my running shoes: protect the camera; and “this is an inauspicious beginning.” And let me be clear about the second point. It wasn’t that I suddenly realized that falling down a thirty-foot embankment was poor way to start this project. It was the actual phrase “this is an inauspicious beginning,” said in a Morgan-Freeman-type-voice-over that jumped out of my subconscious as my rib-cage met the ground. After a quick inventory I determined the camera was fine and a quick change of pants in the car would take care of the mud that now coated my right side. My inner Morgan Freeman was not quite ready to move on, however, as I heard him tsking his sage disapproval.
The night before, my traveling companion Leonardo Carrizo and I had made a choice which indirectly led to me being lectured to by “the narrator.” Tour 8, our first of this project, follows what was State Route 7, “the longest, crookedest, and most variable highway in the state,” according to The Ohio Guide (TOG is as good an acronym as any I suppose). It begins in the town of Conneaut on the shores of Lake Erie a few miles from the Pennsylvania border and ends in Chesapeake on the Ohio River, which determines Ohio’s border with Kentucky. With the exception the octagon-shaped house in which Clarence Darrow was born, TOG does not list any specific points-of-interest in the seventy miles between Conneaut and Youngstown. Before we even started our journey, we thus faced our first problem: How exactly how we would use TOG? Would we stop at every site mentioned? How deeply would we explore each location? Would we get to each site by the fastest route possible?
We knew that many of these questions would (will) have to be answered as we progressed, but some guidelines were clearly in order. We decided to use TOG as the editors no doubt assumed the public would use it seventy-five years ago: as a guide. We would take complete tours when possible, sticking to the original route, and focus on those places which interest us. TOG however, has points of greater and lesser interest and like our historical counterparts, we have normal constraints of life to consider such as time, weather, available coffee, etc. So with apologies to the towns of Conneut, Andover, Kinsman, and Hubbard, we decided to begin section A of tour 8 with Youngstown; which is how I found myself getting chastised by “the narrator” as I slid down the banks of Mill Creek.
MILL CREEK PARK
Even before World War II initiated a steel boom that shaped the Mahoning Valley’s current identity, the region’s economy was based in metal. In 1802, James and Daniel Heaton set up a furnace on the banks of Yellow Creek, the current city of Struthers, where they used the ample wood supply and native limestone to smelt iron ore. When David Tod Brier found a rich vein of black coal a few miles to the north in 1844, the ingredients were in place to make Youngstown the heart of the “Ruhr Valley of America” according to TOG; an homage to the industrial and coal center in northwestern Germany. Because “Brier Hill Black” burned hotter than other coals, it didn’t require additional coking and the entire process of extracting the iron ore could be done in a single “blast” furnace. Between 1846 and 1872, twenty-one such furnaces were built in the Youngstown area.
Youngstown’s population increased with its iron production. Between 1870 and 1880 alone the population doubled, one-third of this number being recent immigrants from Wales, Germany and Ireland. These workers found themselves crowded into poorly-built company houses with equally deplorable work conditions. It was not long before strikes became commonplace. Volney Rogers, Youngstown’s visionary first city planner, wisely decided that the best way to sooth tensions between labor and ownership was to provide better living conditions for workers, including places to escape the heat and smoke of the furnaces. He helped build a trolley systems so that laborers could live further from the grime of the city (one of the reasons Ohio led the nation in inter-urban railway lines at the turn of the twentieth century) and hired Frederick Law Olmstead, the architect of New York’s Central Park, to create a pastoral refuge, including the 450-acre Mill Creek Park (now 2,882 acres).
When Rogers purchased the property that would become the park, a number of structures already existed on the site and he incorporated them into the park’s landscape; the oldest being a sandstone building James Heaton constructed in 1821 as a mill for carding and fulling wool. Pioneer Pavilion, as it would be named, was later used as a storehouse for an iron furnace from which, according to TOG, “slag from its working was dumped in the area just north of the present pavilion…[where] workmen have found billets of iron, rusty relics of the time when this was not a scenic spot but a busy little center of iron making.”
Interestingly, TOG’s only mention of the contemporary state of the furnace is that it “once stood on the hill behind [Pioneer Pavilion].” If the actual site had been located in 1940, the authors kept this information to themselves. Today, the remnants of that furnace are marked by a wooden railing and signage explaining its history. Like most of the state-funded historical sites on Tour 8A mentioned in TOG, the Pioneer Pavilion and its accompanying furnace seemed to be better demarcated in the landscape now than during the original tour.
As for the building itself, TOG does not describe the pavilion’s condition in the late 1930s, or if it was still being used as a dining and dancing facility as Rogers and Olmstead intended. However, as long as you do not bring ballons upstairs, you can still rent out this beautiful site for entertaining.
Photographing Pioneer Pavilion quickly reaffirmed what I had assumed going into this project; it was going to be difficult to both take the tours and rephotograph specific sites appropriately. Nothing defines a photograph more than light and to do a rephotographic survey precisely, one needs to visit a location in the same lighting conditions as the original photograph was taken. This means not only the same time of day but the same weather conditions and even the same time of year. I knew I was not going to concern myself with the time of year, but I was hoping be able to generally match weather conditions and the time of day.
This first stop made me realize how foolish this hope had been. Even without a photograph to match, it was difficult to get the shot I wanted because of the angle of the sunlight at the time we reached the pavilion on this cloudless day (contrary to a common assumption, bright sunny days are generally the worst conditions to photograph in as it provides harsh shadows and flat, bright light). If we are going to follow the tours, I am going to have to photograph the sites in whatever lighting condition they are in when we reach them.
The effects of this decision are even more apparent in the following photographs of Lanterman’s Mill. While shadows in the original photograph show the photograph to be taken at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, we reached the site at 8:30 a.m. To match the photograph I would not only have to ignore my inner Morgan Freeman and climb down the muddy bank of Mill Creek (the original shot seems to have been taken from an archway in the trusses under the bridge that now has been cemented up), but my reward would be shooting directly into the sun. While this scenario caught the mist of the waterfall quite nicely, it made exposing for the mill itself a challenge.
As the pictures indicate, with the exception of paint in the earlier picture, both the falls and the exterior of the mill look very much like they did in 1940. And thanks to a renovation in the mid-nineteen eighties, the mill is no doubt in better shape than it was directly following the Great Depression. The third structure to sit on this site, it was originally a grist mill built by German Lanterman and his brother-in-law Samuel Kimberly in 1846. It was used until the 1870s when the advent of rollers made grind-stone milling obsolete. It stood in disrepair until 1892 when Rogers turned it into a ballroom and concession stand. Then, as TOG describes, the mill was opened as a museum in 1937 and housed a “collection of plant and animal specimens native to the region, and displays of geological, archaeological and historical materials.”
Today the mill has a more focused mission. An extensive renovation meticulously restored it to its working condition of the mid nineteenth-century so that, according to the park website, visitors can “observe the pioneer ingenuity involved in the early production of meal and flour, smell the sweet aroma of freshly ground grains, and feel the rumbling vibrations of the massive stones as the various grains are ground.”
In stark contrast to the bucolic state of Mill Creek Park are the remnants of Idora Park. Lying just a few miles south of Lanterman’s Mill and adjacent to the 2 18-hole golf courses that make up Mill Creek Golf Course, Idora Park was once the amusement center of the Youngstown area. In addition to the rides and midway that became its trademark, the grounds contained the “Pavilion Moderne, with dance floor; Heidelberg Garndens, a night club; and Idora Natatorium,” as well as “numerous picnic groves,” according to TOG.
Built by the Youngstown Park and Falls Street Railway Company in 1899 at the terminus of its south-side branch line, the park was originally constructed as a way to increase weekend ridership on this new route. Here Irish, Slovak, Polish, Italian, German and Romanian workers from around Youngstown could come together and share the thrill of riding the state-of-the-art Wildcat Roller coaster, which, as late as 1984, was still ranked as one of the 100-best roller coasters in the country. Additionally, according to TOG, these “foreign groups” held their “nationality days, commemorating dates of importance in their native lands in the park.” African-Americans, however, could only use the swimming pool and ballroom at designated times.
The park continued to operate through the early 1980s when a series of fires destroyed first the roller coasters and concessions stands and then, in 2001, the ballroom. Efforts had been put forth by conservation groups to save parts of the park’s infrastructure but ultimately only the wooden carousel, purchased by a private buyer and donated to the Brooklyn Bridge Park in NYC, was saved from the destructive fires.
A number of sites detail the history of the park. Particularly insightful is the Idora Park site from the Center For Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University, while photographs of the abandoned but still standing site can be found at idorapark.org.
Having spent the morning exploring the two parks, Leonardo and I made our way downtown where we aimed to visit the first two points-of-interest (POI) listed in the “Cities” chapter on Youngstown and rephotograph a street scene on Federal street.
Federal Street/Soldiers Monument
Since the discovery of coal, which brought scores of eastern Europeans to work the mines, Youngstown has attracted immigrants. The early twentieth-century brought workers from the countries that would become Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, while the steel strike of 1919 and the boom of the 1940s brought tens of thousands of African-Americans from the rural south looking for work. At the time of TOG’s publication, the population of Youngstown was 170,000 with approximately 16% “foreign born” and 9% African-American, according to the U.S. Census. Today, the total population has been halved while the percentage of African-Americans has risen to approximately 45%. Less than 3% identify themselves as something other than white or black. Two hundred and forty six of those people list themselves as American Indian or Native Alaskan.
This demographic make-up was apparent as soon as we reached the center of the city. Unlike the photograph below in which a large majority of the crowd watching a parade marching down Federal Street appear to be white, to our subjective eyes, most of the people we met as we walked around Federal Plaza were black. More significant than the proportion of African-Americns, however, was the dearth of activity in general. In the middle of lunch-hour on a Friday afternoon, there were only a handful of people on the streets.
A few hundred feet west of the trash can I had climbed in order to match my earlier counterpart’s view atop a bus to photograph the parade, a “47-foot granite shaft…donated by the citizens of Youngstown to honor the soldiers from the community who lost their lives in the Civil War,” supports what TOG claims the locals called “The Man on the Monument.”
When I first saw the monument’s inclusion in the TOG, it struck me as a particularly quaint reference. Perhaps due to a post-Vietnam cynicism of war, or perhaps their seeming ubiquity, tourists such as myself do not expect to see a monument to soldiers killed in a war eighty years earlier as one of the eleven must-see-sites in a city of Youngstown’s size. Yet as we traveled a region that had earned the moniker “rust belt” even before the most recent recession, it became increasingly clear that the military offers some of the best opportunities for young people to make a living. Particularly in smaller towns such as Empire and Toledo where unemployment reaches 20% and the vast majority of residence do not have more than a high-school degree, military service no doubt becomes an attractive option.
Add to these economic incentives a tradition of military service and you have cities in which some of the most revered sites are monuments to soldiers. Throughout our trip down Route 7, houses proudly displayed signs declaring their family members’ connections to the armed forces. In towns that have lost huge portions of their populations, VFWs and American Legions were sometimes the only sings of community activity. It is no coincidence that large segments of The Deer Hunter, one of the most acclaimed movies about the problems veterans face when they return home, was filmed in Mingo Junction, one of the next stops on our tour. In contrast to my first reaction, the further into the trip we went, the more appropriate the inclusion of the Soldiers Monument seemed.
Mahoning County Courthouse
Back in Youngstown, we headed off to find the Mahoning County Courthouse, “a fine example of the Italian Renaissance style in Woodbury, Vermont, granite.” It was not the exterior I was interested in, however, but the “murals depicting four periods of law, and several others….treating local history.”
As we carried our gear up the courthouse steps, I looked fretfully at the metal detectors; there was no way the two officers guarding the door were going to let us in. Much to my surprise, they not only cheerfully let us through but directed us to Judge Krichbaum’s courtroom where we could find one of the murals. The Judge was understandably a little less enthusiastic about two guys in shorts asking to see his courtroom during his lunch hour but he instructed his bailiff to let us in and explain the story behind “The First Trial by Law in Mahoning County.”
According to the sheet of paper the bailiff gave us describing the mural, Colonel James Hillman had been riding past a salt spring in Weathersfield Township when his dog discovered the salt-maker’s body buried in the underbrush. Because the “large body of Indians who had been about Youngstown, Canfield, and Ellsworth,” could no longer be found, Hillman surmised that these were the salt-maker’s killers and went in search for them. In language that sounds as if it has not been changed since the mural was commissioned in 1909, the paper explains that the chief admitted how, after the salt-maker had given one of the “red man a drink of whiskey,” the Indian killed the man after refusing to give him more. Hillman brought said Indian back to Youngstown where his trial took place on a bluff overlooking the Mahoning River.
The mural depicts not only the dog, the judge, the prosecutor, the defense, the widow of the murdered man, and all the Indians (no tribal information is given), but also the artist, Charles Yardley Turner, who stands among a grove of Buckeyes representing civilization on the far right of the image that is gradually taking over the primeval oak forest on the left. Despite the coming of civilization, or perhaps because of it, the Indian was, according to the handout, acquitted, though no other details are given.
Between 1985 and 1991, the county spent $8 million restoring the courthouse to its former splendor. During this time, the murals were all chemically cleaned and retouched, including the four pendenitves adorning the rotunda ceiling. Painted by Edwin Blashfield, one of the foremost muralists in the early years of the twentieth-century, these depictions of four stages in the history of law won him the gold medal of honor from the Architectural League of New York in 1911.
This information may be available more formally somewhere in the building, but we were lucky enough to learn it from Ed Black, an employee in the clerk of courts office who is known as the unofficial historian of the courthouse. As we were wandering around, we bumped into Ed who offered to show us the collection of Blashfield historical memorabilia he collected while researching the the murals during their reconditioning. In a shoebox under his desk, Ed stores a number of Blashfield relics, including photos, copies of handwritten letters, price ledgers, and an original telegram from the artist, letting his assistants know when they should expect his arrival. If you find yourself in the Mahoning County Courthouse wondering about its history, Ed is the man to talk to.
Republic Steel Company Plant / United Engineering Company Plant
As TOG makes clear, even before the boom years in the middle of the century, Youngstown’s economic and social health–though clearly not its environmental welfare–could be measured by the heat its furnaces produced:
From the city square, on nights when production is up and the mills are roaring, the horizon is painted with an uncertain light where the stack-flung ceiling of smoke gives back the glare of the mill fires. And when production is down and only a few furnaces carry ‘heats,’ the forlornness of the squat and silent mills seep into the whole city. Conversation brightens or lags with shell. ‘Are they hiring?’ ‘I hear Tube got a big order.’ ‘They’re putting in a new furnace at…’ Steel’s index production is front page news in the local papers; when it reaches the high 80’s it gets more space than the doings of Congress.
The sites of the Republic Steel Company Plant and United Engineering Company Plant lying at the base of the Market Street bridge were once part of a string of plants that ran for twenty-five miles along the Mahoning River. From the still-operating WCI plant in Warren, through Youngstown Sheet and Tube in Brier Hill, U.S. Steel and Republic Steel in the city proper, past the Campbell works of YS & T, all the way down to Lowellville, these plants gave Youngstown its identity in the twentieth century.
Then on September 19, 1977, a date still remembered by many Youngstowners as “Black Monday,” Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced it was closing its doors. This announcement was followed closely by the withdrawal of U.S. Steel in 1979 and 1980, and the bankruptcy of Republic Steel in the mid-1980s. Youngstown’s inability to diversify had dire consequences. According to Wikipedia, in the wake of the steel plant shutdowns, the community lost an estimated 40,000 manufacturing jobs, 400 satellite businesses, $414 million in personal income, and from 33 to 75 percent of the school tax revenues.
When TOG was published in 1940, about 700 hundred people worked at the United Engineering Company plant, making the equipment used in the rest of the valley’s mills. According to Rick Rowlands, President of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation, the company began as the William Tod Company, making stationary steam engines. It quickly branched into making other industrial components such as the engines for Bethlehem Steel’s rolling mills and the mechanisms used to open and close the Panama canal (which are still in use today). The Tod Company also constructed the worlds first ferris wheel for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Today the building sits largely unused and is scheduled for demolition.
On the other side of the bridge is the site of the Republic Steel Plant. Began as the Republic Iron and Steel Company in 1899, the company became one of the three largest steel producers in the country. Along with its size, however, Republic became known as the center of the “Little Steel” strike of 1937 which ultimately brought greater prosperity and increased status for steelworkers. In fact, one of the reasons Youngstown’s economic decline has been so painful for many in the community is that it represents not just a loss of jobs, but also the negation of some of the most important battles in American labor history. When the steel industry collapsed, Youngstown lost not only its most important economy but also its origin story, the narrative that gave its residents meaning of place.
So what to do with these monuments to an unreclaimable past? In the case of United Engineering, the answer to that question will come in the form of a wrecking ball. For Republic steel, it was answered when then-Congressman James Traficant secured a $26 million HUD redevelopment grant to build what became the Covelli Center, a 5,900 seat multi-purpose arena on the former mill site. The answer regarding other former steal-making sites has been less clear.
As Sherry Lee Linkon and John Russo explain in their revealing Steeltown, U.S.A; Work and Memory in Youngstown, many of Youngstown’s most powerful figures have been loathe to focus on the city’s steel-making past for fear of reinforcing the perception that Youngstown has been unable to reinvent itself. Yet ironically, the most famous relic of Youngstown’s industrial heritage, at least outside of the city, has earned that title since it was destroyed in 1997.
TOG lists the last point-of-interest as the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company Plant. Lying just south of the city, what was known as the Campbell Works was actually only a unit of the largest millworks in the region and what would become one of the largest steel producers in the world. “In the blast and open-hearth furnaces, the rolling and strip mills, together with all the other divisions of a giant steel plant, are employed more than 7,500 men.” Today, much of the Campbell Works have been raised while the rest sits behind miles of locked chain-link fence.
One of those “other divisions” of YS & T was the Brier Hill Plant. At its peak, the Brier Hill Plant employed 10,000 men, most of them Italian immigrants, to work its blast furnaces, “Grace” and “Jeanette.” Named after Mary Jeanette Thomas, the daughter the President of Brier Hill Steel Company, the newer furnace was “blown in” or lighted in 1918. Along with the rest of the Brier Hill Company, it was purchase by the YS & T in 1823 for whom it produced more than 11 million tons of steel in its lifetime. When Jeannette was shut down in 1977, it was one of the oldest blast furnaces in the country and the last of its kind in Youngstown. It then sat, dilapidated and empty, for twenty-years as a constant reminder of Youngstown’s inability to reinvent itself. Despite some attempts to save it, Jeannette was torn down in 1997.
Two years earlier, Bruce Sprinsgsteen released his nostalgic elegy to steelmakers, “Youngstown,” on his 1995 album, Ghost of Tom Joad.
From the Monongahela Valley,
To the Mesabi Iron Range,
The coal mines of Appalachia,
The story’s always the same.
Seven hundred tones of metal a day
Now sir, you tell me the world’s changed.
Once I made you rich enough,
Rich enough to forget my name.
Here in Youngstown. Here in Youngstown.
My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown.
“Jenny” is of course not a woman, but the Jeanette blast furnace at the Brier Hill Plant of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube company. While there is some debate whether workers actually called the furnace by the name Jenny, there is no doubt that thanks in large part to Springsteen, the name has become a rallying cry for those in Youngstown who want to memorialize its heritage.
And to some extent, there have been results. Due to the work of a younger generation for whom the loss of steel has not been as acute, as well as the return of some manufacturing work, there are signs that Youngstown is coming to terms with its past. The most significant indication of this turning point has been the creation of the Youngstown Historical Center of History and Labor, run by the Ohio Historical Society.
Old Stone Tavern
Just off of Route 7, in the town of Poland, lies the Stone Tavern. Technically part of tour Tour 5, we needed to pass through the town to get back on Route 7 after our visit to Campbell, so we decided to stop at the “square two-story building of sand-stone slabs erected in 1804 by Jonathan Fowler.” Originally the family home and general store, the tavern (also known as the Sparrow Tavern) became an important stop on the Pittsburgh to Cleveland Stage couch route. And as this historical marker outside the building indicates, William McKinley was sworn into the Union Army on the tavern’s front porch.
That porch has been replaced with a much smaller portico and the stone on the front of the building is now covered by white planking. Beyond that, the structure looks very similar to its 1940s self.. The building now holds “Old Stone Tavern Antiques,” but its future is in doubt as the “for sale” sign posted in front of the building implores passer-bys to “make offer.”
Between Youngstown and East Liverpool, Route 7 alternates between a two- and four-lane highway, replete with the standard sprawl of Rally’s and auto parts stores. As we traveled south, the landscape turned more “rural” in that the spaces between the Rally’s and auto parts stores increased, but beyond that, the scene out the window was remarkably consistent. The editors of TOG apparently felt the same way as the only information they provide for this section is that Pine Lake offers camping for $1/day, and the town of Woodworth was “terrorized by the Morgantown gang,” between 1882 and 1885. Apparently, a man named Asariah Paulin earned the moniker Old Fox by leading his seven sons and a few other relatives in a string of “burglaries, arson, and even murder,” before he was captured in Pennsylvania and sentenced to “a long term in the Ohio State Penitentiary.” Alas, we found no signs of either the Old Fox or his dastardly deeds.
In 1838, James Bennett, a 28-year-old potter from Staffordshire settled in what was then known as Fawcett. Finding the clay deposits suitable for pottery, he brought his brothers from England and began to produce mugs, bowls, and teapots. Though this pottery was destroyed by a flood in 1852, enough English immigrants, particularly from Liverpool, followed Bennett’s lead that the town established itself as leading producer of the wares and even changed its name.
After running across one of those beehive-like kilns (currently an Ohio Historical Society site) we ultimately found our way to a development surrounding the Hall China Company Plant that was made up of those “monotonous frame dwellings.” Here, no doubt, most of the 867 people employed by the plant in 1940 lived, working at seven tunnel kilns, turning out vases, tableware, and teapots, making it the largest of the potteries in town. While the houses surrounding the plant had certainly not gotten any quainter since 1940, the neighborhood children found a suitable park in front of the plant where they were playing as we drove up. It was also the first private company we found on the tour that still existed in the same location with the same name. We would find this to be a rare event. The “seconds” retail store attached to the company should also be given some credit for its pithy name of “The Hall Closet.”
Unlike the residences on the water, the homes on top of and behind Diedrick’s Hill, were clearly built for a wealthier class. Here we found Thomson House on Park Boulevard, “a gray brick mansion trimmed in white with six pillars supporting a balcony over the entrance. Completed in 1906, the house was for a few years the home of William Leland Thompson, composer of ‘Darling Minnie Gray,”Softly and Tenderly,”Jesus is Calling,”and ‘My Home on the Old Ohio.'” Believe it or not, I couldn’t find any of these hits on iTunes.
East Liverpool is perhaps best known today as the home of former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. In fact, the most prominent building downtown is a bank that has been turned into the Lou Holtz Hall of fame. Though at a certain time of day, even the Hall of Fame retreats into the shadows as “Crook’s Easy Terms of Credit” glows over Market Street.
Addendum – Point of Beginning
A few miles east of the Hall China Company on State Route 39 one can find one of the most historically significant spots in Ohio, though TOG does not mention it. It was here, at the Point of Beginning, that geographer Thomas Hutchins began the process of surveying the Seven Ranges, opening up the Northwest Territory for American settlers and initiated the start of the U.S. Rectangular Survey. This system of land dispersal not only allowed for western expansion, but it became a tool for both the Federal government and land speculators to disposes Indian groups throughout the United States.
Initiated by Thomas Jefferson and his belief in the power Enlightenment thought, the idea was that by breaking lands into regular ordered townships, the government could control western expansion and create a system with which to administer these lands. Townships, Jefferson thought, could be broken into 36 640 acre sections that people could buy at $1/acre.
It quickly became apparent that small farmers couldn’t afford to pay for a 640 acre parcel, however. Instead, speculators bought up big chunks of land, broke them it into smaller pieces, and sold it to farmers at a tremendous profit. Congress recognized this, and over the next half-century continually reduced the minimum purchase, first to 320 acres, then 160, then 80, and eventually, in 1838, all the way to 40 acres when you could literally walk into a government land office and say “I want the northwest quarter section of section 17, township 7, range 2,” and walk out of the office with a plot of land. It couldn’t have been easier. …Unless you happen to be one of the Mingo or Shawnee or Delaware or Miami etc. who were already living on this land. But that is a story for a different day. For now it is enough to recognize the impact this system has had on the American landscape.
As the marker indicates, the real Point of Beginning is actually 1,112 feet south of the monument, but was moved when the road was upgraded. Approximately the same distance to the north, I shot the last picture.
Rick Poyner at Design Observer has added a new piece to the growing literature on “ruin porn” that highlights the very “placeness” I attempted to articulate in an earlier positing here.
For an introduction to this project, click here or on the “Industrial Columbus” link in the menu bar.