Located along Front Street in downtown Portsmouth, the murals play an important role in the towns vitality. But despite being a staple in the history and culture of Portsmouth, the murals remain a mystery for some and their details are often overlooked.
The murals tell the story of Portsmouth in chronological order, starting with the mound building Indians to the present day and use the 20-foot high, 2,000 foot-long flood wall as a canvas. The murals serve as a popular attraction for visitors and natives. The murals are ever-changing and growing, with new additions and touch-ups being added frequently. The project runs the length of the historic district and includes over 55 different scenes.
In 1992, the planning stages of the Flood wall Mural Project began with the formation of an ad hoc committee, which later registered as a nonprofit organization – Portsmouth Murals, Inc. (PMI). Robert Dafford, an internationally known muralist from Lafayette, Louisiana, was contracted for the project.
Each Thursday, the Daily Times will focus on a specific section of the murals, discussing its history and role in the community.
This week, we will be focusing on the Portsmouth circa 1903 mural. Spanning 80 feet, this mural is currently the largest in the series. This mural was completed in 1993 and was based on photos from the Carl Ackerman collection, some of these photos can be seen on display at the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, located at 825 Gallia Street in Portsmouth.
In 1903, Portsmouth had grown to a city of 17,870 citizens. The farmlands west and north of the city proved to be rich due to the yearly flooding that created a fertile delta. The smoke stacks in the background of the mural belonged to the Burgess Steel and Iron company, which employed a workforce of more than 500 men.
Many of the buildings featured in the mural are still familiar today and the steeple of St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands front and center in the second panel of the mural. At this time, what is now known as Market Street, was Central North-South Street, boats would dock at the foot of the street delivering goods to the city. The Biggs House was also instrumental in downtown life, completed in 1872, the house served as a meeting place for social clubs.
If you’d like to see the murals for yourself, follow the green mural signs posted in the city on Washington Street (Rt. 23 South) leading to the murals on Front Street. Many of the buildings along the tour have historic markers, indicating water levels from the flood.
If you would like to tour the murals from your car, you can take an audio tour by dialing 740-621-8031. After the introduction, each mural is a “stop.” You can also go online to www.portsmouthmurals.oncell.com to access the audio clips for each mural.
Portsmouth Murals Inc., is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organizations. If you wish to contribute to the project, you can do so by mailing contributions to Portsmouth Murals Inc. at P.O. Box 207, Portsmouth, Ohio, 45662.
For more information about the murals, you can visit the Scioto County Visitors Bureau at 342 Second Street in Portsmouth.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.