The Scioto County Heritage Museum opened its doors and welcomed the public for a soft opening this past Saturday, coinciding with Main Street Portsmouth’s Wine and Dine Walk, the Earth Candy Farmacy Localpalooza, and the Portsmouth ACID Art Walk.
Joining them was a plethora of board members, volunteers and those reenacting the Battery L 1st Ohio Light Artillery.
Glass cases were polished and clean, showcasing a wide array of historical treasures, alongside people who made donations to ensure the history of the area remains preserved.
This was the first organized soft opening, with a prior opening being held loosely during Main Street Portsmouth’s 2022 Chocolate Walk. Guests who attended both saw huge strides made for the museum.
“In 2019, there was a little exhibit of people’s personal historical artifacts at the old Portsmouth High School Gymnasium,” Scioto County Heritage Museum President John McHenry said about its inception. “There were a lot of people there, lining the walls with their exhibits and artifacts and historical items. At the end of it, someone kind of made the comment that we were just going to pack this stuff up, take it home and put it under the bed or in the attic or somewhere, until we died, and then the kids are going to put it all on eBay.”
McHenry said a lot of those exhibitors got together after the showcase and decided to bring to life the Scioto County Heritage Museum.
“We had a meeting the very next month and decided to begin putting things into place,” McHenry stated.
The board of 11, with one vacancy, began working together to find a location, when they set their eyes on the former Marting’s Annex, 733 Fifth Street.
“It used to be a hardware store, before it was the Marting’s Annex,” McHenry said. “The building was built in 1910 and it is solid, built like a battleship. We just decided this was the place for us.”
The City of Portsmouth, at the time, owned the property and the board lobbied for it to be turned over to them for use. City Council eventually settled on a lease. The county eventually purchased the property, along with the Marting’s building, in recent months, and then sold it to members of the Graf Family, who currently own it.
“From then on, we took off and began cleaning up and putting things together. We brought in heat and air conditioning, paint and so on. There is a lot more to do, but this is where we are so far,” McHenry said. “We have a dream. We have a big dream, and this is how far we’ve managed to come thus far.”
McHenry explained that the building has four floors and the plan is to eventually utilize them to some extent.
“It would be neat, we think, to use the windows. There is some plywood over them, but we want to take that off and make shadow boxes out of them and place mannequins there,” McHenry said. “Depending on the time of year, we would dress them up. So, for instance, if it were Veteran’s Day, we would dress them in military uniform.”
The group also has plans of revitalizing its canopy, which decorates the façade of the property. They have some funding in place, from a Main Street Portsmouth Building Improvement Grant to a Southern Ohio Medical Center donation
“We’ve a big project, which is the canopy. The canopy is like two others in the downtown. We want our canopy to look like the Hurth,” McHenry explained.
McHenry said the board is also interested in letting the space be used for events and special functions, but the biggest priority is showcasing a rich heritage of history.
“Scioto County has never been on the sidelines of the historical development of this country. Starting back to when the French sailed down the Ohio River and stopped at Shawnee, just at the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers. I understand they left rather quickly. From that point forward, we’ve been part of that development of a nation.”
McHenry also spoke out about Ohio’s historical figures.
“You know, we’ve had Neil Armstrong and the Wright Brothers and so forth. We’ve been extremely innovative,” he claimed. “We’ve also had many Scioto County figures and we can be proud of the rich history, development, and people.”
McHenry said that the Scioto County Heritage Museum will have a grand opening in 2023 and they will plan their management, hours of operation, and all other details as they get closer to their grand opening.
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved