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 shoe industry mural. Portsmouth had its beginnings in the shoe industry and still operates a viable shoelace factory to this day. This mural was completed in 1996 and spans 60 feet, depicting Portsmouth’s shoe industry from 1869-1976.
Mass production began in 1869, after Robert Bell, a local shoe cobbler, purchased the machinery necessary to mass-produce. Throughout the years, many plants opened, closed and merged by the mid-1930s. There were two shoe manufacturing centers in the country — New England and Central West, which consisted of St. Louis and Portsmouth. In 1938, the Central West company passed the New England area in shoe production. Before the Great Depression, Portsmouth’s shoe companies employed over 6,000 skilled workers. The Selby Shoe factory closed in 1957 and Portsmouth’s last remaining plant, Williams Manufacturing closed its doors in 1976.
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.