If you’ve lived in the Portsmouth area long enough, you’re probably familiar with the murals along the floodwall, but for some, their origins are still a mystery. For the next several weeks, the Daily Times will be presenting a series of stories about specific murals and their role in the community.
Located along Front Street, these murals portray the history of Portsmouth from the mound building Indians to the present day, and use a 20 foot high, 2,000 foot-long floodwall as a canvas. The project runs the length of the historic district and includes over 55 different scenes.
In 1992, the planning stages of the Floodwall Mural Project began with the formation of an ad hoc committee, which later registered as a nonprofit organization – Portsmouth Floodwall Murals, Inc. (PMI). Robert Dafford, an internationally known muralist from Lafayette, Louisiana, was contracted for the project.
The first mural was completed in 1993. The murals are arranged chronologically from east to west, starting with the depiction of the Mound Builders. The series of murals serve as a visual history of the Portsmouth area.
Following the murals chronologically, the first mural in the sequence depicts the mound builders. The central scene in the mural reveals a linear image of two horse-shoe shaped mounds, what is now know as Mound Park, that course southeast across the Ohio River to a “medicine wheel,” mound near Siolam Kentucky.
While the exact purpose of the mounds is unknown, scholars speculate that the mounds were instrumental in equinoctial significance.
There are several Indian mounds in the region available for touring and exploring.
- Serpent Mound: Built between 100 B.C. and 700 A.D., this is one of the few effigy mounds in Ohio and is the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States. The earthen “serpent” stretches nearly a quarter of a mile. 36 miles northwest of St. Rt. 73, near Locust Grove. Call (937) 587-2796.
- Tremper Mound: Tremper is the historical site where the famous Indian “stone pipe” artifacts were discovered. Situated at the southwest junction of Route 73 and Route 104, six miles from Portsmouth.
For an audio tour of the murals, you can dial 740-621-8031. After the introduction, each mural is a “stop.”
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.
Portsmouth Mural 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 or by calling 740-353-1116 and going online to www.ohiorivertourism.org
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara