Despite being a staple in the history and culture of Portsmouth, the murals remain a mystery for some in the community. Most everyone in Portsmouth has encountered the flood wall murals in one way or another, but the details of these popular attractions are often over-looked.
Over the course of the next few months, the Daily Times will attempt to unravel these mysterious, focusing on a detail or a section of a mural and explain it’s significance and importance in Portsmouth’s history and culture.
The murals span across the flood wall defenses, over 2,000 feet. They serve as a popular attraction for visitors and natives and are ever-changing and growing, with new additions and touch-ups being added frequently.
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 flood wall 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 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.
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.
The tri-state region has an iron rich history. A vein of iron ore that extends from Jackson, Ohio south to Ironton and Hanging Rock and northern Kentucky was discovered, changing the landscape and Appalachian culture forever. Iron furnances started to pop up in the 1800’s and provided jobs to the region.
The mural itself depicts a furnace, where iron ore, limestone and characoal would be charged in the top of the furnace and heated to smelt the liquid iron where flowed through the bottom of the furnace, into sands. From there, it would solidify into pig iron.
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 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.