Cobblestone sidewalks are carefully lined with dark green lampposts and closely knitted, brick, marble and stone buildings. Each building has a sign in the window exclaiming the name or what is harbored inside - newspapers, stuffed animals, candy and many other trinkets -, or a date carved into the stony archway in memorence of when that particular building was founded - 1900. Surrounding are Victorian houses of different structure and sizes each with small trees, blossomed bushes or an array of potted flowers exuberating the vivacious colors of the old painted panels.
This city is more than just a cozy place with fine architecture though. “There was a group of hardy New Englanders [in the late 1700s], they were Bostonians and probably upper scale leaders of that community and decided to build a town in the wilderness,” said Mayor Mike Mullen, a life long Marietta resident. “That sets a lot of the tone for Marietta.”
The town is set in a cross section of the Muskingum River and the Ohio River, giving it the unique nickname the “Riverboat Town”. It has a tone of friendliness, one related to that old – time feel. When you walk into a restaurant visitors are welcomed by the waitresses who scurry over to your table to greet you with a big grin and ask if you would like to start with a cup of coffee. A good portrayal of this is seen walking into the First Settlement restaurant.
The restaurant is small with cream colored walls accented with leathery black and maroon chairs. When you first walk in you are bombarded with the word “Broughton” glowing bright pink to your left. Below this sign are hand written menu items – Hot Dog Plain, Pepsi, Root Beer, Ice Cream. The menu hangs on the wall behind a square of glass counter with ice cream of all colors in sight beneath and gigantic cookies in a basket sitting above. Tables are scattered throughout the rest of the room - no more than a dozen. And large sugar shakers and coffee mugs line the green marbled counter ready for visitors to rest their legs in the maroon – backed stools after a long nights travel.
Marietta is Ohio’s first city and the first permanent settlement established under the Ordinance of 1787 on April 7, 1788, in the Northwest Territory by General Rufus Putnam, leader of the Ohio Company of Associates. The 48 pioneers, many of whom were Revolutionary War veteran officers, sailed to Marietta on a flatboat from New England. The land was given to these soldiers as a payment for their service in the war.
Even the name “First Settlement Restaurant” sings the history of the old town of Marietta. “With this heritage and sense of place and the fact that these New Englanders were very well organized, they were planters and architects and designers and generals and so they laid out the town and the streets… so now we have nice, wide boulevard type streets,” said Mullen. The First Settlement Restaurant is located down town nestled in between the other buildings overlooking the busy, four lane streets, lined with parked cars on either side. If you were not looking close enough you might even miss it.
General Arthur St. Clair began the civil government in the city by taking an oath of office on July 15, 1788. On January 1, 1801, Marietta was integrated as a town in Washington County, and years later on March 15, 1837, Harmar, located on the bank of the western area of the Muskingum River, was integrated. “They came with great hopes and ambition; everything that emanated past the 13 original colonies came through Marietta as the original seat of territorial government,” said Mullen.
On April 30, 1887, a General Committee, formed of citizens and businessmen, created a constitution and organized a board of trade for both Marietta and Harmar. Their work was soon fulfilled when the constitution was embraced on May 10, 1887, and officers were chosen on May 12, 1887. The president elected was Joseph H. Grafton, the vice president was Col. T.W. Moore and the secretary was Benjamin F. Strecker.
Many of the buildings in procession along the streets are made of ancient brick with many different shades where renovations have had to be made. Each shop has different character – some with colored siding, others with victorious pillars still standing strong and all with an American flag proudly flapping out in front.
Marietta and Harmar were then combined on May 14, 1890. The board of trade was named the Marietta Board of Trade and then changed in 1915 to the Marietta Chamber of Commerce until in 1960 it became The Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce. Marietta is also the homeland of many “firsts”. Campus Martius was the first permanent school set up in Ohio in 1791. Farmers Library was the first library in Ohio built in 1796. In 1800 Muskingum Academy was founded as the first academy in the Northwest Territory. The Bank of Marietta, the first bank in Ohio, was built in 1808. The first children’s home in America was funded by the public in 1858.
As you walk out of the First Settlement Restaurant the waitresses wave goodbye with the same grin on their faces as when you arrived. A man named Joe Koggeshall standing at the entrance to the door stops you, asks what your favorite song is and then proceeds to press his nimble fingers into the ancient accordion creating a rhythmic chorus as a farewell. “This sense of history, this sense of place, I think still is a reflection of who we are as a community,” said Mullen. “It’s very different than many of the cities up and down the river…this was the way-out-back of Virginia, it was the place were all of the rascals and rapscallions congregated as they were trying to get away from all of the things that were developed.”
Story by: Jackie Collins
Photos: Keith Rutkowski
Parkersburg was founded in the late 18th century. It was renamed Parkersburg in 1809 after Alexander Parker, a Revolutionary War Captain. Parkersburg soon became a major center for industry and trade. It is currently the third largest city in the state of West Virginia and the seat of Wood County. Parkersburg's biggest tourist attraction is Blennerhasset Island, an island located in the Ohio River that now contains a museum and mansion that is open to the public and is accessible via sternweheeler. Other attractions include the Oil and Gas Museum.
Learn more about Marietta
City of Marietta (opens in new window)
Marietta and Washington County Convention and Visitor's Bureau (opens in new window)
Marietta Chamber of Commerce (opens in new window)