If you live anywhere in Ohio, you know about Marietta tomatoes. The perfect shade of tomato red, sweet, and hearty, they’ve definitely put the city on the produce map. But what’s the draw when it’s not Marietta Tomato season? On a recent trip to the city I discovered 10 reasons why Marietta, Ohio is so much more than its famous tomatoes.
I’ve passed by Marietta, Ohio dozens of times in my travels with the hope that one day I’d get to visit the quaint city in person. My seventh grade Ohio History class loved mentioning Marietta in its pages and fueled my curiosity fire. This spring I had the pleasure of being hosted by its Convention and Visitors Bureau so, with camera hands, I couldn’t wait to see those history book pages come to life. Here’s my favorite places to see in Marietta, Ohio, and why the city makes an amazing travel destination.
The Lafayette sits on the spot that was once the Bellvue Hotel. Built in 1892, the property was destroyed by fire in 1916. Fast track to 1918 and the Marietta businessmen that thought the city needed a replacement, the new hotel was called Marietta Hotel Co. Its fixtures and furniture came by boat from Cincinnati on the Liberty. Reno Hoag, the manager of Marietta Hotel Co. was hired on as manager and eventually purchased the property. changing its name to The Lafayette. Since then major improvements including additions and upgrades continue to keep the hotel looking fresh but still with that classic look that historic hotels need and want.
Then there’s the hauntings. Ask any local (including the gals at Hidden Marietta. They’ve got loads!) and they’ll tell you stories about the hotel and its ghostly visitors. I had the pleasure of staying in The Penthouse, a block of rooms that’s separate from the hallway rooms and can tell you that first night in my hotel room by myself was a rough one. Good thing I adore a good, clean haunting, yes?
The House on Harmar Hill
If you were looking for “The Best Porch View in Ohio” all you’d have to do is head across the river to the exquisite House on Harmar Hill. It sounds like a great title for a spooky movie, but I promise you it’s anything but. With gorgeous views of both the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, the German-built Victorian house has four lovely bedrooms, a sitting room that makes you want to dress in your finest Victorian garb to sit and drink tea, and lovely hosts. Add in Cooper, the B&Bs in-house dog and the best cranberry orange scones I’ve ever eaten and it’s the perfect mix for a leisurely visit to the city.
The Betsey Mills Club
The Betsey Mills Club is the result of a sewing class that began in 1898. Community-minded women, including Betsey Mills herself. Modern inclusions continue to benefit the women of Marietta and include an indoor pool, yoga sessions, and even rented rooms for ladies that need assistance. The club is all about helping its community members thrive so swim classes, licensed Day Care, and even day camps are the norm.
The property also offers an on-site dining room and colonial parlors and it’s like stepping back in time when I walked through its welcoming doors.
There’s no way to count how many historical markers I walked and driven by, it would be impossible. Always an interesting, quick read, I learn so much in my travels by taking a moment to find out what happened in a particular spot at a certain point in time.
But have you ever thought about their creation process? I didn’t until a visit to Sewah Studios opened my eyes to the fascinating process behind the creation of each of its markers. Using the same process of casting melted aluminum, each of its markers are placed by hand. In a nutshell, after the symbol or decoration is created and letters are added, the template is cast with sand, the hot aluminum is poured between, allowed to cool, and then decorated. Powder coating gives each marker a colored shine and then the letters are painted with small rollers.
The 24 employees that make Sewah Studios a success are passionate about each historical marker that leave the studio, that’s highly visible. What’s even more visible is how many more historical markers I’ve noticed since visiting!
Affectionately called The Castle, Marietta Castle was built in 1855 by Melvin Clarke. A local attorney, it was the Clarke home through the 1970’s when put up for auction. Stuart Bosley purchased the home for himself and his sister but passed away before ever moving in. The property was in poor condition at auction so onsite materials were used in its repair. Mr. Bosley’s dream was for the mansion to become a museum so it was deeded to Betsey Mills to make his dream a reality.
While not all of The Castle’s contents are original, when it became a museum, many of the local residents that had purchased the furniture and decorations donated their purchases back. My favorites include the courting chairs in the parlor. Literally created for courting, lovebirds would sit opposite each other with family members in the background to keep an eye on them.
Campus Martius Museum
If you’re looking for Marietta, Ohio, history through the ages, you’ll definitely want to stop at Campus Martius Museum. The museum was built OVER the Rufus Putman House, the original blockhouse at Campus Martius – a civilian fortification from 1788. It wasn’t until 1931 that the museum was erected over the house, but it also includes the Ohio Company Land Office, which is named the oldest building in Ohio.
While the blockhouse is definitely its shining star, the Lilly Martin Spencer exhibit runs a close second. Her paintings reflect common moments in the lives of the folks she painted, but her whimsical take on these moments made it nearly impossible to not stand and stare for hours.
You don’t have to know a thing about the history of morticians to appreciate the science behind the job. Cawley and Peoples Funeral Home runs and maintains the Mortuary Museum and its love of historical hearses that makes the museum worth a visit. Available by appointment, the Henney hearses are beautifully kept and one was even featured in the Bill Murray film “Get Low”.
The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption
Since 1838 parishioners have gathered inside as a place of worship and peace. Once the Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption, in 2013, the great distinction was given by the holy Father entrusted to the Vatican congregation. Given a minor basilica proclamation, The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption has ornate decor and a beautiful history.
Four masses are offered on the weekends and folks from out of town are encouraged to attend with its 1200 members.
Just a Jar
There’s plenty of reasons to hop on your computer and create a quick design, but creating by hand using old-fashioned tools is not only rewarding it’s simply beautiful. Just a Jar Design Press owners Sarah and bobby love using old-school methods to create posters, cards, and even beer labels.
I had the pleasure of learning about its custom posters and the woodworking behind them. Starting with conceptual art, Bobby hand carves templates that are run through traditional presses and inked in layers. Each piece is unique after it runs through a Vandercook letterpress and the attention to detail is so prominent.
The Historic Peoples Bank Theater
If you’ve ever heard the word “Hippodrome”, you’ll undoubtedly know it was a prominent name for early 20th Century theaters. The Historic Peoples Bank Theater opened in May 1919 as the Hippodrome Theater but even though its name has changed, there’s plenty that’s still original inside. Original tile, carpet, and even the stage fire curtain, the once silent theater and vaudeville house hosts contemporary artists. The ornate details on its seats (and the fun story behind the “kissing section”) make the theater a true piece of Marietta history.
What fascinated me the most is heading up to the projection box. The original cameras and a bird’s eye view of the the theater was so fun to see! It was easy to imagine almost a century ago and the theater with a packed house.
One of the reasons I found Ohio history class so fascinating in seventh grade was reading about Ohio burial mounds. The city of Marietta not only preserved many of the ones in town but built a cemetery around one of its most prominent. Fun fact? Mound Cemetery is one of the oldest in the state of Ohio! Many Revolutionary War veterans are buried on site and honored there – the largest amount of any location.
The feature of Mound Cemetery, Conus Mound, was constructed between 800BC and 100AD. The mound has been excavated and equipment used to determine what’s inside. Experts have found not only males, but females and children suggesting that it wasn’t a tribute for male royalty. A small sitting area and stairs lead up to the top of Conus Mound and the area is a quiet respite for locals and visitors.
Do you have a favorite location in Marietta, Ohio? Where would you send visitors to the area? Please let me know in the comment section below!
A huge thanks to the Visit Marietta, Ohio gang for hosting me this spring! Thanks for the fun and hospitality in your gorgeous city!