Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chapter 44 - Van Buren to Marietta, Ohio

Monday, August 17th:
Most of the 200 mile drive down to Marietta, Ohio was on 4-lane divided highways with to many cars and trucks and way to much road construction. Everything that we have come to expect.  What we did not really expect was that after we intersected with I-77 near Cambridge, Ohio and headed south to Marietta on the Ohio River, the scenery dramatically changed and we were once again back into the mountains but this time unlike the western mountains, the slopes were softer and completely covered with tall deciduous trees.  We arrived at the Washington County Fair Park where we had chosen to stay in Marietta just before 2:00 PM.  We did not make reservations here as from what we had been told on the phone, their camping area was on a first come, first serve basis and typically campers were expected to pay on an honor system by placing money in an envelope and then dropping it in a box by the fairgrounds office. This was all new to us and it made us nervous.  When we pulled into the fairgrounds our nervousness turned to pure horror as their "campground" was awful and consisted mostly of a huge blacktop parking area with hookups scattered around half of the perimeter.  The travel trailers that were already there were mostly old and many looked poorly maintained.  This photo I took of the campground was taken through a chain-link fence on the top of the stadium and it pretty much reflects our disappointment. 

But, the campground was close to the home of our Marietta friends, Marty and Gerald Moore, and besides the other two parks near Marietta were either full or did not answer their phone.  After walking around for fifteen minutes or so we finally found a grass area site that we pulled into and then went over to drop our check in their box.  We did have full hook up which was good, but no other services including no WiFi, cable TV, or even public bathrooms were offered.  On the good side however, we had a tree over our head and the camping area seemed to be quiet as for the most part, no one seemed to be "home."  Perhaps it was fitting that in this rather gloomy site, it rained most of the night.

Our plan for this evening was to visit our friends Marty and Gerald who had invited us to have drinks and dinner with them at their home in Marietta.  Kathy has known her friend Marty for almost 45 years as she was one of our neighbors near our first home in Niagara Falls, New York.  She has been married to Gerald for 25 years so we have known both of them for a long time.

Their home in Marietta is beautiful as can be seen in this photo to the left.  It was built in the late 1800s as were many of the homes in Marietta. Large older homes are a lot of work to maintain especially in the northern climates, and to their credit the Moore home has been beautifully maintained both inside and out.

Furthermore, their home has been extremely well landscaped and their backyard as shown in this photo to the right is partially covered with brick pavers, surrounded by fences and landscaping, and offers a charcoal grille for cooking, a table for dining, and chairs around a small fireplace for simply relaxing.  Frankly their backyard is like a private park. The small red brick building in the backyard is the old carriage house which on the upper level now offers a modern garage. The Moore's felt that they no longer needed to maintain horses and wagons for their transportation needs.

Monday evening we enjoyed drinks and a special dinner with Marty and Gerald Moore at their home. We returned to our own small home around 8:30 PM after promising to meet Marty and Gerald for lunch at one of the two delis that they own and operate, one nearby their home in Marietta and the other in the nearby town of Parkersburg over in West Virginia.


Tuesday, August 18th:
Today we planned to see the best that Marietta has to offer beginning with a quick drive around the Washington County Fair Park looking for something positive to say about this relatively rundown fairgrounds.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that in the back of the fairgrounds there were horse stalls that actually housed about a half dozen horses. While we were enjoying the horses one of the owners appeared who told us that Kathy could purchase the pony that she was petting for around $500 and she could rent one of the stalls for only $50 per month.  Such a deal; but we turned it down.

Marietta is the second oldest city that we have visited since our trip began having been established by settlers back in 1788. Obviously its location on the banks of the Ohio River at its confluence with the Muskingum River were a major contributing factor in the desirability of its location. Marietta was named in honor of the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, undoubtedly because of France's role in helping America during the American Revolution which ended only a few years before the founding of the city. It is not surprising therefore, that in 1825 the Marquess de la Fayette visited the young village of Marietta during his 1-1/2 year tour of the new United States. The oldest home that we found in Marietta during our own tour of the city was the Meigs House built in 1802.

Our Washington County Fair Park sits alongside the Muskingum River as does this steam-powered stern-wheeled towboat which was originally built for the Carnegie Steel Co. and first launched back in 1918. It was used primarily for pushing coal barges up the river.  The boat operated under various companies and names until it was retired in 1954.  It might have been fun riding this boat up the river had it not started to drizzle as we got out of our car to look at the boat.  We have been very lucky on our trip not having a lot of rain so we really cannot complain at this point.

After we left the towboat we crossed the Muskingum River.  I could see a high bluff on the other side that I thought might just afford us a great opportunity to take a photo of the whole of Marietta even if the weather conditions were not the best.  Apparently we were not the first tourists to come up with this idea for high on the hilltop was a "Lookout Point" that has been set aside for such a purpose since almost the time of the city's founding in the late 1700s. There was even a fenced platform with a coin operated telescope to aid in the viewing experience.

As we returned to again cross the river, Kathy spotted an old cemetery below us and is our habit in wanting to explore old looking places, we found the cemetery's entrance and pulled in. The cemetery hardly looked like a tourist attraction in its current condition but as it turned out Harmar Cemetery was Marietta's old cemetery established back in 1796. According to the small historic marker at the entrance the earliest headstones have been destroyed by rain and the flooding of the nearby river, although we did locate lots of headstones of people who were born in the early 1800s and died by the mid-1800s.

On a less morbid note, we decided to drive into downtown Marietta to have a look at this old city to see how well it has been preserved. Their downtown area was much like many of the other cities that we have visited and both Kathy and I agreed considering the weather that we would not walk the city streets but instead focus the rest of our morning on visiting the older residential neighborhoods.  We did stop however, to photograph their courthouse building that we learned later was constructed in 1902.  We did learn during an afternoon drive through the downtown area with Marty and Gerald that they are renovating two performing art theaters, one that was of special interest to us because it was a "community theater."  Kathy and I have spent many hours in the past volunteering at community theaters both in Blue Ridge, Georgia as well as in Naples, Florida.  It is nice to see city with a population of only 14,000 people supporting the arts to such a degree.

Our special treat for the morning was walking the residential streets of Marietta looking at some of the older residential homes.  We took many photographs and it is not practical for us to include more than a few pictures.  These few photos however, will provide a clear picture of the beauty of the entire area.  Most of the homes that we visited, exterior visits of course, were built in the early to late 1800s. 

What did surprise us somewhat were the number of homes that we found for sale.  The home shown in this photo to the left was called the House of Seven Porches and it was built in 1835 for a college professor at the nearby Marietta College.  The asking price on this 3,664 sqft, 6 bedroom, 3 bath home is $595,000.  We cannot imagine the amount of work and money necessary to keep this beautiful 180-year old house looking beautiful year after year.  There were other very lovely homes in the area also for sale some at a considerably lower asking price, but all of them must be very costly to maintain (unlike our relatively new condo in Florida.)

Also in the neighborhood of these older homes are two other "attractions" that would not quite fit in a more modern city.  The first "attraction" is the huge Mound Cemetery founded by the city back in 1801.  According to Wikipedia, 37 of Marietta's Revolutionary War Veterans are buried here in this cemetery as are thousands of other Marietta citizens.

Also somewhat unusual to find in residential neighborhoods in the more modern cities of today are large numbers of churches.  Naturally in the 1800s churches were built close to the homes because proximity was important since without our modern transportation most families walked to church.  This photo to the left was taken of the Basilica of St Mary of the Assumption that first opened in 1909. As is the custom with most Catholic churches the front door was open.  We went in and I took lots of photos.

As we previously stated we were invited for lunch by Marty and Gerald Moore at their restaurant that they named Third Street Deli.  During the course of the morning however, we stopped at the deli just to say hello.  Here we found Marty busy loading up her van with deli food that she was delivering to one of their many catering customers. We told her that we just stopped to say hello and we would see her and Gerald later for lunch.

Here we are in the above photograph having lunch with Marty and Gerald at their Third Street Deli. We sat outside not because the weather was so wonderful but because even here at our friends' restaurant, dogs were not allowed inside. State law I guess, trumps all.  Frankly, I preferred sitting outside in any case, enjoying the scenery of this truly remarkable historic city.  The lunch and of course the company, were great.

We spent part of the afternoon with Gerald and Marty again driving through other areas of their city that we had not previously visited before finally departing, at least temporarily, to get ready again for drinks and dinner this evening at the Moore's lovely home. We returned back to our mobile home around 8:30 pm. Tomorrow we have a longer drive than usual, around five plus hours down to Fancy Gap, Virginia. Sounds fancy. . . at least we hope.

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