If you’ve lived in the Portsmouth area long enough, you’re probably familiar with the murals along the flood wall, 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.
Spanning over 2,000 feet, the murals in Portsmouth have become a popular attraction for visitors and tourists. Progress on the murals continues to be made, 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 Flood Wall 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.
Last week, the Daily Times touched on the history of the Shawnee Celoron de Blainville mural, which depicts tensions between Native Americans and the French.
This weeks mural is the Alexandria mural. Alexandria was settled in the late 1700’s by pioneers who came down the Ohio River in flat boats. Alexandria, was located in the bottom land, west of the old mouth of the Scioto River, near Carey’s Run in West Portsmouth.
Unfortunately, due to the areas near-constant flooding, the village was unable to thrive like the citizens originally envisioned. By 1814, most of the settlers relocated to higher ground in Portsmouth.
However, one tangible piece of Alexandria history remains, the Alexandria stone, which now resides in the base of the flag pole in Alexandria Point Park.
According to Ohio Historical’s Andrew Feight, The stone was recovered in 1931 by Squire Oscar Foster, who acquired it from a family who lived near Carey’s Run, where the original settlement once stood.
“He chanced upon it at the home of a West Side family who were using it as an outdoor step and who were not aware of its historical significance,” writes Feight, quoting an article from the Daily Times written about the stone in 1939.
The inscription still remains a mystery, it simply reads ‘1802,’ which does not coincide with the settlement date of the village, nor any other notable historic event. Yet it is a rare glimpse of the regions past.
The stone was gifted to notable historian, Alfred Fagan. Fagan was a descendant of one of the first settlers of Alexandria, Judge John Collins. From there, Fagan donated the stone and the City Recreation Department arranged for it to be placed in Alexandria Point Park, where it still resides.
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.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.