Southern Ohio – October 2020 – Views from Above

Todays Drone Tour starts out along the Ohio River at Portsmouth. The first view shows the flood wall covered in murals (later posting revisiting the murals).

The sun was just rising in the east, giving the U.S. Grant Bridge and the Ohio River some interesting lighting.

The Carl Perkins Bridge across the Ohio River, where the Scioto River enters.

The hills in Kentucky with the clouds reflected in the river.

Spartan Stadium was home to the NFL’s Portsmouth Spartans from 1928 until 1933, when the NFL had teams in relatively small cities. The Spartans moved to Detroit and live on to this day as the Detroit Lions.

An overview of the city of Portsmouth. The town has for decades lost population, dropping from a high of 43,000 in 1930 to the current population of 20,000.

The view east

Norfolk Southern Railroad has a large yard along the river in east Portsmouth.

Lake White State Park near Waverly.

The next stop was the city of Chillicothe. This view is of a large paper mill.

The same neighborhood has this large grain elevator. Unfortunately at this time the rain came and the drone became grounded.

Ashville, Ohio – June 2015 – World’s Oldest Traffic light, Old Tractors and Ohio’s first mansion

The following Saturday we set off early in the morning, heading down US 23 south of Columbus. Our first stop was the town of Ashville, a town of 4000 in Pickaway County.

The highlight of Ashville is its claim that it has the World’s Oldest Traffic Light, as their museum, aptly named Ohio’s Small Town Museum. It is reported that the light has worked continuously since 1932 when it was installed at the corner of Main and Long streets. The light looks like a silver, Buck Rogers-era football, and operates like a radar screen, with green and red alternately wiping in a circle across its face. It was retired from active duty in 1982 only because color-blind people couldn’t tell if it was green or red.

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Since then it has hung in the museum, except for special occasions. The nice old lady who was running the museum that day was more than happy to tell us about her town, and the famous light, as well as all the other unique displays in their museum.

Leaving the cool traffic light behind, we were off for our next stop, an antique farm equipment show in the town of Piketon, in far southern Ohio. As noted previously the good folks of Southern Ohio must be bored and have had far too many turn to meth as there 8 signs along the highway for getting help getting rid of addictions. But we encountered none on our way and before you knew it we were at the Pike County Fairgrounds.

The Southern Ohio Farm Power of the Past show featured antique tractors and farm equipment on display, demonstrations of farm use, hit and miss engines, pony rides, horse pulls, kiddie tractor pulls, a corn hole tournament, wood carving, a flea market, and food vendors.

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Apparently farm people like to restore tractors the same way many restore cars, and the collection and quality of the restorations was excellent. In addition there were a couple of interesting ways people had rigged up to make home made ice cream. The first guy has a small ‘hit or miss’ engine connected.

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A hit-and-miss engine is a type of four-stroke internal combusion engine that was conceived in the late 19th century and was produced by various companies from the 1890s through approximately the 1940s. The name comes from the method of speed control that is implemented on these engines. The sound made when the engine is running without a load is a distinctive “POP whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh POP” as the engine fires and then coasts until the speed decreases and it needs to fire again to maintain its average speed.

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The most interesting one was connected to a stationary bicycle, so you had to earn your ice cream by peddling. We gave it a brief spin, but he owner didn’t have the mix ready yet, therefore no ice cream for us.

Once we had our fill of antique tractors we started back north, stopping in Chillicothe for lunch. Thanks to we found the Old Canal Smokehouse. Good food and a nice atmosphere made for a nice lunch.

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Chillicothe was the first state capital in Ohio, and as a result has some early interesting architecture. Included in this is the Adena Mansion was built for Thomas Worthing by Benjamin Latrobe, and was completed in 1807.It is located on a hilltop west of downtown.

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The property surrounding the mansion included the location of the first mound found to belong to the Adena Culture and thus the Adena mansion is the namesake for the Adena people. The state coat of arms is thought to depict the view of Mount Logan from the Adena property.

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The stone mansion has historically accurate interiors, including furnishings. The grounds cover 300 acres of the original 2,000-acre estate. There is a garden area featuring kitchen herbs and heirloom vegetables, with some varieties available for purchase. A former overseer’s house has also been restored and demonstrates life for German immigrants to the area. Thomas Worthington recorded that he chose Adena as the name for his estate because it referred to “places remarkable for the delightfulness of their situation.

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A modern museum and education center features exhibits on the early European settlement of Ohio, as well as the Worthington family history. It also speaks to the visits Tecumseh made to the estate, and how well he was received.

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Strangely as we left the museum we noticed the small farm on the property had a camel, as well as some horses. There was no explanation as to why a camel would be on an Ohio farm.

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From about 200 BC to AD 500, the Ohio River Valley was a central area of the prehistoric Hopewell culture. The term Hopewell culture is applied to a broad network of beliefs and practices among different Native peoples who inhabited a large portion of eastern North America. The culture is characterized by its construction of enclosures made of earthen walls, often built in geometric patterns, and mounds of various shapes. Visible remnants of Hopewell culture are concentrated in the Scioto River valley near present-day Chillicothe.

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Mound City, located north of Chillicothe along the Scioto River, is a group of 23 earthen mounds constructed by the Hopewell culture. Each mound within the group covered the remains of a charnel house. After the Hopewell people cremated the dead, they burned the charnel house. They constructed a mound over the remains. They also placed artifacts, such as copper figures, mica, projectile points, shells, and pipes in the mounds, many of which are display in the onsite museum

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We participated in a ranger lead tour of the mounds, where he added interesting background to the mounds, as well as guidance to explore the rest of the park for further significant sites.

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As we returned to Columbus we stopped at Scioto Downs, a horse race track south of the city along US 23. The main grandstands is built in the Googie style, with a huge cantilevered roof.

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After spending the day in southern Ohio the crowd was definitely more urban in it’s feel. Lots of people you would think would be stereotypical ‘Saturday night at the horse races’ crowd, smoking on cigars reading the Racing Forum, and generally thinking they were going to hit it big that night. The best part was the track offered simulcasts, and this particular day was the running of the Belmont Stakes so while there was about 50 people sitting in the stands, there were 500 inside screaming at the TVs for the 2:26 it took for American Pharoah to win.

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Since we didn’t pick the daily double, or any other winners, we headed home.

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Southwest Ohio – May 2015 – More Mounds in finding Utopia

The second Saturday in May found us southbound for a long day of finding unique places to see. Our first stop was in Chillicothe, at of all places, the VA Hospital.

The VA Memorial Stadium is located on the grounds of the hospital, with a seating capacity of 3000 in the brick main grandstands that is representative of the period it was built in the 1950s.

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Across the road from the VA Hospital is the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, where a collection of Native American earthworks known as Mound City are located. While we did not visit Mound City on this visit, we did stop by another unit of this park west of Chillicothe called Seip Mound.

This large earthwork complex contains a low embankment forming a small circle and an irregular circle and a square, all connected and enclosing about 121 acres. Within the enclosure is a large elliptical mound, three smaller conjoined mounds, several small mounds, and several structure outlines found through excavations. It is estimated that the large mound was originally 240 feet long, 160 feet wide, and 30 feet high. A reconstructed mound and a portion of reconstructed wall are visible

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Nearby Seip Mound is located near what was once a small village called Knockemstiff. This town was made famous by in 2008 by a local writer who used it for a location in a fictional book, which became a best seller. The book made the town so famous that someone has stolen the sign with the name of the town on it, so we had a difficult time locating it, finally realizing we were there, even though there was nothing left.

If you ever have the desire to see Knockemstiff, Ohio, don’t bother, just go out in the country, find a vacant, dilapidated house trailer in a field, take a photo and claim you were there, because in essence you were.

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Next on the agenda for the day was Serpent Mount, one of the most renown earthworks in the world. The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound on a plateau of the ancient Serpent Mound crater in Adams County, Ohio.

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The mound is maintained within a park that is administered by the Ohio Historical Society, and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

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Originally thought to be Adena in origin, it is now believed to have been built my the members of the Fort Ancient culture around 1070. Further research points to the potential of it being built even earlier, around 310 BC. It is the largest serpent effigy mound in the world.

The park is well maintained, with a visitor’s center/museum and picnic grounds. The museum gives a nice overview of what scientists believe it was used for, and how it was built, along with its relationship to the sun and moon. The observation tower gave us an excellent overview of the mound, while the trails around it let you see it up close.

Once we had finished our discovery of Serpent Mound, we continued south into the small town of Ripley on the Ohio River. Upon our arrival in Ripley we went on the hunt for something to eat. We parked on Front Street, along the river, and noticed a number of people going into Rockin’ Robins Soda Shop, so we followed. It turned out to be another of the 1950s style places that focused primarily on ice cream, but served food as well. It was amazing that we were only 100 miles south of Columbus and the accents sounded as though we had gone 500 miles south. After the standard fare of hamburgers and fries we continued on our way.

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Ripley was founded in 1812, and given it’s location on the Ohio River across from Kentucky became a destination for slaves escaping from slavery. Both black and white residents developed a network, making Ripley and early stop on the Underground Railroad.

One of the more famous abolitionists who lived in Ripley was John Rankin, who built a house on Liberty Hill  overlooking the town, river and Kentucky shore.

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From there they would signal escaping slaves with a lantern on a flagpole and provide them shelter once across. It was here that Margaret Garner, a slave who had escaped to Ripley in 1838, inspired the character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The house still exists high on the hill overlooking the Ohio River, with it’s famous ‘steps to Freedom’

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Just downriver from Ripley is the crossroads town. Utopia was one of a handful of “phalanxes” established in America in the mid-19th century, social communes a century ahead of their time. All of them failed but none as spectacularly as this one.

The community was founded in 1844. Its original inhabitants were followers of French philosopher Charles Fourier, who believed that all work and profits should be shared equally. Its residents built a 30-room communal brick house and many private dwellings. But they left two years later because they weren’t making enough money to survive and, frankly, didn’t get along with each other.

Ohio erected a historical marker, designating this “Utopia,” in 2003.

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There’s an underground church across the street where the Wattles people would practice their rituals. John Wattles’ stone house is visible, supposedly haunted on rainy nights by dripping ghosts, as is the riverbank.

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Finding no ghosts, just weeds, a country store and a couple of signs, and a large fence around the pit that apparently leads to the underground church, we continued on our way.

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Further downriver we came to another small village, Point Pleasant. In this town is the house that U.S. Grant was born in.  The one story cottage was later taken by barge on a tour across the country before being displayed in Columbus at the state fairgrounds. In 1936 it was returned to Point Pleasant in 1936, where it has been restored with period furniture and opened to tours.

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The Ohio Historical Society operate the house as a museum. The house and surrounding buildings make up a nice little park, just up from the Ohio River.

Our trip downriver continued with a brief stop in New Richmond, where we wanted to see the Cardboard Boat Race Museum, but it was closed this day. Our visit will have to wait until another day.

Once we arrived in Cincinnati for the second time in less than a week, we jumped on I-275 to run over to Newport. Once in Newport we went to their downtown to check out the World Peace Bell, one of more than twenty Peace Bells around the world. It weighs 66,000 pounds 12 feet wide. From 2000 until 2006, it was the largest swinging bell in the world.

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For the first time in the U.S., the bell was rung by swinging on January 1, 2000, at midnight. Struck twelve times, its peal was heard for distances of about 25 miles. At present, the bell is swung on special occasions, as well as daily at five minutes before noon. The time difference in the daily ring is to avoid interference with the nearby courthouse bells, which ring exactly at noon.

The bell tower, the bridge linking the museum and the bell, and most of the other components of the Millennium Monument, were produced at companies local to the Newport, Kentucky, area

Our final brief stop was to check out another Futuro house in Covington. High on a hill, not far from the freeway you can spot this as you cross the bridge from Cincinnati.

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We had taken the Ohio River Scenic Highway runs along the north side of the Ohio River, which run nearly the length of it from East Liverpool to Cincinnati, over 400 miles. Much of this road is very industrial from East Liverpool past Steubenville, Marietta, Parkersburg, Huntington & Portsmouth. Once past Portsmouth it interestingly becomes truly a scenic road, with little industry. It isn’t until one nearly comes to Cincinnati does the industry return. This drive from Ripley to Cincinnati was one of the first times I have ever seen the Ohio River have enjoyable scenery for very long.