A Few Vital Statistics
Marietta, Washington County, Ohio, USA
- Population: 15,026
- Average Annual Temperature: 54.6°F
- Average Annual Rainfall: 38 inches
A Brief History
Marietta, Ohio should be commonly known among US residents as the first settlement in the Northwest Territories; this oft-overlooked town is dripping with history and positively oozing with relics of a younger, leaner United States. However, few people realise this, and fewer people care.
Founded in 1788 by the Ohio Company (led by General Rufus Putnam, forever immortalised by Putnam Street which runs straight through downtown; but we'll get there later) and named after a certain French lass who happened to assist a struggling colony in gaining independence - one Marie Antoinette, who's head was later to roll during the French Revolution, in 1793. Her last words to the executioner reportedly were 'Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose.'
General Putnam and friends began what has evolved from a small community at the junction between the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, to... a small community at the junction between the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. Population has blossomed from General Putnam and his 47 men to a mind-numbing high of approximately 15,000. Regardless, Marietta remains a fascinating town for the historically minded traveller. Modern Marietta is a Mecca of fantastic architecture from early America; laden with antiques and the heavy industry of south-eastern Ohio.
Oh, yes. Industry. In 1860 oil drilling began. Combined with coal from both Ohio and West Virginia2, as well as a highly profitable boat maker's trade (ocean-going vessels were sent down to the Mississippi River, and out on the Gulf of Mexico), Marietta and vicinity has always been a highly profitable industrial area. Natural gas currently flows in abundance under the fertile farmlands the Ohio Valley also provides, and a not altogether uncommon sight while driving in the surrounding area are multitudes of pumps, churning out gallons of the stuff that heats homes and cooks food and fuels city busses. Not Marietta city buses, though, for there are only two; the Community Action Bus Line (CABL) and the Trolley - a motorised version of a typical streetcar that used to run through town. Tracks are still visible throughout the brick-paved downtown streets. The current trolley, however, runs on a more common standard consisting of four rubber tyres.
Marietta College is another source of much history and consternation in town, being a privately owned 'Liberal Arts' college located in the downtown area. For such a small town, Marietta College is a secret headquarters for many, many interesting things that make it a popular place for foreign exchange and liberal arts students, as well as those interested in geology and petroleum engineering. Founded in 1835, and notwithstanding a reputation with some that the college has an ambivalent attitude to its community, you can find some of the finest teachers in the land hiding in this school. If liberal arts or Petroleum Engineering intrigue, investigation might be in order.
Things to Do
Bars and Restaurants
A small, agriculturally/industrially based town simply can't survive without a few bars - and Marietta is full of them.
Let's start with class establishments first. The Lafeyette is probably the best known in town for the hotel, bar, and restaurant contained therein. Built in 1918 on the lot that the Bellvue hotel lived, burst into flames, and crumbled, the Lafayette is situated directly on the Ohio River. It is named after Marie Antoinette's 'man', Monsieur Lafayette, who visited Marietta shortly after it was founded and before he and his friends all met their untimely fate at the guillotine. The Lafayette Hotel is an excellent upscale place to stay for the night, as well as for a good meal and some drinks. Also handily provided is a restroom and a telephone for the passer-by, and a security guard kind enough to let you use them in times of need.
A stellar place for the traveller who's got some money to blow to run up a tab that rivals the average annual income of most Marietta residents is Oliver's Bar and Restaurant. Excellent food, competent bartenders, and a cook that's working (at the time of writing) on his Master's degree combined with some of the coolest patrons in town makes this a definite stop. Highly recommended are the Ranch Fries (hold the bacon); a heaping plate of good French fries, covered in several different types of cheeses and served with ranch dressing for dipping. Many places purport to serve these under many different names (buffalo chips, etc) but few execute them as beautifully as Oliver's.
Other establishments include Slapshot's, the Brewery, Loose Ties, First Settlement, and Tampico's Mexican Restaurant, which the traveller to Marietta absolutely must experience if they have any sort of taste for Mexican food whatsoever. All of these fine establishments can be found in downtown Marietta.
Antiquing is the name of the game in Marietta. You can't throw a stone in downtown Marietta without hitting three antique shops, as well as First Settlement, the Salvation Army... In fact, you can't throw a stone in downtown Marietta without hitting most of it. Regardless, a stroll through town will reveal innumerable surprises, all in the form of local businesses. Antiques, books and clothing new and old, and Brownie's bakery for the best doughnuts anywhere when your blood sugar levels have dropped dangerously low. Recommended is the chocolate cream puff.
Antiquing is the name of the game in Marietta. In the multitudes of shops you can find just about anything from ages past. There's not much to say except good luck. You'll surely find something strange and amusing to purchase. Also suggested is the local flea market, held in the old building that used to hold Rink's Department Store every weekend from approximately 9am to 4pm. Here, collectors of strange things both new and old have taken over the building and peddle their mixed wares like there's no tomorrow. A visit is highly suggested - bring cash.
A good point of interest is that, unlike many small communities that have sprung up across southern Ohio that are laden with antiques and various other old things, Marietta has the advantage in price. The cost of living is ridiculously low, the only crime is underage consumption and possession of marijuana, and being a tourist is easier on the pocketbook than anywhere in the USA that might pretend to have anywhere near as much in it.
If you're thinking of moving to Marietta - don't. Come for a weekend; come for the Sternwheeler festival, a yearly festival that takes over downtown and celebrates Marietta's long love affair with river boats of all sorts. You will leave with a sensation of relaxation and a weekend well spent. However, as a resident, there are certain issues to contend with.
First off is employment. Jobs are scarce unless you feel like starting up a local business, working at a fast food restaurant, or you manage to wrangle your way into one of the highly coveted factory jobs in one of the many industrial plants in the area. Which actually leads to another point - Marietta and vicinity has an extremely high cancer rate, due to just that. Thanks to heavy industry, not only Marietta but all of Washington County is in the highest 90th percentile of worst-polluting counties in the USA, according to www.scorecard.org, and EPA reports from 1991. Ten-year-old statistics, yes. Likeliness that they've changed: zero. As a new resident, this Researcher discovered for the first two weeks sores in the nose and mouth, more general respiratory distress, and rampant headaches. This is not uncommon, anecdotal reports suggest. So come visit, but don't stay too long...