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  • Cathryn Stanley

Artwork tells Belmont County's history

Updated: Jan 13

History isn't just books and documents. The Belmont County Heritage Museum (a work of art itself) has many pieces of local artwork in various mediums that help tell the story of the county's rich history. From architecture to sculpture and everything in between, the following works of art are among the hundreds of artifacts and displays at the museum.

Bellaire was known as the Glass City from 1870-1885, having eight companies. The Imperial Glass Co. was founded in 1901 by Edward Muhleman and began producing glass in 1904 in the largest glasshouse under one roof in the entire world. At one point it employed over 400 people. Its most famous styles are Candlewick and Cape Cod, but they produced other styles such as Milk Glass, Carnival Glass, and Nucut. The company ceased operation in 1984. The company’s reputation for quality craftsmanship earned it reproduction contracts with the Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian Institution. The pieces in this display are on loan from the Imperial Glass Museum in Bellaire. Many more styles can be seen at their museum where you can also learn about the people who created these beautiful works of art.

This is hand-made replica of the USS Constitution, one of the U.S. Naval ships that Josiah Fox helped to design. Fox was born in England and came to America in the 1790s, and was soon hired by the government to help design ships. His most notable work was the USS Constitution. It is a frigate that could withstand cannonballs due to the way it was designed. Cannonballs literally bounced off her oak sides, earning her the nickname, “Old Ironsides”. She is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat and sits in Boston Harbor, open to tourists. Josiah’s work designing war ships conflicted with his Quaker faith and as a result, he was expelled from the church, but later reinstated. He came to Colerain in 1814 after retiring and it was there that he was reinstated into this faith. He is buried in the adjoining cemetery of the Concord Quaker Meeting House in Colerain, where the U.S. Navy placed a bronze plaque listing the ships he designed on his grave in 1976.

The first Quaker Meeting in the Northwest Territory, The Concord Hicksite Friends Meeting House was built in 1813 and remodeled in 1863 and 1898. A group of descendants has restored the building which includes three bricks-thick walls and the original wooden pegged benches. The building is on both the Ohio and National Historical Registers. This painting of the Meeting House, on display at the Heritage Museum, was created by a descendant of Fox.

Another Quaker, Benjamin Lundy, is the subject of this charcoal drawing at the museum. Lundy was one of the first Abolitionists in the country and his home, on the National Register of Historic Places, is located just a few blocks from the museum. Both are located in the St. Clairsville Historic Downtown District. His advocacy began in Wheeling upon witnessing a slave auction. He moved to St. Clairsville where in 1815 he, along with five others, established an anti-slavery association called the Union Humane Society. In a short amount of time the society grew to 500 members that included prominent people of that time period: Charles Hammond, James Wilson (grandfather to President Woodrow Wilson), and Joseph Howells. Lundy would eventually travel around the country setting up groups and giving lectures. He is said to have logged tens of thousands of miles on foot. Lundy helped produce the abolitionist paper, The Philanthropist at nearby Mt. Pleasant.

This painting by the late Floyd Simpson, depicts a traveler on the Drovers' Trail. The Drovers' Trail Scenic Byway is located in Belmont County, following State Route 800 between Hendrysburg and Barnesville and State Route 147 from Barnesville to Bellaire. It consists of beautiful scenic vistas and features historic homes, architecture and sites located on the 37-mile stretch of road. This byway connects two other Scenic Byways (the Historic National Road and the Ohio River Scenic Byway) and has a long history in transportation. In the 19th century it was a heavily traveled route vital to both travelers and farmers transporting goods to markets.

Another artwork depicting pioneers and traveling is this sculpture by St. Clairsville resident Virginia Helms. It is on display in the National Road section on the second floor of the museum. The National Road has its roots in Zane’s Trace. In 1796, Ebenezer Zane won a commission from Congress to construct a new route to the west. This trace or path followed earlier animal and Native American footpaths, winding its way from Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) to Limestone, Kentucky (now Maysville).

Authorized by Congress in 1806, the National Road fulfilled a desire by such figures as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to build an all-weather road across the Allegheny Mountains.

Conceived by Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Jefferson, the National Road was the nation’s first federally-funded interstate highway. It opened the nation to the west and became a corridor for the movement of goods and people.

Construction began in 1811 using the latest technology at the time, the “macadam” surface named for Scotsman John McAdam, who devised a method of compacting several layers of broken stone to create a more solid and weather-resistant base.

Nearby in the museum and also located on National Road, is a display dedicated to the Great Western Schoolhouse, depicted in this drawing above. The school was built in 1870 and closed in 1952. It is located on the Ohio University Eastern campus. The school was built by the Clark Construction Company on property owned by Simon Lentz, the local tavern proprietor. Bricks for the school were made from clay taken from the farm pond near the building. This “modern” school was named for a steam ship which had crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a record-setting 15 days.

Also depicting the National Road is this 1950's view of downtown St. Clairsville. On loan from the St. Clairsville Public Library, this painting shows the Belmont County Courthouse in the background, Hudson's restaurant, Moses' barbershop, and the Western Auto Store. It also shows an apparently illegally parked automobile next to a fire hydrant. The automobile bears the license plate number CP-31 which belonged to Dr. C.V. Porterfield. His office was located at that spot on main street. According to family lore, Sullivan attempted to sell the painting to Dr. Porterfield but he declined. It was eventually sold to Dr. J.B. Martin who also had a medical practice in town. Dr. Martin used a medicine directions sheet glued to the back of the painting to inscribe the following directive: "At my death this picture goes to Dr. Robert A. Porterfield. April 2, 1959" Signed J.B. Martin. Upon Martin's death the painting hung in Dr. Porterfield's office until his death when it was transferred to his family who donated it to the library in 2005.

This portrait by John Hagner, "Artist of the Stars" captures the likeness of Hendrysburg native William Lawrence Boyd (1895-1972), the film and television actor known worldwide as Hopalong Cassidy. He starred as “Hoppy” in 66 motion pictures – the most any Hollywood actor has appeared in as the same character. Hopalong was a character in 26 Western novels written by Clarence E. Mulford from 1903-1940s.

After buying the rights to the movies and syndicating them for TV, Boyd licensed over 2,400 merchandise items. He licensed 52 half hour films to NBC Television and then formed his own production company to shoot 40 new half-hour episodes. He made three world-wide tours.

He was also featured in a comic strip and on the radio.

This portrait of the Genin family of St. Clairsville was drawn from a painting to be engraved for the book Selections from the Works of the Late Sylvester Genin in Poetry, Prose and Historical Design, With a Biographical Sketch. Sylvester (1822-1850) was a lawyer and poet like his father, Thomas H. Genin. The book was written by Thomas and published in New York in 1855. The sketch was done by H. Anderson and is on loan from the St. Clairsville Public Library. Thomas donated the land for the Belmont County Fairgrounds in St. Clairsville.

Last, but not least, is the architecture of the Belmont County Heritage Museum building itself. Built in 1890 as the residence of the Belmont County Sheriff and his family, it was designed by noted architect Joseph Warren Yost (who also designed the attached jail and the adjacent courthouse) in the Victorian Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. Richardsonian Romanesque architecture stressed intricacy, unusual and sculpted shapes, and individuality. It was a very eclectic style. Yost was instrumental in organizing the Association of Ohio Architects in 1885 (still operating today) and had the distinction of being named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1889.

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