Ohio Valley Museums Offer Insight, Entertainment
By SHELLEY HANSON
MARTINS FERRY — Ohio Valley residents enjoy history and the arts — and there is no shortage of venues to indulge these interests across the region.
In Wheeling, Oglebay Park is home to the Mansion Museum, 1330 Oglebay Dr. Built in 1846, the mansion was once the home of Earl W. Oglebay, the park’s namesake. It has beautiful antique furniture and fixtures. It also has a variety of artifacts, along with exhibits that are changed and others permanent. Each Christmas, the mansion’s rooms are lavishly decorated in different themes by various artists and decorators.
Oglebay’s Glass Museum has a collection of 3,500 of Wheeling-made glass and fine china, according to oionline.com. A highlight of the museum is the famous Sweeney Punch Bowl, which is “the largest piece of cut glass in the world.” People can also see glassblowing demonstrations in the basement of the building.
Also in Wheeling is Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center, 1330 National Road. The center, which is the historic Edemar Mansion, offers a variety of art and dance classes for a fee, but exhibits inside can be viewed for free. Recently on display at the center were works of art from the Regional High School Exhibition. Schools represented included Bellaire, Bridgeport, Buckeye Local, Linsly, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central, Olney Friends School, River, Spiero Academy, St. Clairsville, Union Local, Wheeling Central and Wheeling Park.
The Stifel Center also hosts bluegrass musicians during its Mountain Moon Coffehouse series.
In downtown Wheeling, the Wheeling Artisan Center, 1400 Main St., features a third-floor space where artists from across the region exhibit their works. The second floor has a retail shop where a variety of works of art and crafts are for sale by local artisans. It also features permanent historical exhibits related to Wheeling’s history and industry. The center annually hosts the Wheeling Celtic Festival, which features music, food and a marketplace.
In Belmont County, the village of Barnesville is home to the 26-room Victorian Mansion Museum, 532 N. Chestnut St. The massive home features antique furnishings and ornate woodwork throughout. Construction of the mansion started in 1888 and was completed in 1893. Guided tours of the home are offered May 1 to Oct. 1.
Though not a brick-and-mortar museum, the historic Epworth Park, 211 Virginia St., Bethesda, is definitely worth a visit. It features dozens of cute, privately-owned cottages set among large, mature trees and beside a small lake. Each summer it hosts the Chautauqua Homecoming Days & Bethesda Festival. Some cottage owners allow people to tour their tiny summer homes for a fee during the festival.
Also in Belmont County is the Underground Railroad Museum, East High Street, Flushing. The museum offers an extensive history about slavery and the Underground Railroad in Ohio. The curator is John Mattox, who founded the museum in 1993. The museum and Mattox recently honored by Heritage Ohio for efforts to educate the public.
Harrison County is host to the Harrison Coal and Historical Reclamation Park, located on Ohio 519 between U.S. 22 and Ohio 9. It was founded in 1992 and is dedicated to preserving Ohio’s coal and surface mining heritage. The park features dozens of pieces of machinery artifacts related to coal mining such as, blasting machines, dozers, dump trucks, mine cars, scrapers, blades, bucket and more.
According to the group’s website, the coal park’s mission is “to preserve archives and machinery relating to the surface mining industry for display and educational purposes. The group’s goals include: Acquire machinery used in the surface mining industry to educate the public about our mining, engineering, and industrial heritage; ccquire and preserve archives relating to the surface mining industry; and educate the public on the importance of mining, coal, aggregates and industrial minerals play a key roll in everyday life.”
Back in Wheeling, WesBanco Arena is home to a museum — the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Sports Museum. It features information and artifacts from the early 1900s to present day. It has more than 100 display cases full of memorabilia, photographs, jerseys, trophies, medals, banners, helmets and much more donated by individuals and school districts from across the valley.
The museum, which opened in 2005, is free and open to the public during the arena’s hours of operation.
In Steubenville, a life-sized replica of the historic Fort Steuben, 120 S. Third St., is a permanent display. According to the city’s website, the original fort was built 1786-87 “by the first American regiment to protect government surveyors from hostile indians as they laid out the first seven ranges of the Northwest Territory. The fort was named after George Washington’s great drillmaster, Baron Von Steuben.”
The city of Steubenville was later named after the fort. The replica fort include exhibits and displays about the early life of soldiers and Native American tribes. There is an officers’ quarters, blacksmith, hospital, herb garden and more.