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Photos/History of Portsmouth, Ohio

The Portsmouth Area Bicentennial has begun! Trek from Alexandria to higher ground for the opening of our Bicentennial celebration!

The Columbia Theater opened November 21, 1910. It had 328 seats, but following the 1913 flood, 170 new were added. The Columbia completed an expansion in 1928 which brought the seating total to 1,000. During this closing, the Columbia used the Sun Theater across the street. Sound was installed in 1929. Restoration on the theater began in 2004, it opened in 2006, but the theater was destroyed by fire in 2007. In 2011, the building was rebuilt/restored as an entertainment venue.

Thomas M. Patterson, with a partner, started his book bindery business in 1855. In 1866, the partnership dissolved and in 1883, he added the production of paper boxes. His boxes were used in the numerous shoe factories in Portsmouth. In 1887, the bindery was considered the oldest on the Ohio River above Cincinnati. In 1896, he moved his business from Market Street to Front and Washington. The business closed in 2002 after 147 years.

The Mackey & Muggeridge Washing Machine Manufacturers began production of the Challenge Washer in Portsmouth in November of 1872. According to the 1872-73 city directory, the business was located on the east side of Gay Street, north of 4th. The washing machine manufactured by Mackey & Muggeridge was considered as “the center around which ladies circled, and they commented very favorably on this labor saving machine”. (antique Challenge washer pictured)

In the early 1800’s, steamboats were built in Portsmouth. The first steamboat built in Scioto County was called the “Herald”, later changed to the “Ohio”. As a port along the Ohio River, many steamboats that traveled the Ohio, made stops at Portsmouth. The produce that came down the canal was transferred to the steamboats for delivery to cities along the river. This made Portsmouth a prosperous river town.

Among the many early candy manufacturers in Portsmouth was Soper’s Big Candy Wagon. William Soper, a Civil War veteran, drove his candy wagon through the streets of Portsmouth from the late 1800s until his health failed in 1913. His wife rode along delivering their candy as the “grind organ” filled the air with its music.

Construction of the streetcar lines in Portsmouth began in 1877 starting at Front St. and ending at Greenlawn Cemetery. Millbrook Park became popular in the 1890s when the electric streetcars replaced the horse-drawn cars. The first extension of the new electrical system made its way five miles into New Boston. As new tracks had been laid, the first trip to New Boston was shortly thereafter (1893). The 4 original streetcars had a seating capacity of 24 each.

In 1909, The Scioto Hominy Company was established at Gay and 13th Streets. The company, formerly the Cereal Mills, produced breakfast foods and shipped them worldwide. Markets included Liverpool, England, Copenhagen and other areas in Denmark. Trouble with machinery and finances led to the company’s closing in 1911. In 1913, the Independent Hominy Plant opened at the same location. This company also provided feed for livestock. May 30, 1914, the plant was completely destroyed by fire.

J.T Brown opened the Golden Rod Piano Factory, and the first piano manufactured in Portsmouth was Aug. 11, 1896. Originally located on Bond Street, the factory was relocated to the old Fulton Mill at the corner of Front and Chillicothe in 1899. Brown died suddenly at the age of 46 on April 5, 1897. After Brown passed away, his son and William Copeland took over the business. The company was reorganized by Paul Burling in 1915 ,and the name was changed to the Portsmouth Piano Co.

On July 12, 1879, Portsmouth Woolen Mills opened at 4th and Chillicothe Streets. They advertised that they were ready to “card, spin and weave” and they paid “the highest market price for wool”. Starting with 32 employees, by 1881 they increased to 45 workers and added 14 more knitting machines. It was noted that the company manufactured over 1,200 lbs. of yarn and over 2,500 pair of socks weekly. The plant closed in foreclosure in April, 1893.

Johnson Hub & Spoke Works started operation in May 1868, and was located in a 3-story building on Chillicothe, between 11th and 12th. The business was considered the most active manufacturers of its time, and was known for it’s locale along the river and near hickory and locust wood. In 1885, a fire destroyed the factory but it was rebuilt. The factory relocated to Illinois in 1893 after yet another fire.

Around 1908, the N & W built the YMCA at 2829 Gallia Street near its terminal. Train crew often stayed while waiting for the next run. It closed about 1960. It became the Homestead Restaurant first, then the Cavalier. It was torn down in 1968.

The first skating rink built was located on the northwest corner of 6th and Court and was called the Palais. The second rink was the Monarch which was located on Washington Street. Others that followed were the Richardson and Massie Hall. The most popular was the rink at Millbrook Park pavilion in New Boston.

In the 1870’s, Epizootic developed among the horses in Scioto County. Epizootic is a disease which attacks many subjects in a region at the same time but is only occasionally present in the population; when it occurs, it is widely diffused and rapidly spreading. The Adams Express Company had to replace the horses with oxen to make their deliveries.

Portsmouth had many dairies, including Modern Dairy on 2nd St. (later Borden), Select Dairy on Gallia St., Ideal Milk on 10th and Pure Milk (pictured) on 8th and John Streets. In the 1915 city directory, there were 10 dairies listed. Some of these were later bought up by the bigger firms.

In 1899, a semi-pro team called the Navies was organized. Branch Rickey and Al Bridwell played briefly for the Navies. In this photo taken about 1902, Bridwell is pictured in the 3rd row, 4th from the left.

John Dice was an early carriage and wagonmaker located on 2nd and Jefferson Sts. At one time, the (police) patrol wagon was being repaired at the Dice Carriage Company. The newspaper reported that extra precaution was taken to not let anyone know that the “wagon was at the factory for repair for fear the regular drunks would take advantage of the fact”.

Rensions Crispie Crème Donuts- Charles John (Jack) Rension was born in 1903 in Kansas. He was a coal miner in his early years, but he began his bakery business before coming to Portsmouth. As the sign indicates, the recipe was created in 1929. He is listed in the 1941 city directory. In 1940, his bakery was in Wheeling, W VA. The first location in Portsmouth was at 1546 Gallia St. The location pictured, 1202 Gallia, was built in 1959. (notice our beautiful library in the background) ;)

Scioto County was noted for great deposits of iron ore, coal and fire-clay. In 1827, Daniel Young built the first furnace in Scioto County and called it Franklin Furnace. It was located in the original French Grant in Green Township. It had a capacity of producing 7 tons of iron per day. The furnace closed in 1860. The ten Scioto County furnaces produced over 1,000,000 tons of iron for the foundries and rolling mills in the area. The furnaces began the early history of steel in Scioto County.

In 1861, Thomas Reece experimented with the choicest clay in Sciotoville. He then gathered backers, and formed Taylor, McConnell and Company. In 1864-65, McConnell, Porter and Company formed a brick plant, and in 1868 a third yard was opened by Farney, Murray and Company. In 1871, the three companies merged together and incorporated the Scioto Fire Brick Company. In 1894, the company added paving bricks to their product line. In 1902, Scioto Fire Brick formed the Star Yard.