Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers at the southern most tip of Ohio, Portsmouth is the heart of Scioto County. The first permanent settler from the newly independent United States to live in the vicinity of what would become Portsmouth was Emanuel Traxler, a Revolutionary War veteran, in 1796. He later built the first mill in the area. Henry Massie formally laid out Portsmouth in 1803. He named the town Portsmouth after Portsmouth, Virginia, his hometown. Portsmouth grew quickly due to the traffic on the rivers and continued to prosper with the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal during the 1820s and the 1830s.
After the Great Depression of the 1930s were difficult for Portsmouth. Adding to its problems was the flood of 1937. The Ohio River crested more than 20' above flood stage. The flood left 35,000 residents homeless and destroyed 60% of all of the homes in Portsmouth. World War II once again brought prosperity to the community. Henry Oberling Motor Company opened its doors in 1950. Beginning in 1956, the uranium enrichment plant at Piketon provided a number of Portsmouth residents with employment. The Ohio Stove Company also doubled production in 1964. In 1973, the completion of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville brought new job opportunities to Scioto County residents.
Today, Portsmouth is being revitalized as a tourist destination along the Ohio River. The downtown area is being revitalized with new business and new opportunities.
The 2,200' x 20' high mural along the flood wall has sparked new interest in the area. The project has become the largest known work of art by a single artist (Robert Dafford). It took almost 10 years to complete.
Starting in 1993, Robert Dafford painted large sections of the massive floodwall that helps protect Portsmouth from the Ohio River during floods. The murals depict the last two centuries of Portsmouth's history.
Portsmouth's historic past has been revitalized in the Boneyfiddle District. The Boneyfiddle District is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Portsmouth and offers visitors a glimpse of Portsmouth's past in both the architecture and services available in the district. Quality antique shops and retail establishments make up the core of these century old buildings.
Boneyfiddle District offers not only antique stores, but also gift shops, a military museum, local restaurants, and a micro brewery.
Many stories have been passed down describing the meaning of Boneyfiddle, from "Boney Fields" of slaughtered pigs, to "Bean Poles", "Good Times", "Good Health", and including one favorite - Bonne Fidele or "Good Will".
The museum opened to visitors in 2004 with displays of military uniforms, equipment, awards and numerous other artifacts of our country's military endeavors.
The 1810 House is a historic old farm homestead that represents the courage of pioneers who cleared, settled and cultivated the wild forest near the mighty Ohio River. Eight rooms show various 19th and early 20th century home furnishings styles as well as clothing and house wares. The 1810 House includes a number of significant "firsts" including the first Franklin stove in the region.
Stone House is located off State Route 239 in West Portsmouth. Visitors will see a glimpse of home life in one of southern Ohio's few remaining primitive homes. Carved from a ledge of rock only a stone's throw away, the house still draws attention more than 200 years after being laid.
Philip Moore, Jr., a Revolutionary War Veteran, built the house in 1797. It is also known as the Pennsylvania Stone House and was a regular stop for Methodist Circuit Riders that traveled throughout the Ohio Territory. Stone House was the site of the first religious ceremonies in Scioto County and where the Methodist Church first got its foothold in the state.
After being restored inside and out by Dr. Louis Chadoudy in 1973, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Dr. Chadoudy and his wife also helped organize efforts for the flood wall murals in Portsmouth.
Philip Moore Jr Stone House
The Southern Ohio Museum has been in the renovated 1917 Beaux Arts building since 1979. The limestone exterior and the colonnaded interior where ornate grids of ceiling friezes embellish the 2nd floor galleries that overlook the soaring space of the main floor gallery. The building houses 2 permanent collections featuring the largest single collection of works by native son and well-known American Scene painter Clarence Carter (1904-2000) and 10,000 prehistoric Native American objects from the Charles and William Wertz Collection called the Art of the Ancients.
The Southern Ohio Museum Shop is open during regular hours and highlights the work of American craftsmen in a variety of media - glass, wood, metal, ceramic, fiber - as well as note cards, pens, pencils and children's gifts.
Portsmouth’s first known commercial brewery, the Portsmouth Brewery was established in 1843. The owners have re-opened a micro-brewery and are eager to share the process with their customers. Group tours are welcome and group menu specials are available upon request. A restaurant called the Brew Pub is also open for lunch from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and dinner until 10:00 pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Shawnee State Park, located in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio, is nestled in the 60,000 acre Shawnee State Forest. Once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians, the region is one of the most picturesque in the state, featuring erosion-carved valleys and wooded hills. The rugged beauty of the area has earned it the nickname “The Little Smokies.”