Marietta fire, water tour

From scorch marks on buildings next to now empty spaces to flood markers on the sides and fronts of buildings, the elements of fire and water have helped shape Marietta’s downtown into what it looks like today.

The Agents of Change: Fire and Water tour Saturday through the 100 and 200 blocks of Front and Second streets will give curious minds a chance to look back into the past to see floods and fires that sometimes decimated the downtown area.

Lynne Sturtevant, founder of Hidden Marietta and the Ghost Trek, will be leading a group of up to 50 people through the streets of Marietta, pointing out where fire and water have had an impact.

“We have handouts on this one,” Sturtevant said. “We have little packets of…historic photographs. It’s a whole different experience to stand there and look at a picture of a building as it stood in the (early) 1900s. We have some pictures of these buildings on fire (and filled with floodwater). It makes it way more powerful than just words.”

The difference isn’t just the historic photos, which Sturtevant says are posted online on Hidden Marietta’s Facebook page.

“It’s different sitting in your house and thinking, ‘Wow!’ and then you’re standing there in front of the building,” she said.

Tickets are free and may be reserved by calling the Washington County Public Library.

Sturtevant said the tour will take an hour-and-a-half to two hours.

“Both the buildings at the corner of Front and Greene streets burned,” she said. “There are (many) high water markers. The worst fire in Marietta’s history happened in 1859; 28 buildings were destroyed downtown and we have pictures of that…We talk about the Brownies Bakery fire…We look at a lot of stuff. We’re kind of like urban archaeologists.”

The actual trek will cover the 100 block of Front Street and then meander into the alley between the 200 block of First and Second streets, before hitting Second Street and Tiber Way.

Andrea Adkins, information services manager at the library, said Wednesday there are only about eight spots still open for Saturday’s event, out of 50 total spots.

She said the idea came about from the summer reading program for adults and is sponsored by the Friends of the Marietta Library.

“This year’s theme was literary elements for adults,” said Adkins, adding they chose the water and fire elements. “Fire and water worked very well. We thought, can we do something with the floods and fires in town? We really have pretty good documentation of (floods and fires) back to the 1880s.”

Adkins said the tour offers a unique look into Marietta’s past.

“You can look at how things have changed and where things were (that are no longer standing),” she said.

Sturtevant said this is a tour many are looking forward to.

“The people that went last time had a really good time,” she said. “It gives you a whole new perspective…The last trek we actually found a flood marker that I didn’t know about. That’s exactly what we’re looking for. You can look at this stuff in everyday life and not see it.”