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Work continuing on monument restoration

Photo by Janelle Patterson Pedestrians pass behind the Start Westward Monument in East Muskingum Park in Marietta Wednesday.

As the nation celebrates its 243rd birthday today, local history buffs are moving forward on plans to preserve Marietta’s place in that national dialogue.

“We’re engaged in discussions with the National Park Service,” said City Engineer Joe Tucker. “And what they’re most interested in here is how to protect and preserve our national monument.”

The Start Westward Monument, which sits in East Muskingum Park between the gazebo and the Putnam Bridge, was sculpted for Marietta’s sesquicentennial by Gutzon Borglum–the same sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore.

“And with the release of David McCullough’s book ( ‘The Pioneers’) we’re already getting people in the CVB asking for directions to the monument,” noted Deana Clarke, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The last efforts to preserve and restore the monument took place nearly 20 years ago, but the weather has taken its toll on the sandstone sculpture and the pylons at the northern and southern ends of the park on Front Street.

Photo by Janelle Patterson The Start Westward Monument in East Muskingum Park will host a celebration of the Northwest Ordinance next week as plans continue for the restoration of the national monument.

The carvings were dedicated in July 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a tribute to the New England settlers who first established Marietta as the first organized settlement in the Northwest Territory under the landmark Ordinance of 1787.

Next week marks the 232nd anniversary of that ordinance, and Marietta will host Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy to speak on the occasion July 11 beginning at 10 a.m. with a bell ringing first at the First Congregational Church followed by Kennedy’s remarks in the park.

“And if you listen to what David McCullough said when he was in town a few weeks ago, the Northwest Ordinance, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence are the top three human rights documents in the world,” said Jean Yost, a local historian who has been leading the charge for the park’s historic preservation for several years.

Yost, Tucker and the city’s development department, Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, and several public and private partners have worked on the monument restoration and park rehabilitation project and were awarded a Transportation Alternatives Program grant of $1.1 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation in 2018. It was matched with another $500,000 in the governor’s capital appropriation to go toward the first phase of restoration and development of East Muskingum Park and the Start Westward Monument.

Now they’re applying for the second phase of funding, beginning with a 2019 Build Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“The build grant is 100 percent federal funds, and because we’re a rural community, we have a decent shot at it since the federal government has allocated 50 percent of their build fund to specifically help rural communities,” explained Yost. “We’re still nailing down the specific number for the application, but it will be around $2 million.”

Tucker explained that in December he traveled with Yost and Committee Member Joe Grimm, to visit with preservation specialists for the National Parks Service in Frederick, Md.

“They were amazed and weren’t aware that the monument existed, but they are now preparing a proposal to provide guidance on how to assess the current conditions of the monument, preserve and restore the sandstone–which is a challenge because it’s doesn’t have the durability that some other stones do,” Tucker continued. “But they have architects and specialists on masonry on staff, and they’ll be able to provide recommendations for how we can restore and protect… and hopefully a cost estimate, too.”

Phase 1 of construction, Tucker and Yost explained, will cover upgrades to sidewalks, curbs and some lighting between the two bridges while Phase 2 is the mammoth portion of the project including the potential build of a bathroom between the gazebo and the veteran monument, ADA access to the gazebo, updated period lighting for the River Trail and additional parking around the museum district.

“It would be well into 2020 before any construction would happen, we’re still in the selection stages to engineer and plan landscaping,” said Tucker.

“But the goal is to have everything complete before the country’s 250th birthday,” added Yost.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

If you go:

• Next week marks the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

• Marietta will host Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy to speak on the occasion July 11.

• Celebrations will begin at 10 a.m. with bell ringing first at the First Congregational Church open to the public with tours.

• Justice Kennedy will speak in the park starting at 10:30.

Source: Jean Yost.

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