Historical markers get makeovers

The Mills House historical marker is one of many that was recently refurbished. Photo submitted

About 40 historical markers around Marietta are a bit brighter these days, as a Rotary Club of Marietta project recently wrapped up.

Rotararians, led by member David Baker, set out to clean, re-paint and repair all of the city’s markers, many of which were in poor condition.

“Their elegant appearance has been restored,” said Baker.

Question: How did this project get started?

Answer: I’d been noticing that some of the markers were deteriorating. Most have been there for 20 years. Some needed to be cleaned, there was paint peeling…We went out and did an inspection and catalogued them. Then we met as an informal group within the club and talked about how to move forward.

Q: How many people helped with this?

A: There were about a dozen of us. Larry Hall was the co-chair for this project and put in a lot of work.

Q: How many of the markers were in need of some sprucing up?

A: There are about 40 total in Marietta. There were about half a dozen or a few more that needed to be re-painted, that we actually had to take back to (manufacturer) Sewah Studios so they could re-do the lettering. Most of the others needed to be cleaned. We also re-painted the mounting posts. Some were rusted.

Q: Is it anyone’s responsibility to maintain these markers? Had it never been done?

A: There may have been a couple of efforts over the years but it hadn’t been done in a while.

Q: How do they look now?

A: They look fabulous.

Q: How much work was required to get them in good shape again? How long did you work on this?

A: Mostly it was just the time to clean. We had some posts where we had to do sanding and work with a wire brush to remove rust. We did everything over two months. We also had help from Pioneer Pipe. They helped us take apart the markers that had to be taken to Sewah. The rest we could clean where they were.

Q: Have you gotten any comments from people about the difference?

A: We have from the people who knew we were doing the project. One of the things that we hoped would be a side benefit is that now that they’re clean people will notice them more. They tend to be something we take for granted.

Q: As you worked on this, were there any sites that you had forgotten about or ones where you didn’t know their history?

A: There were a couple on homes that I didn’t know. And the (Marietta College) president’s home and Betsey Mills, I was not acquainted with some of the history there.

Q: History is an interest of yours? Was that a career for you or more of a hobby?

A: It’s a personal interest. When I worked for the city, I helped get the two historical districts started. Doing that research, I learned a lot about homes and landmarks here. When I retired, I could spend more time on those things.

Q: Was it one sign in particular that you noticed that kickstarted this project?

A: I volunteer at the Campus Martius Museum and I would often see the marker for the Ohio Land Company. I would walk by and the paint was badly peeling. It kind of kept talking to me, saying “Get to work on this!” The one at Harmar school, too, where Fort Harmar was, I remember seeing it and thinking “Gosh, that’s in terrible shape.”

Q: How often do you think some sort of maintenance needs to take place?

A: I think we’ll probably go out and look at them at least annually and see what we need to do from there. Those markers are designed to last for a long time but mildew builds up….they need to be cleaned.

Q: Why do you think these markers are so important for our community?

A: They just tell the story of so many historic sites in Marietta. They’re concise. They get to the core of the significance because it’s a small sign. My father, Norman Baker, actually worked on the project when it began. He came up with the wording on some of the signs. That’s also why I was so interested.

Q: Did they all go up at the same time?

A: The project started with Rotary in 1996 as part of our 75th anniversary celebration. But some took a year or two.

Q: Does the fact that your father was involved make this even more special for you?

A: I remember him struggling with it. He would have a whole file of information and have to reduce it down, to basically like a tweet today. I remember him getting so frustrated. But he did a great job.

Kate York conducted this interview.

David Baker

¯ Age: 71.

¯ Residence: Marietta.

¯ Education: Marietta High School graduate, degree from Johns Hopkins University in business administration.

¯ Occupation: Retired banker, financial advisor at Peoples Bank.

¯ Family: Wife Suzanne, two children, three grandchildren, two Old English sheep dogs.

¯ To see Baker’s history blog: Earlymarietta.blogspot.com

Source: David Baker.