Tucked back against the river, between Marietta's Armory Square and the U.S. Post Office on Front Street, is a curious-looking three-story brick structure that once served as a lockmaster's house for the first lock and dam built on the Muskingum River.
It's a structure that receives much less attention than the armory in front of it but could also benefit from renovation-and a local group is taking on the project.
"The original lockmaster's house was built on the west side of the river in the mid 1800s. It's still standing, but is a private residence now. This one was built at the turn of the century," said Pete Prigge, a member of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club, which now leases the Front Street lock house from the city.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
The lockmaster’s house on Front Street Wednesday afternoon.
He said the second lockmaster's house was constructed when the original locks were moved to the east side of the Marietta dam. The locks and dam were removed in the 1960s after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built much larger navigational dams along the Ohio River.
But the lockmaster's house remained.
"It was owned by the state of Ohio and turned over to the city for nonprofit use," Prigge explained. "If the house is ever used by anyone other than a nonprofit, the ownership reverts back to the state."
at a glance
The lockmaster's house on Front Street in Marietta was built around 1900.
The house sat vacant from 1991 to 2009 until the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club began leasing it from the city.
The club is currently seeking a 10-year extension on that lease to make improvements to the facility.
The building has served several entities over the years, including the Boy Scouts and Washington-Morgan Community Action.
And at least two Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau directors, Kathy Lehotsky who resigned from the CVB in 2000, and Kelly (Dyar) Blazosky who left the bureau in 2009, had hopes of eventually moving their offices into the lockmaster's house.
That idea was set aside due to the building being located in a flood prone area. Over the years the basement and first floor have received some flood damage.
The property was vacant from 1991 to 2009 when Dan Jones with the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club asked if the group could lease the facility from the city in return for cleaning and fixing it up.
The city agreed and club members began the work.
"The city couldn't use it for anything-it's not handicapped-accessible and the building was a maintenance nightmare," said City Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs council's lands, buildings and parks committee.
He said the house would have been in much better shape if it had been maintained.
"But the city was just letting it go-probably thinking it would eventually be torn down," Noland said. "Now the rowing and cycling club has taken a city asset and are improving it."
The place was a mess when the club began working on the building, Prigge recalled.
"It took us about five months to clean it up," he said. "We had to remove walls down to the framing studs, took out layers of old carpet and flooring, and used straight bleach to clean up the mold and mildew."
Prigge said the group filled three large dumpsters with trash before the work was done.
Since then the club has used the lockmaster's house for meetings as well as for storage.
"We hold meetings there primarily, but we also store some equipment for the annual River Rendevous bike rides," Prigge said. "And oars, life jackets and other equipment are stored there for the YMCA's summer camps."
Although the club has made some great strides toward restoring the building, a lot more has to be done.
"The floors have to be made safe, for one thing," Prigge said.
Currently sections of flooring have been blocked with yellow or orange safety barrier tape because the ends of some floor joists have deteriorated due to past flooding.
Earlier this month Prigge asked city council to extend the lease arrangement with the rowing and cycling club for another 10 years, which would enable the members to do more work to stabilize the floors and other areas of the building.
"It will take us more time, money and materials, but we want to continue to stay there," he said.