After 18 years, The City of Murals has a new mural…and one that has national as well as local significance.
Long known as a steel and coal city, Steubenville, Ohio began a transition to a community that encouraged art and history in 1986. Over the years since, 25 larger than life depictions of significant people and places in the community were painted on buildings throughout the downtown. The last two murals – one of Steubenville native son, Dean Martin with his Rat Pack buddies and another of a frontier pioneer – were painted in 1997 at a nearby shopping complex.
“The murals drew many visitors,” explained Judy Bratten, Director of the Historic Fort Steuben Visitor Center. “But due to budgetary constraints, the murals and some of the buildings they were on were not maintained. We have lost three and another will soon be gone as its host building is being demolished. That’s why we have worked to renew the project with this Civil War mural.”
The new mural, located on the west side of N. 3rd Street in downtown Steubenville, is a 35 foot tall by 70 foot wide portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in the telegraph office of the War Department in Washington, DC. With him are two men who had called Steubenville home: Edwin McMasters Stanton, Secretary of War and David Homer Bates, telegrapher. The painting captures the strain of office as the men were in communication with troops at various battles, directing their movements and sending supplies. Artist Ruston Baker of Millersburg, Ohio became engrossed with the project, reading and studying and seeking information to make it as accurate as possible while making it accessible to the general public. Even as he was painting, people who worked in the area came by to talk, make suggestions and ask questions.
“Local residents will probably get used to this mural over time. But visitors to Steubenville will see it and take in the history of this small town,” noted Baker.
Bratten noted that a number of current murals are being “refreshed” and there are plans to have more new ones as soon as other accessible sites are chosen.
“The murals are just one of the projects in the city that enhance the quality of life and draw tourists to area. The other endeavor that began almost 30 years ago was the reconstruction of Historic Fort Steuben on its original site overlooking the Ohio River,” Bratten explained. “The Fort is now fully rebuilt with exhibits and artifacts in every building. In addition there is now a beautiful Visitor Center, Fort Steuben Park and the Berkman Amphitheater offering live music throughout the summer.”
A free map of the murals is available in the Visitor Center but additional booklets are for sale as well giving detailed information about the murals. A step-on guide provides entertaining stories of the murals and the city for group bus tours. For more information contact the Visitor Center at 740-283-1787 or www.oldfortsteuben.com.