Downtown Chillicothe, Ohio

Ross County Courthouse 10-27-2013I’m cleaning up some loose ends from my Midwestern meanderings. Here is the Ross County Courthouse in Chillicothe, Ohio, built back in the day when public buildings were supposed to be imposing.

I figured it would be easy to come up with the history of the building, but Google was light on information. The courthouse was built in 1858. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Chillicothe was the first and third capital

Ross County Courthouse 10-27-2013Chillicothe was a rolling stone of a state capital. It served as the capital of Ohio from the beginning of statehood in 1803 until 1810 when Zanesville became the capital for two years as part of a state legislative compromise to get a bill passed. In 1812, the legislature moved the capital back to Chillicothe. In 1816, the state legislature voted to move the capital again, to Columbus, to have it near the geographic center of the state

Part of Underground Railroad

Ross County Courthouse 10-27-2013Wikipedia reports that migrants to Chillicothe included free blacks, who came to a place with fewer restrictions than in the slave states. They created a vibrant community and aided runaway slaves coming north. As tensions increased prior to the breakout of the American Civil War, the free black community and white abolitionists maintained stations and aid to support refugees on the Underground Railroad. Slaves escaping from the South traveled across the Ohio River to freedom, and then up the Scioto River to get more distance from their former homes and slave hunters.

Strange net on building

Chillicothe downtown 10-27-2013I never did figure out what the netting on the top two floors of this building was for. If it is designed to protected pedestrians from falling bricks or to keep birds away, it needs to be replaced.

The Carlisle Building

Carlisle Building 10-27-2013If newspaper stories are any indication, the community has been trying to figure out what to do with the Carlisle building for more than a decade, since arsonists caused major damage to it. The local paper has its archives behind a paywall, so I could only read a couple of paragraphs of each story.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on June 22, 2012, that city officials and developers announced plans to spend up to $7.5 million to rehabilitate the 1880s building and reopen its doors by mid-2014. They might pull it off, but it looks like they have a long way to go. Still, it’s a neat building.

A story by Pat Medert, a local historian, said the cornerstone of the Carlisle Building was put in place in April of 1885. It contains a copy of the city ordinances, a report of the Chillicothe schools, the local newspapers, a photograph of Andrew Carlisle, a picture of the old building and a list of the tenants who occupied the old building.




Sewers and Tunnels in Cape

“Is it part of the Underground Railroad?” is the question that comes up every time someone encounters a below-ground structure in the older parts of Cape. Not being a historian, but being a guy who has wielded a shovel in Cape Girardeau and tried to cut through rocks and roots, I’m going to say, “Nope.”

The labor and logistics of moving rock and dirt would be greater than frugal Cape Girardeans would consider expending to move escaped slaves up north. Still, there ARE interesting things under beneath our feet in the city.

Richard Cochran explorations

Here is an email I received from Richard Cochran, Jr., Class of ’84.:

I am very appreciative of the work you put in on your site about Cape Girardeau. I still am fascinated by the history in the city. Many of the articles are before my time (Central Graduate of 84); but, I can relate and have seen many of the items you photograph and discuss.

Longview (Thilenius House)

The Thilenius House Wine Cellar and other wine cellar stories are of particular interest. I have some first hand knowledge of the colonial house mentioned in the Thilenius House article as I was working for my father when that home was designed. I helped draft the house plans. I particularly remember surveying the site and examining the wine cellar when we started that project.

The newer home which was built by an Indian doctor in the mid 80’s was located behind the cellar. I remember his purchase of the property required that the cellar not be damaged. I also remember that the house had one room designed around a particular piece of furniture that he had which was an odd dimension not fitting in most normal rooms. I think he sold the house since then; but, not positive.

I’m not sure if the cellar still exists; but, it seems that the last time I drove by there, I couldn’t see it anymore.

Sanitary and storm sewers

Anyway, to get on with it, I am a Civil Engineer and have worked on some sewer projects in the city. One of these near City Hall got me climbing into manholes to verify things. At one time, the sanitary sewer and storm sewer were combined in this area and flowed through the same pipes/tunnels. It think over time, some of this infrastructure has been replaced and I know in the mid 2000’s, the sanitary was separated from the storm so that it could be treated at the wastewater plant instead of discharged into the river.

Stone and brick tunnels

During my inspections, I found older parts of the sewer system which were tunnels. These were constructed of stone and brick in some areas. This piqued my interest as well, wondering when they were constructed and if they possibly served other purposes. I’ve heard the stories all my life of tunnels from homes to the river used by the underground railroad and wondered if possibly, some of these storm tunnels were actually what was used?

I’ve attached some photos that I took of these tunnels. They aren’t the best quality; but, you can see the tunnel and where some changes have been made connecting pipes and such.

Cape Sewers in 1940-1941

I have one of Dad’s scrapbooks that shows the Cape sewers being constructed in 1940-41. I’ll run more photos soon. The sewers Richard photographed are much older than Dad’s project. Dad’s trenching was done mostly by hand (under conditions that would cause an OSHA heart attack these days), but all of the pipes were precast concrete instead of stone and brick.


Wine Cellar Still a Partial Mystery

No wonder the North Sprigg Street wine / beer cellar jangled the memory bells yesterday: I WROTE The Missourian story about it.

Shy Reader did some snooping around and figured out why I couldn’t find the story: The Google Archive jumps from May 16 to June 6 and this story bylined “Kenny Steinhoff” ran May 17, 1966.

John Blue must have edited this story and given me the byline. My official newspaper name was Kenneth L. Steinhoff; he probably slapped the “Kenny” on it and shipped it to the backshop to be set into lead type. Click on it to make it easier to read.

The Old Cramer Home

One of the advantages of Old Tech is that you can scrawl notes on the side of the clip. This one had the question “Cramer?” written on it, which led Shy Reader to these notes about the Cramer family.

What do we know about the cellar?

  • It was behind the SEMO Group Housing complex west of the 1000 block of North Sprigg
  • It was razed because it was a hazard to children
  • W.H. Meystedt said his father, Henry Meystedt, stored meat in the man-made cave from the early 1900s to 1910 or 1911
  • It consisted of three arched chambers, each more than 25 feet long and about 15 or 20 feet wide. It was 10 or 12 feet high at the apex.
  • The third chamber had been sealed off. When it was dug into from the top, it was empty.
  • Someone said that the cellar was used by the “Dedrux Brewery” before 1900 to store “vine beer.”
  • The origin and use of the cellar before 1900 is colored with rumor and speculation, involving the legendary Underground Railroad tunnels, Civil War prisoners and a possible ammunition dump.
  • “Kenny” Steinhoff asked if anyone who had authentic knowledge of the history of the relic of a bygone day to contact The Missourian, just like “Ken” Steinhoff did 45 years later.