At the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, Fort Harmar was the first military fort built in Ohio County. Built under the command of General Josiah Harmar, this 1785 fort was given his name.
Its purpose was to keep illegal settlers from squatting there but it proved the opposite as they came and settled because they felt safe from the American Indians with the protection of the fort. The fort was abandoned in 1790 and demolished in 1791. Its location is thought to be under the Ohio River as the river has widened over the years.
The Ohio Company planned out Harmar Village near the fort site across the Muskingum River from downtown Marietta. Today, a trolley tour of Historic Marietta and Harmar is a nice way to get an overview. Then you can go back and see the places that appeal to you. Once you get to the other side of the river, Harmar Village is filled with historical homes, a few unique shops, many dining experiences, museums, and restored train cars.
Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge, strictly pedestrian in recent years, leads from Front Street in downtown Marietta to Harmar Village but is now closed. It was a scenic walk over the Muskingum River to explore the old restored village. The bridge, which was built in the 1860s is in disrepair and they have a campaign to save the bridge as it was the only working, hand-operated railroad bridge in America. They still operate it during the Harmar Festival for those who would like a ride. All proceeds, of course, go to Save the Bridge.
A beautiful Italianate home can be found high on the hill in Harmar. It was built in 1859 by Douglas Putnam, one of Marietta’s wealthiest men. Putnam was the leader of the abolitionists in the area where he was a major supporter of the Underground Railroad.
He built the home for his wife Eliza who fell in love with that style when traveling through New England. Eliza carefully chose everything that was to go into the house to make it their home. The cost at that time was $60,000.
The family named the house Putnam Place, although many called it Putnam’s Folly. The tower was probably his idea as he could easily see both rivers and the city as well as across the river to Virginia so he could keep a good eye on slave movement. At that time the Ohio River was rather shallow and you could easily ride a horse across it. Later the house was purchased by Harry Knox, a builder of steamboats, and renamed Anchorage.
In recent years, paranormal investigations and tours have also been held at Putnam Villa by the Washington County Historical Society, which hopes to restore it.
Harmar seems to overflow with historical homes. The Henry Fearing House Museum gives you a taste of middle-class life during the Victorian era. Fearing invested in the area and had a steamboat enterprise. Built in 1847, today this house holds historical items from Marietta and Washington counties. In 1829, Levi Barber, who was a surveyor and U.S. Congressman, built The Barber House.
The Children’s Toy & Doll Museum gives visitors a glimpse of what toys entertained children during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The house where this hidden treasure is located was built in 1889 by George Strecker, a local boilermaker. They have beautiful displays of dollhouses, circus wagons, dolls from around the world, and many new displays this year.
The Old Post Office is a center of attraction right beside their train display. Lydia Young served as postmaster here from 1864-1885 in what was also her notary shop. While there aren’t many places for shopping in Harmar, you’ll find several places for delicious food as all have crowds of people at lunchtime.
Busy Bee is right next door to the Post Office and has been serving fresh ingredients from local farms since 1944. Everything is made from scratch with breakfast their specialty. Larry loves the area and has plans for starting three new businesses there: a bakery, butcher shop, and distillery.
Stop for a meal at Spagna’s Italian Restaurant right next door to Harmar Tavern. Spagna’s offers authentic southern Italian cuisine and an extensive wine list. Or go next door to the tavern, a neighborhood gathering place that almost never closes. They are known for their “Soon to be famous” Fried Bologna Sandwich.
If you are planning to attend their Fourth of July Celebration or the Sternwheeler Festival, you might enjoy heading to Lookout Point on Harmar Hill. Here you can see many vistas of Marietta as well as the beautiful Ohio and Muskingum Rivers winding their way through the scene. It’s a great place to watch the fireworks! Harmar is a great place to visit any time of the year.