Why we call Marietta home
With just more than 14,000 people who call it home, Marietta is a place that many outsiders might think is just another spot on the map of Small Town America.
In reality, to the people who have lived in the city their whole lives or to those that may have just recently moved in, Marietta has its own charm, draw and personality that make it much more than just another Ohio River locale.
Voted “One of the Best Places to Live” and “Best Adventure Town” by National Geographic Magazine, Marietta boasts history, unique attractions, plenty of food and a close community that you cannot find in any town its size.
For residents, Marietta is not just where they earn their livings or where they raise their families-it is their home, a place they love, and a place that carries a great sense of pride that has kept them there in the face of plenty of other options.
That small town feel
Shannon Beacham is the group tour coordinator for the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and has lived in Marietta her whole life. At 23, Beacham said she prefers to stay where her roots are.
“I like the small town charm of Marietta, being able to walk the streets and knowing everyone you see,” she said. “The neighborhoods are all safe, and you don’t have to worry about coming home to your house being broken into.”
That sense of a small, close community is not lost on those who are not lifelong residents, either.
“We love the community, our friends, and the knowledge that whenever we need help, wean call people in the community, and they will come,” said Mabry O’Donnell, who moved to Marietta with her husband, Jim, when they were both hired as professors at Marietta College in 1969.
“In the late 1970s we considered careers in other places, but when the decision had to be made, we realized that Marietta would be our home forever,” Jim said.
Karen Davis, 63, moved to Marietta when she got married.
“There isn’t a lot of crime around here, and I like that feeling of safety,” she said.
For working professionals, short commutes never hurt either.
“Life is much safer for driving to shop or work, usually demanding no more than 10 minutes, and requiring no four lane bypasses filled with speeding traffic,” Jim O’Donnell said.
Beacham said that getting to promote Marietta every day as part of her job makes it even sweeter.
“If there’s a crisis, everyone comes in and helps out,” she said. “You can rely on friends and neighbors, and even strangers down the street are willing to help out and you can fall back on them.”
It Takes a Village
That close-knit, small-town charm isn’t just about knowing your neighbors. Marietta’s historical draw combined with its beauty is something many say is a result of how invested residents are in their community, and how much they pitch in.
Harley Noland, a Marietta city councilman, has dedicated much of his life to volunteer work after serving two years in the Peace Corps after college. The amount of volunteer work in Marietta, he said, is something that makes it unique in comparison to other small towns.
“If you mention a need to a group of people, it gets done, and it’s a wonderful part of the city,” Noland said.
He has done work helping restore the armory on Front Street, as well as work on the Peoples Bank Theatre.
“The city is full of volunteers and interests where they’re willing to spend time and effort to help,” he said.
The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, the Marietta Sweet Corn Festival, the community dog park, senior centers and Flanders Field are all places Noland said can be attributed to volunteers, and are all major points of pride in the community.
“That’s why I like being on city council. I can organize those groups and let people accomplish those things,” he said.
Jan Shepard, 53, moved to Marietta to be closer to her sister, and said she could not believe how friendly and welcoming everyone was.
“I love that people are always planning things, they keep everything beautiful and they keep it all going,” she said. “There’s always something going on.”
Plenty to Do-Including History and River Recreation
Small towns like Marietta often get bad reputations for being “boring,” but residents say there is plenty to see and do outside of the obvious attractions.
Noland has lived in Marietta his whole life, minus the years he spent in college and the Peace Corps. Among the many projects he is a part of, the trolley tours he runs in the city gives him plenty of opportunity to tell travelers to always consider Marietta if they’re looking to re-locate.
“I think it’s a wonderful place to live, I like the history of it and I like the quality of life,” Noland said. “And I like that I can take a walk or bicycle ride any time I want.”
The setup of the city makes it quite easy to spend time outdoors and then get right into your favorite restaurant.
“I can ride my bike on a bike path and then head to the Marietta Brewing Company,” said Ben Keeler, 34.
The large amount of small businesses is also not something to forget about.
“Calling a restaurant for a reservation, calling the candy shop asking for candy to be boxed or shipped, calling the dentist’s or physician’s office, or calling the mayor’s office, one always receives a smile and a helpful answer,” Mabry O’Donnell said.
Often called the “city of firsts,” residents and visitors find the historic draw to be appealing, with all of the old cemeteries, churches, historic buildings and the museums, to name just a few.
Sylvi Caporale, owner of American Flags and Poles, said the historic draw is what brings in visitors to businesses like hers.
“We have so many people who come into town who have never been in a flag store. It’s a unique place to shop and to have fun,” she said. “We are used to people coming in who live here and they bring their visitors to us.”
Those small businesses that are hard to find anywhere else make it a great place to visit, as Caporale said many travelers plan trips to stop in Marietta.
“Whether it’s the flowers on the lamp posts or the trees in the spring or the activities that go on in the summer, all of them add to the ambiance of this place,” she said.
Ken Finkel, the president of the Washington County Historical Society, said that Marietta just does not get enough credit for all the history it holds.
“That’s what I like about (it), there’s so much history that people go through life not realizing,” he said.
Finkel said tourists and residents should make a point to visit The Castle, the Gothic-revival house where visitors can enjoy tours and exhibits about the history; the Anchorage, a house built by Douglas Putnam for his wife that was home for many prominent Marietta citizens; and Camp Tupper, where there is much to learn about the Civil War history that comes with the area. There are also Indian burial mounds at Mound Cemetery, which is also home to more Revolutionary War soldiers than any other cemetery in the nation.
“There’s lots to do and always a lot going on,” Finkel said.
The city’s prominence as a two-river town makes for an attraction on its own.
The Marietta Adventure Company, along with providing bike rentals and the opportunity to experience rock climbing in the area, is also a ticket to enjoying the rivers Marietta has to offer through kayaking.
“Being in a river town, I think most of us have had an experience of the rivers from the land. But there’s a lot of opportunity to get on the water and enjoy both the peacefulness and the exercise,” said Hallie Taylor, a manager of the company. “I think one of the neat things in Marietta is you get a totally different perspective of the town. To see it from the water is really special.”
Marietta Adventure Company sells and rents kayaks and transports patrons to locations on the Ohio, Muskingum and some smaller streams and rivers so they can paddle downstream and enjoy the views.
“It’s suitable for beginners or more experienced paddlers,” Taylor said. “It’s also possible to do multi-day trips and to do camping overnight.”
Whether you’re spending the day on the river, an afternoon at a museum or browsing through local businesses, enjoying what Marietta has to offer means looking outside the box what you might find in a major city.
“You have to look beyond the chain malls and attractions,” Beacham said. “We’re a thriving town. We’re small but we’re growing, and every day there’s something new to do and see and experience.”