The purpose of the floodwall mural project is to create an outdoor art gallery depicting the last two centuries of the history of Portsmouth Ohio and the surrounding area. The section of floodwall included in the project is 20 feet high and extends for 2,090 feet along Front Street in the historic Boneyfiddle District of downtown Portsmouth. Painting began in 1993.
Robert Dafford of Lafayette, Louisiana, is the artist for the entire project. An internationally known muralist with more than 20 years of experience, Robert has created more than 200 murals throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. The highlight of much of his work is a three-dimensional illusion such that viewers feel they can "step into" the painting, and this effect is shown in many of the Portsmouth murals. The murals are proving to be a tremendous tourist attraction. Robert's painting season in Portsmouth is from May through September.
The floodwall mural project is an ongoing endeavor of Portsmouth Murals Inc., a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. Financial support is derived from public and foundation grants, fund-raising events and most importantly, corporate and individual contributions.
In 2019 Portsmouth Murals Inc. upgraded the murals experience, with all-new and updated kiosk signs along Front Street and a brand-new digital application. Download the interactive app: Apple:: Android
• The Portsmouth Earthworks, a large mound complex constructed by the Ohio Hopewell culture from 100 BCE to 500 CE.
• Lower Shawneetown, a Shawnee village that straddled the Ohio River just downstream during the late 18th century.
• The 1749 'Lead Plate Expedition' to advance France's territorial claim on the Ohio Valley, led by Pierre Joseph de Blainville.
• Tecumseh, a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy that opposed the United States during Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812. He grew up in the Ohio country during the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War.
• Henry Massie, a founding father of the town and the surveyor who laid out the original plat in 1803.
• A Civil War unit from Portsmouth, Battery L, fighting at Gettysburg
Jim Thorpe was a Native American athlete who played as the player/coach of the semi-professional Portsmouth Shoe Steels in the late 1920s.
• The Portsmouth Spartans, a charter member of the NFL later moved to Detroit to become the Detroit Lions.
• Branch Rickey, influential baseball coach, inventor of the farm team system, and the signer of Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball, which broke the baseball color line when Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
• Clarence Carter, an American Regionalist and surrealist painter.
Local photographer and historic photo collector Carl Ackerman, from whose collection many of the murals draw their imagery.
• The disastrous Ohio River flood of 1937, was the major reason for the construction of the floodwall itself.
• Transportation - stagecoaches, riverboats, railroads, and the Ohio and Erie Canal, which had its terminus just outside of Portsmouth.
• Local notables including Roy Rogers, Jesse Stuart, Julia Marlowe, and Vern Riffe.
• Other panels explore the local history of education, the first European settlers, industry (including the steel industry, shoe industry, and the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant), sister cities, the local Carnegie library, firemen and police, period genre scenes of old downtown and other localities, and a memorial to area armed forces veterans. The original mural project was finished in the fall of 2003. Since then several additional panels have been added, including murals honoring Portsmouth's baseball heroes in 2006 and the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV), a bicycle tour between Columbus and Portsmouth in 2007.
Contact Info for Portsmouth Murals, Inc.:
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 509, Portsmouth, Ohio, 45662.