Campus Martius Museum, Marietta Ohio Founded 1788

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The Friends of the Museums operate the Campus Martius Museum & Ohio River Museum on behalf of the Ohio History Connection.

Friends of the Museums Mission

The mission of the Friends of the Museums, Inc. is to promote and preserve the history of our region, the Northwest Territory and of our inland waterways.

Campus Martius Museum

Campus Martius Museum houses three floors of historical exhibits focusing on the Northwest Territory and its first settlement, Marietta. Visitors can also tour the Rufus Putnam House and the Ohio Company Land Office.

Ohio River Museum

The Ohio River Museum in Marietta is pleased to exhibit the extensive collection of the Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen. While you tour, discover the golden age of the steamboat and learn more about the ecology of the Ohio River system.

The Ohio River Museum consists of three exhibit buildings, the first chronicling the origins and natural history of the Ohio River. The history of the steamboat on the Ohio River system is featured in the second building, along with a video presentation on river steamboats. The last building features displays about boat building, mussels in the Ohio River system, and tools and equipment from the steamboat era.

Outside the museum, on the Muskingum River, visitors can take an escorted tour of the W. P. SNYDER JR.-- the last intact steam-powered "pool-type" stern-wheeled towboat in the United States.

History of Campus Martius

The Rufus Putnam House is one of the original row houses which comprised Campus Martius and was built beginning in 1788 by Rufus Putnam, superintendent of the Ohio Company. Of horizontal plank construction, the house was occupied by Putnam and his family late in 1790 as threats of Indian attacks hung over Marietta.

When peace was injured on the frontier following the Treaty of Greeneville, the fort was dismantled. The Putnam family remained in their Campus Martius home. Using timber from the southeast blockhouse which Putnam bought for $70, carpenters more than doubled the size of the Putnam House by adding four new rooms to the original structure. Here Putnam lived until his death in 1824. (He is buried in Mound Cemetery.)

After his death the house was sold to Judge Arius Nye by executors of General Putnam’s estate. At the death of Arius Nye, the property passed into the ownership of his daughter, Miss Minerva Tupper Nye. Until 1900 it was rented as a residence. From 1905 to 1907, it was leased by the Marietta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for the display of pioneer relics. Then until 1917 the doors were locked and the windows boarded up, Miss Nye rejected all offers to purchase the historic house, hoping to dispose of it to some responsible organization which would preserve it for posterity as a precious relic of the illustrious pioneers.

The preservation of the Rufus Putnam house was largely due to Miss Nye’s efforts and those of the Marietta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, whose influence led the State Society of the D.A.R. to appeal to the General Assembly in 1916 for the purchased of the Putnam House with a petition that bore many thousand names. A bill for the purchase was introduced in the Legislature by Hon. G.F. Reed and Senator Crawford in 1917, and the property came under the custody of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, which has charge of the state’s landmarks. A few years later $3,000.00 was appropriated for the restoration of the old house. The restoration was supervised by Miss Willa D Cotton, Miss Catherine Parr Nye, and Miss Ida Merydith, who served as custodian.

In 1925, at the request of Marietta citizens, Hon. O.S. Creighton and Senator E. LeFever asked that a memorial building be placed on the Campus Martius site to house the thousands of relics in Marietta which exemplified the events and customs of the town’s early days. In this and two succeeding sessions, a total of $115,000.00 was appropriated for the museum which enclosed the Putnam house in the southern wing and the relics in the main building. It was found that a proper setting for the museum required the addition of the ground from the Putnam house tract north along Second Street to St. Clair Street. This property was purchased with public subscription of more than $3,500.00 collected by a committee composed of members of the Historical Societies of Marietta.

The roofed terrace and basement storage area were added in 1953. The north wing and downstairs display area were added in 1957.

In 1966, The Rufus Putnam house had deteriorated to such an extent that a complete rehabilitation was required if it were to continue to be preserved. In the process of renovation, the Putnam House and Campus Martius were intensely researched. While the initial intent had been to simply restore its structural soundness, as work progressed and research done, it was decided to return the house to its original fort configuration. (Putnam had added to it following the dismantling of Campus Martius.) Funds ran out in the middle of the project so it was not until 1972 that the Putnam House wing was reopened to visitors. The Western addition to the house was removed and a mock continuation of the fort. The major addition on the North side was left in its skeletal form so visitors could see the 18th century construction methods as well as get an idea of the full size of the 19th century house.

With the approach of the bicentenary of the signing of the Ordinance of 1787 and the founding of Marietta, a major overhaul of the museum was undertaken. With a $99,000.00 planning grant from the Ohio legislature, a 5.5 million dollar renovation was planned. The legislature only approved $750,000.00 initially and added another $300,000.00 later, so that initial plans had to be curtailed to fit that budget. The museum closed in October 1985, the collections were removed. As pat of the renovation, the entrance was returned to the original main entrance made accessible by a ramp. An elevator was added and a new fireproof stairwell and emergency exit door were also put in. The office was moved upstairs and a Chapter of the NSDAR. A new heating system was installed along with air conditioning for the building except for the Putnam House wing. Although opened to the public on July 1, 1987; the official opening of the renovated museum took place on Monday, July 13, 1987, the bicentennial of the signing of the Ordinance of 1787. The Honorable Richard Celeste, Governor of Ohio, cut the ribbon.

On September 13 of the same year, the Attorney General of the State of Ohio, Anthony Celebreeze, officiated at ceremonies burying a time capsule to the Northeast of the main entrance to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The capsule contained items from each county in the state.