History in the Hills: Community is our strength
At the Visitor Center, we are often asked what is special about the Upper Ohio Valley, and the answer is undoubtedly the community.
We have been through a lot in this community over the years, but we stick together. That is one of the biggest reasons my wife and I came back, after all. An area is only as good as the people who make up the community. When you ask someone about this place, one of the first things we hear is how friendly and welcoming we as a people are and our willingness to get things accomplished.
Historically in this area, the community has often come together to help each other or rally around a cause. One of my favorite stories about the community of Steubenville coming together for a cause happened around 1878 when the original city building was mysteriously dismantled.
In 1816 the “Market House,” as it was known then, was erected on the corner of Market and Third streets. This building served as a market house and the center for city administration. The two-story center of the building housed the mayor’s office and space for the city officials to meet.
By 1878, the building was in a sad state and most likely needed to be replaced. As you can imagine, there was much discussion and debate about whether the city should replace this building.
Factions on both sides of the issue debated bitterly. One side of the issue said the building was a disgrace, and a new one should be built. The other side argued that the building was historic and a landmark of the early years of Steubenville and should be maintained. It all came to an end one evening in 1878 when the market house and city building mysteriously disappeared! Over night, brick by brick, log by log, the old edifice was dismantled and carried away, thus forcing the city to replace the building. In 1883 a new city building was built on the same site.
A strong community can accomplish great things. Consider the reconstruction of Fort Steuben. The idea of reconstructing the fort actually began with the immigrant German population in the 1870s.
This group, interested in the history of the fort because of its Prussian namesake, centered its activities in the last quarter of the 19th century on commemorative events connected to the fort. In 1897, the city of Steubenville’s centennial, a group was formed to reconstruct the fort, but it never took off. The group did succeed in erecting granite monuments at the corner of the fort site in 1913. The reconstruction we all know today started in 1989 and took a team of dedicated community members 20 years to reconstruct.
The other building of historical importance on our site is the First Federal Land office. A group of dedicated community members in 1941 saved the building from demolition and erected it on a site near where Eastern Gateway Community College is located today on Sunset Boulevard.
During the World War II, it served as an air raid watch station for the Civil Defense. This is another way the community came together for a common goal. How the building made its way down to the site of Fort Steuben is another story.
Over the years the community has rallied, coming together to support the 1980s E.S.O.P. at Weirton Steel and again in the 1990s and early 2000s to protest steel imports that would dramatically impact our way of life here in the valley.
Today we come together to see one another and celebrate our community. The events across our region like the summer concerts at the Fort, First Fridays on Fourth and the Nutcracker Village, bring together our community in a new and exciting way. I am proud to be from an area that is so invested in making our community better. This is why we come together — to uplift and encourage one another to make our community stronger. Let us never forget that it is for the love of our community that we have accomplished so much over the years. It’s the same spirit that encouraged a group of citizens to replace a city building, move the land office, rebuild the fort, host concerts, gather on First Fridays and transform a city into a nutcracker mecca.
I am proud of our community, and I hope you are, too.
(Zuros is the director of operations at Historic Fort Steuben.)