Ackerman's Bicentennial Portsmouth

This tour of historic photos from the famed Carl Ackerman Collection celebrates the City of Portsmouth’s Bicentennial. Beginning in the fall of 2014 and stretching through the spring of 2015, Portsmouth residents will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its incorporation in 1815. As part of the celebrations, the Southern Ohio Museum mounted a special exhibition based upon its Ackerman Collection.

It is easy for those who remember the now missing buildings of their hometowns to focus on what has been lost, not always appreciating what has been saved — the many treasures and traditions the residents of southern Ohio still have remaining in their midst.

One guiding principal of the exhibition and tour has been to focus on those buildings and cultural traditions that are still with us today. It is a look back at the first one-hundred years of Portsmouth photographic history, but it is also a look at the here and now. It is not an exhibit about some former golden age, nor does it focus on any one particular dramatic moment in the city’s storied past. Rather than the floods and the fires, and reminders of the bulldozers and wrecking balls of progress — the varied effects of time, itself — the exhibit and tour is meant to focus our sights on the past in hopes of illuminating the present — the City of Portsmouth, Ohio, at two-hundred years of age.

The Carl Ackerman Collection, from which these original prints have been selected, encompasses the photographic record of Portsmouth from the early 1860s through the 1980s. It captures the city’s Age of Industry in black and white, and color. A treasure trove of more than 12,000 items, the Ackerman Collection will long shape our vision and understanding of life in Portsmouth during the city’s second hundred years of existence.

In the 1990s, in the early years of a new Post-Industrial Portsmouth, the artist Robert Dafford worked with Carl Ackerman to bring many of his photos to life on the city’s downtown flood wall. Although many of the city’s historic buildings have been lost and some traditions are undoubtedly gone forever, thanks to Carl Ackerman we are able to envision Portsmouth’s past and appreciate its legacies in the present.

James Ashley & the Thirteenth Amendment

Born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, James Ashley moved with his parents and siblings to Portsmouth in the spring of 1826 at the age of four and grew to manhood here. His father, John Clinton Ashley was a minister in the Disciples (Campbellite) Church…

Tracy Shoe Company on Second Street (c. 1900).

Built in 1891 for the Tracy Shoe Company, this structure has recently been restored and repurposed by the YEI Corporation, a locally owned firm specializing in software solutions and other digital technologies. YEI’s success and the Tracy…

Grand Opera House at Fourth & Chillicothe Streets (c. 1910)

In 1895, Lodge No. 154 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks laid the cornerstone of Portsmouth’s Grand Opera House in the name of “Charity, Justice, and Brotherly Love.” Before the rise of the moving picture show and a devastating…

Selby Shoes & WPAY on Gallia Street (circa 1952)

WPAY pioneered Portsmouth radio, beginning its broadcasts on April 15th, 1933. By the early 1950s the station’s offices and studios were to be found on the north side of Gallia Street, next door to the Selby Shoe factory outlet store. The old…

Glick’s Furniture and the Damarin Block (c. 1965)

“Buy your furniture at Glick’s on Second Street,” so sang Zeke Mullins on WPAY. Glick’s Furniture opened its doors in 1936 and closed in 1976, having made the Damarin Block at Court and Second Streets its home for some forty years. Named…

The White Front Restaurant on Chillicothe Street (c. 1965)

In 1936, Nicholas Sainopulos purchased the “White Lunch Car,” a diner that was housed in an old Portsmouth street car. Sainopulos “walled in the structure" and rechristened it the “White Front Restaurant.” His son, Charles, joined…

Repairing the Cupola of First Presbyterian Church (1986)

The two men precariously working atop the cupola of First Presbyterian Church caught the attention of Denny Hamilton, who took this photograph back in 1986. The congregation dates back to May 1817, just two years after the incorporation of the city.…

Ohio Stove Company Workers (30 January 1942)

The foundry workers pictured here in January of 1942 worked for the Ohio Stove Company, which was first organized in 1872. Perhaps the oldest manufacturer still operating in Portsmouth, they originally cast heating and cooking stoves, their most…

Nurses at Portsmouth General Hospital (December 1937)

Portsmouth has long been a center for medical care, beginning with the city’s first professionally trained physician, Dr. Thomas Waller, who also served as President of the first City Council in 1815. Nursing in Portsmouth, one can then argue,…