Explore the Boneyfiddle National Historic District in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, Ohio. Since being added to the National Register in 1979, the Boneyfiddle has emerged as the focus of local economic redevelopment and historic preservation efforts.
The origins of the district's name remains the point of some debate. In 1972, following the first "Boneyfiddle Fair," which celebrated the history and cultural heritage of the neighborhood, Everette Parker, a popular columnist for the Portsmouth Daily Times, noted that some speculate the phrase is derived from “Bow ’n the Fiddle,” which they defined as a “a place for good entertainment.” While others suggested the name came from “Bona Fide,” meaning “good and true.”
The boundaries of the National Historic District encompass much of the original town as first platted by Henry Massie in 1803. As the city grew in the nineteenth century, economic development first concentrated on Front and Market Streets, but in the 1890s, the central business district shifted east and northward, ultimately moving the city’s central business district to the intersection of Gallia and Chillicothe Streets. The district's National Register nomination noted that this shift, over the long run, would ensure that "the architectural character of the Boneyfiddle District remained largely undisturbed to the present day.” Thus, today there remains "a cohesive and rich architectural legacy of mid 19th Century Italianate Commercial buildings and early 19th Century Greek Revival and Federal houses.”
This walking tour focuses on the history of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, the origins of the city's iron and shoe industries, the early years of newspaper publishing, the city's first alcohol and opioid addiction treatment facility (dating back to the 1890s), bootlegging in the Prohibition Era, and Robert Dafford's first flood wall mural, which captures the Boneyfiddle District in 1903.