Historic Boneyfiddle Walking Tour

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.

Eliza Trotter Building on Second Street

Coming Soon! The story of Eliza (Denison) Trotter, a pioneering Portsmouth businesswoman, who launched her millinery retail store in 1858 and constructed the "Trotter Building" on Second Street in the early 1870s. Over the years and at…

Peter Kinney House on Front Street

Coming Soon! The story of Peter Kinney and Morgan's Civil War Raid. In the summer of 1863, Col. Kinney would declare martial law and oversee the defenses of the city in expectation of the arrival of Morgan's Raiders.

Thomas Gaylord & the Beginning of Portsmouth's Iron Industry

Thomas Gould Gaylord provided the capital and entrepreneurial drive to establish Portsmouth as a major center for iron manufacturing, securing his pig iron from the numerous charcoal furnaces in what was to become known as the Hanging Rock Iron…

Carl Ackerman's Boneyfiddle

In the spring of 1993, Portsmouth Murals Inc, launched plans for their first mural, a birds-eye-view of Portsmouth in 1903. Imogene Howland chaired the Art Committee, which included Carl Ackerman, whose collection of historic photographs provided the…

Steamboat Days at the Biggs House

The Biggs House was known far and wide as Portsmouth's premier hotel from the 1870s through 1890s. Located at the foot of Market on the river front, directly above the steamboat landing, the Biggs was popular with travelers and…

Julia Marlowe & Madame Brough's Saloon

Julia Marlowe became a world famous Shakespearian actress in the 1880s and emerged, in her later years, as one of the first celebrity activists in the women's suffrage movement. Known as Fanny Brough, she was the daughter of John and Brough.…

John Dice Carriage Works

A native of Germany, John Dice was born in 1841 and immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio with his parents at the age of five. When thirteen years old, "he was apprenticed to Isaac and Benjamin Bruce to learn carriage making. He remained with them five…

The Eclipse Livery & T.M. Lynn's "Dan Rice"

With its two large arched entryways facing Second Street, the Eclipse Livery Building (now the home of Wright's Farm Center) was constructed by T.M. Lynn in 1871 for his livery business. Trustem Mearns Lynn, more commonly known as T.M. Lynn,…

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…

Kautzleben's Drug Store & the Portsmouth Times

Built in the 1850s by Dr. Herman Kautzleben, a German immigrant, the first floor of this Market Street commercial building housed Kautzleben's Drug Store, while the second floor became the first home of the Portsmouth Times, when it began publication…

B. Glockner on Market Street

The B. Glockner Building at 206 Market Street illustrates the contribution of German immigrants to the nineteenth century development of Portsmouth, Ohio. And the building's restoration -- following a fire in January 2016 -- has contributed to…

Recovering Portsmouth's Past in Huston's Stone Front Building

Coming Soon! The story of the Huston Stone Front Building, the first three-story building constructed on Second Street. Since its original construction in the early 1850s by Milton Kennedy and Joseph Ashton it has played a role in the history of the…

Portsmouth National Bank & the Elk Building

Coming Soon! The story of the Elk Building and Portsmouth National Bank. Built in 1892 by the Elks fraternal order, this signature Boneyfiddle commercial building was home to the Portsmouth National Bank, which had been originally organized in 1866…

Tracy Shoe Company Building

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 Building’s…