History in the Hills: Anniversary highlights
Historians love anniversaries. Marking a past event is always a great way to renew interest in a particular topic. It’s also a good time to re-examine our interpretation of a particular aspect of history and see if our understanding of it could use a fresh perspective. For example, there is talk and planning already in the works for the semiquincentennial of our nation.
That is the 250 birthday of the United States and will occur on July 4, 2026. Only around four years and nine months to go.
It will be interesting to see what events, books and activities will be created to commemorate the milestone. I am looking forward to a renewed interest in the history of our founding, and I hope, with the anniversary of this seminal event, not too far in the future, Americans will find a new sense of patriotism. And, to be honest, I hope the mint comes out with a new commemorative quarter I can collect and add to my coin collection! My stores are full of bicentennial pieces that were made in 1976 that I have been squirreling away for years. Even after 50 years, they can still be found in circulation.
Although not as important as the founding of our nation, I am celebrating a milestone of my own this month. September marks two years since I wrote the first History in the Hills column. Since then, I have published a piece in the paper biweekly on a variety of subjects, some dealing with important people like President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, to others dealing with wildlife and pizza.
Throughout these two years, I have learned a lot and continue to do so with every article I write.
For instance, one of my favorite articles, speaking of food, was about our unique food past. I never knew that Steubenville’s DiCarlo’s Pizza, the first one located on South Third Street that opened in 1945, is considered the first retail pizza shop in Ohio. Also that the coveted, (in my house) electric pizzelle iron was invented by Steubenville native Charles “Chip” DeMarco. Locally these irons were demonstrated at various department stores like the Hub.
Before the article on that local landmark, I was unaware that it at one time held the distinction of being the largest department store in the United States in a town of fewer than 40,000 people. So many memories are wrapped up in that store that I am sure a book could be written on the subject.
One of my early articles was about the various connections throughout our area. Some connections are big, like Steubenville being the home for a time to famous Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole and Eliphalet F. Andrews, artist of the official portrait of Martha Washington that now hangs in the White House opposite Gilbert Stuart’s 1797 portrait of George Washington.
Andrews and Cole would have both known South Third Street, but it wasn’t until after both were gone from our area that in 1884 it was paved with brick, becoming the first street in Ohio to be constructed in this way. The bricks were made in Capt. John Porter’s brickyard in Newell. West Virginia was only 21 years old at that time.
Through these articles I learned about Thomas Bambrick, a New Manchester resident and Irish immigrant, who came to this country in 1815 from County Kilkenny in Ireland. Who knew that man would be considered the father Hancock County? Through Bambrick’s service in the Virginia Legislature he was able to introduce legislation to make a new county from Brooke. And it is said that he also was credited for influencing the county boundary to include the toll house on the Pittsburgh Pike by taking the surveyors responsible for drawing the boarder to a party in Steubenville before the work was completed.
Ultimately what I have learned from all this history is that we are all part of the same story.
Connections, events, and commemorations through our history bind us together and transcend the boarders between our local and national history. We should be proud of our community and our little place in the world. Finally, on this two-year anniversary, I am especially appreciative to you for reading this column and for the many letters, calls, article ideas and comments you have shared with me. Hopefully these pieces spark stories of your own and you share them with those around you. It is what it is all about.
By the way, I don’t think I’ll run out of topics any time soon, so keep looking for my column, and continue to join me as we discover our History in the Hills.
(Zuros is executive director of Historic Fort Steuben.)