The Downtown Ironton Historic District is a historic district located in downtown Ironton, Ohio. The district is roughly bounded by Washington and Center Streets and South 2nd and South 4th Streets. The buildings in the district were constructed between the 1870s and the 1950s. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 8, 2009.[
A number of buildings which are individually listed on the National Register are located in the district, including the Marting Hotel, the Ironton Norfolk and Western Depot, the Brumberg Building, and the Marlow Theatre. The Lawrence County Courthouse, the county courthouse for Lawrence County, is located in the district. The district also includes historic commercial properties such as the Art Moderne-styled Unger’s Shoes, the oldest shoe store in Ironton, and the Art Deco RoNa Theater.
The entire walk is 1.8 miles long and takes approximately 45 minutes.
1. The Depot, Bobby Bare Boulevard and Park Avenue
Designed by Edward G. Frye of Virginia, The Norfolk and Western Depot was known to be the center of area stations. The richness of classical detailing makes it one of Southern Ohio’s finest examples of the Neoclassical Revival architecture. A freight and passenger station during the 1900s, the Depot hosted many famous people including Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Projecting from the central block is a three bay pediment portico with four fluted columns resting on stone pedestals. The entrances, protected by the portico, have cosseted stone architraves adorned with bead and reel molding. The double doors are plain with a single vertical glass pane in each door.
The interior has wooden wainscoting. Plasters and decorative pediments have been removed for anticipated remodeling. It has a classically ornate cove ceiling with egg and dart molding. Along the sides of the main room are the original light fixtures, initially gas fueled. In the past, there was a walkout porch area in the back where passengers would walk out to board their train. Trains quit running in 1965.
After a recent $2.1 million improvement, that includes the Transit Center, the multi-use shelter for the Farmer’s Market and events such as Rally on the River which draws about 30,000 bikers, The Depot Square is again the hub of activity in downtown. Check out the Friends of Ironton Sprayground in season.
From the Depot, walk East on Park Avenue. Notice many historic businesses down S. Second Street including Iron City Hardware and Central Hardware and Furniture. Continue east on Park Avenue past the First National Bank building (the tallest in downtown Ironton) and turn left (North) at Fourth Street to walk past the Courthouse. Walk on the Courthouse side of the street.
2. The Lawrence County Courthouse, 111 S. 4th St., between Center Street and Park Avenue
Lawrence County’s first courthouse was built in Burlington in 1818 before moving to Ironton. The current courthouse, a sprawling Greek Revival style federal building, was started in 1906 and finished in 1907.
History seeps out into the lawn. An 8-foot replica of an iron furnace stands beside a 1973 Ohio Historical Society plaque filled with furnace history. Next to World War II artillery pieces guarding the lawn is another interesting replica, an 8-foot Statue of Liberty, dedicated in 1951 by local Boy Scouts.
American Legion Post 433 built a Vietnam War memorial on the lawn corner.
The only known hanging in Ironton occurred at the Courthouse at 11:05 a.m. April 6, 1869. Andrew Price, a citizen of Ironton, was hanged for the murder of Louis Hilgenburg, a wealthy Jackson man. It took 20 minutes hanging from the noose for Price to be pronounced dead.
Keep walking up north 4th Street. Cross Railroad Street.
3. Memorial Hall, 403 Railroad St.
Civil War history is found here as this building was built in 1892 as a memorial to the G.A.R. (The Grand Army of the Republic), the Union veterans of the Civil War. The building was partially destroyed by a fire in 1905 and survived the floods of 1913 and 1937. It was boarded up more than a dozen years ago when city offices were moved to the J.C. Penney Building. Walking by you can still see into the basement through rusty iron bars and into cells that were once the jail. A 2009 grant of $185,000 has paid to stabilize the building.
Turn right or east on Lawrence Street
4. James Fraley Staab House, 416 Lawrence St.
Ironton’s oldest home was built by John Glidden in 1840, nine years before Ironton was organized. A furnace operator, Glidden purchased the land from the Ohio Coal and Iron Company and built what was considered a mansion. This gray house showcases original cast-iron railed balconies featuring a grape design and that evoke a feeling of walking the narrow streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The Greek Revival or national style home has a gable or hipped, low-sloped roof with a wide band of trim, bold, simple moldings, and columns. In the 1890s, Glidden sold the house to James Fraley. In 1905, Henry L. Staab purchased it. A butcher, Staab worked at his slaughterhouse on the same block. After the death of Staab and his wife, their daughters, Verona and Katharine continued to live in the house and owned it until 1968. In 1979, Katharine, the last living Staab, passed away at age 90. The house has been maintained by Nancy Meyers, who has kept it authentic to the 1840s, and who remembers visits by Katharine Staab, a schoolteacher.
On Lawrence, stop at the corner of North Fifth Street in front of the yellow bricked John Campbell House. From here you can see across the street the red-bricked Moulton House and halfway up the block, the blue-gray bricked Hiram Campbell House.
5. Colonel J. H. Moulton House, 304 N. Fifth St.
Located directly across from the John Campbell House and diagonally across from the Hiram Campbell House, the Col. J. H. Moulton Home, which is made of red brick, is known today as the Cottingham-Day Apartments. Built sometime in the 1850s, it was a residence of J.H. Moulton and his wife, Elizabeth, a daughter of Hiram Campbell. Moulton and his father-in-law formed Campbell and Sons Company which constructed iron furnaces. Moulton was a pioneer ironmaster and started Sarah Furnace which was not completed until after Campbell’s death in 1876. John Moulton, 67, passed away in 1910.
The four-chimney house is a Gothic Revival or High Victorian Gothic Style. Borrowing details from medieval architecture, this irregular shaped home is 2 1/2 stories tall. The roof is gable or metal and dormers are protruding from it. The frieze under the roof is set off by a scalloped design. A boxed turret can be found toward the back of the building along with a double-leafed paneled main entrance in front.
6. The John Campbell House, 305 N. 5th St.
This extravagant 22-room home was built in 1850 and owned by Ironton’s founder, John Campbell. Built with bricks dried from the clay that the house sits on, the house (whose bricks are now painted a vibrant yellow) covers one fourth of a city block with the original Puddle Iron fence that is still standing.
Once Baker Funeral Home and today the Bicentennial Commission and the Lawrence County Community Action Agency,” the home is long steeped in social justice.
One of the area’s most active iron furnace builders, Campbell was a staunch abolitionist and used the cavernous home as a main stop on the Underground Railroad helping slaves cross the Ohio River to freedom. Fugitives were placed in two semi-concealed rooms under the house’s hip roof and in the carriage home nearby. Furnace wagons transported escapees north by way of Campbell’s furnaces in Lawrence and Jackson counties.
A Georgetown, Ohio, native, Campbell first helped run a steamboat business before meeting pioneer iron man Robert Hamilton on a trip to Pittsburgh. In 1832, Campbell started as a clerk at Pinegrove Furnace. In 1833, he built the Hanging Rock Forge with Hamilton and assisted building Lawrence Furnace. He would build dozens more including: Greenup Furnace and the Olive and Gallia Furnaces. In 1849, John organized the Ohio Iron and Coal Co., and felt there needed to be a town.
By 1851, he had established and moved to the town called Ironton — ‘iron by the ton.’ June 20 was the first land sale. He would go on to build half a dozen more furnaces. Campbell and Elizabeth raised six children at the home. The home still has a few cherry and marble fireplaces, and leading up to the second and third floor is a solid black, walnut staircase.
7. The Hiram Campbell House, 321 N. 5th St.
Painted now in a grayish-blue brick, this home was built in the 1850s. It’s first owner was Hiram Campbell, the brother of Ironton founder, John Campbell. He and his wife Sarah, who had five children, entertained many special guests, including the 19th president, Rutherford B. Hayes.
He worked as a clerk at the Mt. Vernon Furnace for 17 years before becoming the owner. He then created a new furnace named after his wife, Sarah Campbell. It was called the Sarah Furnace.
Hiram was one of the first trustees of Woodland Cemetery, where he is buried. He was also director of the Old Iron Bank, the Ohio Iron and Coal Company, and the Iron Railroad Company. Having contacts in North Carolina, Campbell introduced persimmon trees to Ironton sent here from the North Carolina Gold Mine of John Peebles.
The house, now apartments, represents a French 2nd Empire Style architecture. The style, named for Napoleon, spread through the U.S. during the late 1700s and early 1800s and was known for the mansard roof and asymmetrical facades.
Continue walking east on Lawrence, check out the amazing gardens at 510 Lawrence St. Stop at the corner of Lawrence and North Sixth Street or continue just a bit into this block to see more of the Horn House which is shrouded in trees.
8. The Lantem-Horn House, 605 Lawrence St.
Shrouded in trees, this small but sturdy Federal-Greek Revival house was built by bricks from Lawrence Street by a Mr. Lantem, whose wife was one of the original schoolteachers in Ironton. The home’s second owner, Henry Horn moved in the home in 1891 and lived there for 85 years maintaining its original condition. A jack of all trades, he was a butcher, a machine shop worker who organized a shop union, and a roofer. In fact, he applied shingles to the roof of Nannie Kelley Wright’s home. Wright was the first woman ironmaster in the world.
The home has the original doors and locks. In 1924, a garage was added to store Henry Horn’s first automobile. Extending across the entire front of this home is a portico porch that is supported by two separate columns. Resting behind the porch are three bay openings where you can peer across Lawrence Street. There are also two bay openings located on the sides of this home.
Turn right and start walking south now down North Sixth Street until you reach Center, where three historic churches are within sight
9. St. Lawrence O’Toole Catholic Church, 609 Sixth and Center streets
John Campbell’s Ohio Iron and Coal Company gave the property for a new church building requested by Irish settlers. In 1887, the foundation to the new church was laid for about $5,000. The cornerstone was officially laid during a ceremony July 4, 1891. The entire church was built in 1892. The new church had a seating capacity of 950 and cost $35,000.
The gigantic Catholic church’s architecture is Gothic with some ties to Gothic Romanesque. This style of architecture presents the feel of medieval buildings. Gothic style shows statues and large stained glass windows, with Gothic Romanesque having thick walls and large towers. The idea of the building is to appear as a fortress and, indeed, it seems that way as the church is 118-foot high.
Through these main doors, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Southern Ohio. Throughout the church, there are many circular and tracery stained glass windows (imported from Rome) that allow the natural sunlight to illuminate the sanctuary.
One is awed by the beauty of the dome, and newly installed floodlights reveal its full artistic treatment. Oil paintings, completed on canvas, decorate the ceiling. One was done by Obediah J. Kover when he was 81.
A Mexican onyx altar lies in the sanctuary and the wall construction is brick set in stretcher bonding. This also displays the corbeling treatment. Renovations to the church took place in 1918, 1946, and 1969. In 2001, a donation was made to the restoration of the St. Patrick window, the giant circular window above the main entrance. Restoration to the church, including the St. Patrick window, began in 2011 and is ongoing.
10. St. Paul Lutheran Church, corner of Sixth and Center streets
This one story brick carpenter Gothic was built in 1903 by the German Lutherans who first organized in Hanging Rock in 1844.
Turn right or west on Center Street and walk to South Fifth Street
11. First United Methodist, Fifth and Center streets
During the 1850s and 1860s a Spencer Chapel was on this site with attendance of about 90 people. But church attendance skyrocketed and in 1893 the First United Methodist Church was constructed. On May 7, 1893, after just being built, it held around 1,500 people for the “Feast of Dedication.” According to Dr. Wayne Young, pastor of the church, the “Feast of Dedication” was a “big party for the church beginning.”
The architecture of the church is called High Victorian Gothic and favors heavy, structural detailing.
The First United Methodist Church has some interesting architectural features including three, large stained glass windows in the sanctuary called Rose Windows that were dedicated to folks who had passed away.
The church also has a curved chancel rail, also known as the altar rail. The rail was soaked nearly one year to obtain the perfect curve for its installation. The rail is still present in the church today. A third interesting feature is the rear sanctuary and balcony seats from the original Spencer Chapel built in 1852.
Turn left and start walking south on South Fifth Street past the other side of the courthouse and the current jail.
12. The Old Post Office, 5th and Center streets
Built in 1913, this second Renaissance Revival stone structure was handed over to the Ironton Board of Education in 1969 when a new post office was built on 4th and Railroad streets.
13. Christ Episcopal Church, S. 5th and Park Avenue
Built in 1896, this Gothic Revival stone church features exposed beams in the chapel and has multiple circular and tracery stained glass windows, which you get an up-close view of walking by on the Fifth Street.
Cross Park Avenue (the busy main artery into Ironton) and keep walking south on South Fifth Street. Stop at the intersection with Vernon Street to check out the massive Gateway Baptist Church
14. First Congregational Church (now known as Gateway Baptist Church), at 310 S. Sixth St.
From Fifth Street you can look down the block and see this massive American Gothic church built in 1873 and dubbed the “church of the Ironmaster” since John Campbell attended here. The building is built in the shape of a cross and original had 80-foot-bell towers taken down when the one of the towers was hit by lightning in 1976. In 1975, Gateway Baptist bought the building which has in some places two-foot-thick walls. It’s had some famous visitors including the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Keep walking up S. Fifth Street
15. The Marting Lowry House, 419 S. 5th St.
The Greek Revival home was built in the early 1900s by Colonel H.A. Marting. Sadly, Colonel Marting didn’t get to see the finished product because he died before the house was completed. After his death, his widow, Margaret Duis Marting occupied the house. Their daughter, Nellie Marting, managed the estate after her father passed.
An Ironton High School graduate, Nellie married Andrew Clark Lowry, successful doctor and businessman. They formed the Ironton Hotel Company and constructed the Marting Hotel. Many of his other accomplishments included being president and director of the Marting Hotel, Foster Stove Company, Marting Iron and Steel Company, Citizens National Bank, and First National Bank. Lowry was a large supporter of Ironton and campaigned to raise money for the Ironton-Russell Bridge. Passing away on March 1, 1924, Andrew left his businesses to Nellie, who continued to manage and run them very well. She passed on May 12, 1937.
The Marting Lowry home has a Greek Revival Architecture to it, not strictly sticking to just this style, but having enough qualities that you can see this architecture. In the home, there is a low-pitch roof and a classical entablature on the porches. This style of home was first used by Thomas Jefferson to design Monticello. He believed that the architecture was a symbol and it represented colonial exploitation.
When you reach Adams stop and take a long look at Bide-A-Wee, the massive stone house across the street. Then take a left walking east one block to S. 6th Street, which is the parade route for Ironton’s Memorial Day parade, the nation’s longest continuous Memorial Day Parade. It draws about 2,000 participants and more than 30,000 visitors.
16. Bide-A-Wee, 504 S. 5th St.
Bide-A-Wee, which means “Stay a while” in Ireland, is an English style Queen Anne designed house that was once home to the world’s only known female ironmaster.
The home was built by Edward James Bird, Sr., who passed away before it was completed. His widow sold it to Edwin Bixby, president of First National Bank. After he passed away, Mrs. Bixby sold the home in 1918 to one of Ironton’s most famous women, Nannie Kelley Wright. Wright moved to Ironton where she married Lindsey Kelly, an Ohio state representative. They had one son, Lindsey Kelley Jr., but father and son died in 1902 and 1903.
She bought Centre Furnace for $19,500 in 1899 and 12,000 acres surrounding it. She owned and ran the furnace from 1899 to 1906.
She was married to her second husband, Daniel Wright, from 1906 to 1919. In 1918, Wright purchased Bide-A-Wee, remodeling the inside with things accumulated during her world travels. Among the things collected were two Italian fireplace mantels that are made of marble and hand-carved wood. Wright ended up building another historic Ironton home, The Mearan House (917 S. 6th St.). On Dec. 12, 1946, at the age of 90, Nannie Kelley Wright died in Ironton at the Marting Hotel.
The present owners of Bide-A-Wee are Judge Richard Walton and his wife. Walton was a judge of the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and retired in 2006. Walton’s grandparents, Brook and Elizabeth, purchased ‘Bide-A-Wee’ in 1945 and sold it to Walton’s parents, Norman and Editha Walton, in 1947. In 1978, Judge Walton and his wife purchased the house from his parents.
Stop at the corner of Sixth Street and Adams. Across the street is the Wilson House and on the corner is the massive Col. Gray House, home to the Lawrence County Historical Society.
17. The Wilson House, 422 6th St.
Did you know President Woodrow Wilson once watched the annual Memorial Day Parade at this elegant Queen Anne style home? Peering over the balcony railings, Woodrow Wilson had front row seats because of the view overlooking all of 6th Street.
The Wilson House was built in the 1880s. Dr. Dewitt C. Wilson was the architect of this home. Dr. Wilson ran the Ball-Warfield Drug Company. He developed friendships with many artisans and builders who were able to add uniqueness to this home. Pat and Tarry Barron now live at this location. Mr. Barron has a farm in Africa and hunts big game on his reserve with his brother. Some of these animals include the cape buffalo, zebra, and wild boar, which are mounted on the inside walls of this home. Mrs. Barron’s uncle, David Payne, previously lived in this home for approximately 20 years. Payne is a well known judge in Ironton.
18. Col. George Gray House, 506 S. 6th Street (now the Lawrence Co. Museum)
Home to the Lawrence County Historical Society and Museum since 1988, this 1870-built Italian villa is filled with history. U.S. President, and Point Pleasant, Ohio, native Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant visited the Gray House to talk to well-known abolitionist the Rev. John Rankin. Rankin’s granddaughter Elizabeth Gray owned the home with her husband Col. George Noah Gray. Col. Gray served with the 53rd regular Ohio Volunteers fighting at Shiloh then re-enlisting in the Navy fighting in several Civil War naval battles. Back home he managed the Hecla and Vesuvius furnaces. He and his wife raised four children. the Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, moved in with the Grays after his wife died. Rankin died here on March 18, 1886, and his body was laid in state in the front bay-windowed room. Rankin’s original furniture and belongings are still intact and on display in his room at the museum. On the second floor of the house is an ornately carved bookcase as tall as the ceiling and as wide as the room.
There are several ghost stories about the Gray House, but many of the volunteers and docents working there have not experienced anything. The Gray House is on the Registry of Historic Homes of the Rankin District. The Society has carefully restored both the interior and exterior, completing the work in 2000.
19. H.B. Wilson House, 518 S. 6th St.
Has the President of the United States of America ever given a speech at your house? The H. B. Wilson House at 518 S. Sixth St., now known as the Tracy Brammer Funeral Home, can honestly say yes. President William McKinley once gave a speech at the home which dates back to the 1870s. The first cashier at First National Bank, H.B. Wilson, who also owned a lumberyard, was the architect who designed this sprawling Italian villa. The roof is made from gable or slate, which is offset by a boxed cornice with a decorated frieze, brackets, and panels. The home was used as a residence until Tracy Brammer bought it in 1938 and turned it into a funeral home. Brammer’s son took over the funeral home before eventually selling it to David Philips.
Keep walking south on South 6th Street down to Monroe Street.
20. The Bay House, 620 S. 6th St.
Originally known as The Bay Mansion, this Second Empire Victorian style home was built in 1886 by steamboat Capt. William Bay. Bay, his wife Lizzie Johnson Bay, and their two sons, Will and George lived in this enormous 12-room home complete with Italian marble fireplaces in each room. William Bay and his brother Capt. George Bay started a steamboat business in 1862 and built 40 steamboats in 50 years.
The Bay brothers, who had a store on the Ohio River, survived a Civil War skirmish in July 1864 when a band of Confederate guerillas battered down the door, robbed them and opened fire on the brothers. William Bay was struck by two bullets and left for dead. His brother, then only a young man, appeared at the top of the stairs during the shooting and opened fire on the men in the room below. One of the soldiers was killed and another was so badly wounded that he was unable to escape. He was captured and served five years in the penitentiary for his part in the raid. Two others were wounded but managed to escape.
William Bay, whose name is etched into the window on the second floor, survived. When he did die, his funeral was held in his spacious home.
After Mr. and Mrs. Bay passed away, the house was used for several businesses such as a beauty parlor and a doctor’s office.
Today, it is owned and lived in by Mr. Neil Dufore and his wife. Dufore is a chiropractor and has his own office at 1726 South 3rd Street in Ironton. He purchased the Bay house in 1985. While restoring the house, three different ceilings and a hidden archway were found.
Turn right or west on Monroe and walk two blocks to S. Fourth Street. Turn right and walk back north toward downtown.
21. J.T. Davis House, 723 S. 4th
J.T. Davis, influential in the founding of Ironton, built this French Second Empire home in the 1860s. A dry good store owner, Davis built this three-story brick home that was one of two original houses on the block between Monroe and Madison streets. After Davis, the home was occupied by Reuben Lambert followed by Mrs. Robert Meehan McCrory. It was also used as a Fine Young Ladies Boarding School.
Some basic features of the French Second Empire architecture are a square tower, mansard roof and decorative brackets, all of which are portrayed in the Davis House. The square tower on top of the house is said to have been where people would watch the boats come in on the Ohio River.
To add significance, there is a double leaf-paneled door and a porch that fit the time period in which the house was built.
22. Norton House, 709 S. 4th St.
This colorful three-story frame house stands out with its carved side tower that was built in 1849 (before the founding of Ironton).
Keep walking north on S. Fourth Street past the new Ironton Fire Department building and toward the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.
23. The Culbertson-Waldo House, 417 S. 4th St.
Built by the Culbertson family in the 1850s, this Greek Revival home is one of the two original houses located between Washington and Adams on Fourth Street and is believed to have been one of the houses on the Underground Railroad.
While doing restorations, the Waldo family, who has owned the home since 1955, discovered a hidden passageway starting in the attic and traveling all the way down to the basement. Slaves would be transported from the top of the house to bottom for an easier getaway.
The gardens of this home at one time extended all the way to Fifth Street. They have since been sold for the construction of other homes.
24. Samuel Dempsey House, 407 S. 4th St.
Built by Samuel Dempsey in 1855, the Greek Revival home has also been known as the Ralph Massie House, the Davidson House, and the Thomas House.
Born in Logan, Va., Dempsey was an associate of Ironton founder John Campbell and succeeded his father as the owner of the Etna and Vesuvius Furnaces. He also had an interest in the Iron Railroad, established by John Campbell, and the Etna Iron Works. The house was later purchased by Dr. Ralph Massie in 1931 and was used as his home as well as his office.
One of two original houses on Fourth Street, the home is a square, two story structure, shaped with a low-hip roof supported by decorated brackets and pendants, common features of the Greek revival style. It has a stone foundation, which is complete with brick walls that have a running bond. The original cast iron porch remains, which leads to the main entrance door with beveled lights. The original basement remains in excellent condition as well.
When you get to Vernon Street, take a left on Vernon walking west back into the heart of downtown. Don’t miss checking out such downtown buildings as the 1884-built J.C. Penney building , which is now the Ironton City Center and home to several businesses. Also, check out the post WWII building that houses Unger Shoes, 304 S. 3rd. St., which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2012.
25. Ro-Na Theater, 306 S. 3rd St.
Built in 1949 and closed in 1973, the Ro-Na Theater has been undergoing renovation efforts in the past few years. The theater hosted an open house in 2011 during the Memorial Day parade, was used as a concert venue during Rally on the River in August 2011, and also hosted a film festival. Since the committee has formed for renovating the Ro-Na, recent projects have included a new roof, new windows and six new glass doors. It currently has 200 seats from the old Whitwell Elementary School in Ironton and a just purchased fold-up stage from a recent Marshall University sale. For more info about the efforts to restore the Ro-Na go online at www.facebook.com and type in “Help Restore the Ro-Na Theater.”
Keep walking on Vernon Street until you reach the Depot. If you’d like to see more history, check out the colorful murals located on the Ohio River side of the Ironton floodwall.